29 November 2016: Diary of a batman

29 November 2016
I wake up early and make some coffee with my newly purchased mini camp burner amd cookware set - it tastes great, probably because camp side food and beverges always do. I then proceed to take the dead pallid bat over to the main camp area where the mammalogists are getting ready to prepare their specimens captured during the night. I haven't prepared a bat specimen/skin in a couple of years but with a few tips from the mammal guys I remember quickly and get started. About 2 hours later the bat is now a skin ready to dry and be put in the collection upon the mammal team's return to the museum. It turned out surprisingly good given my lack of expereimce. Phil is impressed, which makes me smile. After lunch I hike up to a ridgeline with a view down towards Essex where we are able to get cell reception so I can check email - nothing importatnt - my favorite kind of emails. I go back top camp and listen to Howard tell stories of his dog handling career in the Vietnam War. He mentions how closely you have to pay attention to cues from the dog since they can't speak to you - cool stuff. I head out for an hour or so with a .410 since we have seen a number of audobon's cottontails but none collected, yet. Collecting is part of the museum's deal, like it or not. I return successfully with a nice clean specimen with no obvious wounds or bleeding to sour the skin. Some of the other mammals found during the field trip so far include Dipodopmys panamantinus, D. merriami, Peromyscus ermeicus, P. crinatus, and Neotoma lepida. Other mammals observed include antelope ground squirrels, jackrabbits, and coyotes (yipping only).
It is late afternoon and I head back to my camp area and cook up some soup so I can get ready to mist net again. No sign of the rancher but his cattle are mulling around the guzzler. I start to walk over towards them and they quickly skidaddle away up the wash so I can net the guzzler without disturbance. It is not as windy tonight but noticebly cooler. I set my net but am skepticle of any activity. Phil walks past to check his nets and close them for the evening. He sees a phainopepla (male) and begins to pursue it. I climb in to the front seat of my FJ having set the EMT/ipad bat detector set up on my hood so I can watch 'bat TV' from inside the warmth of the cab. Shortly after darkness, Phil comes back and is pretty gleeful I can tell. He has captured a Crissal's Thrasher in a net (he borrowed my bat mist nets this week so I feel a sense of pride as an accomplice). He mentions how these are quite prevalent here now but were few and far between during the original expedition some 80 years ago. Another example of possible species community change in this area. He tells me of other birds he has seen this day including a ladderback woodpecker and then heads back to the main camp and I continue to watch for bat activity on the ipad. I do see one small glimpse of a call sequence - like tiny brush strokes on a canvas - it is another California myotis, or perhaps the same individual from the night before. I check the net but no bats. I see no more activity on the detector and so again at 7pm I break down my mist net, alas with no capture success - and it is below 40 F at this point. Bats 2, SDNHM 0. After breaking down the gear I climb into the back of my FJ tent mobile and put on some music to go to sleep to. The tune that comes on is quite fitting - 'At dawn they sleep'. Goodnight, natural world.

由使用者 dcstokes_sdnhm dcstokes_sdnhm2016年11月30日 22:46 所貼文 | 1 個觀察記錄 | 2 評論 | 留下評論


29 Nov 2016: Diary of a batman

29 November 2016
I embark on the SDNHM field trip to Granite Well solo in my trusty FJ to meet up with the rest of the group - I leave at 7:30am and hope to arrive by 1:00 or 1:30pm. The drive from SD is a nice one, once you get past frey of Riverside County. Proceeding on Hwy 62 off of the I-10 east I head up the hill towards Yucca Valley and it is very windy down in the pass. I watch an RV in front of me struggle to keep a straight line and it almost appears to begin to tip. As high profile a vehicle my FJ is I'm so glad I'm not driving an RV. The drive through Joshua Tree is always nice, though CHP are abundant I notice. Luckily I am in a calm, patient mood that is not typical for me, though I am striving to be more like this as I rather enjoy the peaceful version of me. Perhaps the best part of the drive is summiting the hill adjacent to 29-Palms MCB and heading down towards Amboy - the scenery is vast and amazing.
I cross the I-40 heading north and turn on to Black Canyon Road - I am impressed with the geology and petty high desert landscape before me. I arrive at our camp site - a small dirt road to the west leads me there. Only Phil and Lea have arived before me - Scott, Howard, and a mammal trapping volunteer Shawna King have not yet arrived. I check out the cattle drinker - a 5' diameter metal cylinder fed by a small water tank with a float system. I immediately notice a dead pallid bat laying on a wooden plank on the edge of the drinker - it is wet and freshly preserved as if it had been frozen in time (drowned in the cold water, no doubt - I notice there is an escape ramp but it is not properly in place at this guzzler). Phil and Lea show up and confirm that they had found the bat at the bottom of the guzzler - poor guy (a male indeed).
The rest of the team arrives an hour or 2 later, Scott has the project bat detectors with him since I haven't been on any of these field trips to date. I take possession of our 2 anabat express bat detectors funded by NSF and go about setting them up in the canyon near our camp (Borrego Canyon). As I hike around I see an Audobon's cottontail scurrying frantically, and observe 2 antelope ground squirrels. I hear and see a bird in the distance - looks like a Thrasher to me but Phil later suggests it might have been a cactus wren - I don't think so. A short time later it is approaching late afternoon and since the sun is setting early (4:30pm) I begin to get my dinner ready so I can set up a single mist net at the guzzler and have it in place before 4:30pm in case there are any early bats, which is often the case in the winter. I notice several cattle including some mothers with calves and a very large bull are slowly coming over towards us and the guzzler - I was a little worried this might happen. We were warned about aggressive cattle at this site. They held their distance.
Phil comes over to help me set up the net - since he regularly mist nets he understands how much better it is when you have help. We begin to put up the nets when suddenly a vehicle arrives - 2 men get out and it is obvious they are cattlemen. They have quite the strern look and immediately make it known that this is their property and they don't appreciate me messing with their guzzler. I explain that we have permssion from the NPS to do research here but the head honcho, named Rob (his sidekick is Tim), blurts out that the water guzzler is his regardless of who's land it is - he is obviously leasing the land for his cattle and is pretty possessive about this guzzler. I stand my ground but offer to take down my net and go elsewhere if it is such a big deal. He becomes disarmed and says go ahead as long as my stuff is gone by daylight, so the cattle can come drink - a deal is a deal. He does mention that he is going to go call NPS and complain - I thought about mentioning the fact that his guzzler killed a state-sensitive bat species because he has not adequately maintained an escape ramp but I decide this is not the time and place (I'm sure NPS would not like to hear this). However, I do mention that there was not an escape ramp properly in place and that there should be one - he agreed and said he usually maintains them but that so many 'people' come around (he meant recreational hikers, campers, etc) that they are constatnly messing with the ramps. Hmmmm I guess I believe him...anyways, I fixed the ramp and secured it with large rocks that I don't think even the cattle could budge.
As night falls it becomes very cold and blustery - not good conditions for catching bats but I am here so nothing to do but be hopeful. The thought of catching a spotted bat becomes a distant wish and now I am just hopeful to catch anything. I have an Echo Meter Touch bat detector plugged into my ipad so I am able to watch for bat echolocation activity at my FJ near the guzzler. I begin to see faint pulses characteristic of the California myotis - perhaps the only species active on this night. Indeed the call sequences bcome more frequent so I go and check the net - sure enough a small dark bat appearing to be a Cal myotis is flitting about the guzzler, making tight turns and I can see it is able to negotiate the net and get a drink without getting caught - bats 1, SDNHM 0. I continue to net until around 7pm when it has become ridiculously cold and windy - near 40 F. I decide the bats and the weather have won tonight and take down the net. I climb into the back of my FJ that doubles as my tent in cold weather. I lay on my back - the windows appear to be blurry versions of Van Gogh's 'Starry Night', since without my glasses I am blind as a...ahem..blind as a mole. I drift off to sleep serenaded by the wind as it softly howls across an open beer bottle outside my FJ. Goodnight, my small furry winged friends.

