Wednesday, June 17, 2009


We’re traveling this week. Staying in a remote lodge in the middle of nowhere. 25 or so miles outside a small town called Ephrata in the state of Washington. The lodge, owned by The Nature Conservancy is located at Whisper Lake on many acres surrounded by large basalt rock walls, a lake, sagebrush, and lots of dry desert land. The lodge is quite nice with ten bedrooms, each with their own bathroom, a large shared living room, dining room, kitchen, TV room, pool table room, laundry room. In its former life it was a bed and breakfast. Still is, but now without the provided breakfast part. We are also the only guests staying here. We have the entire place to ourselves! That’s not taking into consideration the coyotes, marmots, badgers, porcupines, bobcats, deer, rattlesnakes, various rodents, birds, and other unseen wildlife who call the surrounding property home. This is now the Moses Coulee Field Station and it’s maintained for use by biologists doing field work in the area. We are here because M is doing field work with bats.

Our view from Whisper Lake lodge...

Whisper Lake

The most interesting bat research takes place after dark. Last night our location was over a small coulee just two miles away from the lodge. The moment we stepped out of the car, we were greeted by one of the local rattlesnakes, as well as one of the friendly bat biologists, who outfitted Iz and I with headlamps. Iz was also outfitted in waders and boots so she could help string nets in the stream. There were about ten students being trained on capturing, identifying and measuring bats who live in this area.

ready for bat work


Pat demonstrates the proper way to put up a net for bat capturing...

net instruction

Here's the official site where bats will later be brought for identifying...

bat crew

Once captured, the bats are weighed, measured, sexed, and identified by species before they are released. And this is the very visually cool part. You'll just have to imagine it for now. A glow stick is attached to the bat's chest using a temporary, non-toxic paste. This allows the researchers to properly point microphones and record the bat’s vocalization (ultrasonic call). For those of us spectators, it’s an amazing sight to see a bat traversing the moonless sky until you can no longer decipher it from the stars.

Iz was given the important job of tying and staking net poles to keep the nets from falling into the stream... She did a great job!

securing the poles

Here’s one of the bats that flew into one of the nets... Iz and I were not able to handle them since we don’t have rabies vaccines. This is a Myotis thysanodes... also knows as a Fringed Bat.

myotis Thysanodes

Isn't he the cutest little thing you've ever seen?



Susan said...

Cindy, I am soooo jealous of your adventure! Bats are so cool. I love them. I'll bet Isabel was very excited to be able to participate. All the other kids in her class will be writing boring essays about what they did on their summer vacations--went to the pool, played video games, etc.
Isabel can wow them with her experience! Did I say I'm jealous?

Sometimes at dusk, I will stand on our patio and look up at the bats zigging around in the air above me getting rid of some of the zillion mosquitoes that come to visit us in the summer. They're doing their job and I love them for it.

Cindy said...

Hi Susan, glad to hear you like bats. Many people are so freaked out by them. We hope that someday Isabel will appreciate these adventures... right now she would rather fit in by telling her peers she hung out at the pool and played video games. Seems to be what middle school is all about, blending in.

jazgal said...

That was quite the process - and a fascinating project. "How I spent my summer vacation"! I think I would have been happy just observing - the bats are quite engaging. The Mariposa lilies are so elegant - lovely shots.

Cindy said...

Hi Jazgal, yes I was quite content to observe as well. Keeping a camera planted in front of my face kept anyone from asking me to help.