A new dawn…

I was running a little bit late to head out for my run this morning.  By the time I left my place, the world was already beginning to get some light.  When I got to Freedom Park, the first streaks of color were spreading across the sky.  On  the trip to the park, I was listening to chickadees, mockingbirds, cardinals and robins all singing their little hearts out.

It wasn’t the songs that struck me this morning, though.  In fact, (gasp!) it wasn’t even a bird!!!!  Now I thought I’d be very slow in moving to non-avian topics, but this morning just tickled my fancy.  I stood right in front of the bandshell at Freedom Park and watched a single bat foraging for several minutes.  I love bats, though I’m certainly no expert on them.   They’re one of the coolest animals (and they are mammals, not birds).  The morning sky was actually in the process of changing colors as the bat was doing its foraging above me, so I was able to watch it a bit (yes, I stopped running while I did it).  After maintaining its erratic foraging flight, the bat drifted off in a slightly less erratic way to the woods closer to East Blvd where I’m guessing that it was going to be foraging.

Now bat foraging is normally associated with evenings, but there is a great deal of evidence showing that many species will remain active until dawn (or that they’ll take a break and come back out at dawn).   Sometimes this dawn foraging is associated with child-rearing and milk production in female bats.

Rydell, J.  1993.  Variation in foraging activity of an aerial insectivorous bat during reproduction. Journal of Mammalogy.  74:  503-509

Additionally, others have reported that many species of bats have additional pulses of activity near dawn.  The patterns pop up in all sorts of bats (nectar-feeding, fish-eating, insect-eaters).  No single type of bat seems to have more dawn foraging than any other.  And it is this dilemma that brings me to the next problem.  As I said, I’m no bat expert (just an aficionado), so identifying the particular species of bat in flight isn’t always the easiest.  The dawn foraging patterns didn’t shed any light on this bat’s identity, so I had to do some digging into body sizes, head shapes, ear size and distributions.  My best guess for today’s bat siting?   The Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis).  Apparently this particular species is widely distributed over the southeast and the size makes sense for what I saw.  There’s also the question of habitat.  In other places, Red Bat’s tend to roost in mixed hardwood trees (on leaves and on trunks).  In urban areas of the midwest, urban trees and parks are important roosting locations.

Mager, K.J. and T.A. Nelson.  2001.  Roost-site selection by Eastern Red Bats (Lasiurus borealis). American Midland Naturalist 145:  120-126.

Freedom Park really seems to fit that bill.  So, chalk up this morning to a very probable siting of a happy, foraging Red Bat!  And keep your eyes on the tree trunks when you’re walking around, there might be a little bat clutching to the side sleeping the day away.

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About thomasbiology

I'm an Associate Professor of Biology at Queens University of Charlotte with a background in animal behavior with an emphasis in bird song. I've got two secret goals with this blog (well, since I'm sharing them, they're not so secret): 1. To encourage people to look at the natural world around them- not just as a hiking destination, but to notice all the little things moving around them all the time; and 2. To show some of the science that relates to these little things moving around. There's some really fascinating research out there that so few people get to see.
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