由使用者 dcstokes_sdnhm dcstokes_sdnhm2016年11月29日 21:28 所貼文 | 0 評論 | 留下評論


25 Nov 2016, Diary of a batman

25 November 2016 entry: ‘Diary of a batman’
I am beginning a series of nature blogs as a way to combine my interest in nature with my need for a creative outlet (rather than dust off my guitar, which is not very ‘naturey’). I will call these blogs simply ‘diary of a batman’, which is of course borrowed from the hit album ‘Diary of a Madman’ by Ozzy Osbourne – kind of fitting for an odd bat biologist raised in the UK on heavy metal music of the early 1980s. I have considered calling it ‘against the grain’, a term that can characterize the life of a bat biologist, which is often isolating/insular and can be pretty lonely. Please note I will mostly use common names when referring to plants and animals, and please excuse any typos, grammatical errors, or mistaken names, places etc that will probably pervade my blogs.

My 1st blog focuses on an upcoming field trip where on Monday, 28 November 2016, the San Diego Natural History Museum (SDNHM) birds and mammals (BnM) department embarks on a Grinnellian resurvey of an eastern portion of the Mojave National Preserve. Specifically, we will be near a site called ‘South Granite Well’ located north of I-40 (Essex) and east of the Providence Mountains. This site is characterized by an odd plateau like geological feature – some of our research target areas include Borrego Canyon, Cave Spring, and an isolated cattle trough that I will be mist netting at for bats. Our team this time around consists of Mr. Phil Unitt (curator of the SDNHM BnM dept), Mr. Scott Tremor (SDNHM mammologist), Dr. Howard Thomas (SDNHM research associate and published east coast mammologist – and Vietnam veteran dog handler, which is particularly cool in my opinion), Ms. Leah Squires (ornithologist and Mr. Unitt’s field assistant), and myself (SDNHM bat specialist).

This is my 1st field trip on this project. The SDNHM BnM team have been on several field trips in 2016 and have already observed what appear to be significant changes from the era of the Grinnell survey team. In particular, in this area is the noticeable reduction of Pinon-Juniper habitat and a very large increase in Joshua Trees – a species apparently declining in southern California but not here in the eastern Mojave. There have been unexpected bird observations, most notably the presence of what appears to be a good population of the Gilded Flicker. This is a rare species endangered in California, but they appear to be undergoing a westward expansion from Arizona into these parts, or so the ornithologists suggest. At this time of year (dead of winter) I am only hopeful that there may be a few western pipistrelles and California myotis active and nettable at the trough, but there is also the extremely exciting potential to catch a spotted bat – known to visit isolated water sources in the high desert – but not sure about here in late November….fingers crossed. Perhaps even more exciting to me is the prospect of seeing the American Porcupine – a species known from these parts and very cool, cute, and cuddly-‘looking’ – of course they would not be very cuddly.

由使用者 dcstokes_sdnhm dcstokes_sdnhm2016年11月25日 15:18 所貼文 | 2 評論 | 留下評論


Week of Jan 26-30, 2015

My field forays this week consisted of trekking around the old mining district in Banner looking for hibernating Townsend's big-eared bats. It mostly consisted of being thwarted by rugged terrain, thick brush, and private land but did manage to get into one mine that had a couple of Corynorhinus in torpor.

由使用者 dcstokes_sdnhm dcstokes_sdnhm2015年01月31日 00:18 所貼文 | 1 個觀察記錄 | 3 評論 | 留下評論