Saturday, November 3, 2012

On the Wing

It's a bit late for Halloween, or to celebrate the bats of our amazing San Francisco Giants, but since the random bat photo in The Attraction of Roadsides proved popular, I thought I'd post my best Chiroptera catch from this summer's cam traps for y'all:

townsend's bat
A lucky shot of a Townsend's Big-eared Bat, Corynorhinus townsendii, in a Tehachapi cave

The above was taken by a 6MP Sony s600 homebrew cam trap. And while they aren't slow for camera traps, their 1.5 second start-up & re-shoot times aren't dSLR camera fast, so getting bats on the wing requires lucky timing, and good camera positioning.

So far my experiments have found that pointing the camera along the bat's flight corridor, much as you would point it down a road at a 30-ish degree angle, seems to give the best results. As you'd expect, like mammals walking a road, it increases the time bats are within the scene, and thus ups your chances of getting shots as they come and go.

But first you have to figure out the corridor they use. And then you have to hope that, like this nice Townsend's, they smile for the camera every once in a while.

Oh - you may notice a bright orange parasite is also 'on the wing' in the above photo. As I learned from my invert-wise friend Mr. Smiley, it's likely a bat fly of the Nycteribiidae family, which are small, wingless, flat, spider-like flies that live their lives on bats, tapped into a wing vein.

Wonder if the bat fly ever yells "wooohoo!!!" as they're ripping along?



  1. Probably. Plus I bet bat flies consider a Townsend's Big-eared Bat a sweet ride. That's a great picture.

  2. An absolutely stunning pic.

  3. wow. That is one of the best bat photos I've ever seen. And looks SO FUN. Flat, spider-like flies? V. interesting. =) Great work!!

  4. Wow great shot. The general bodyshape seems similar to the incidental bat photo I got recently, makes me think that this guy might also be a slower flyer? I'm guessing that some of the bat species either fly to fast or to high to be "easily" camera trapped away from their roosts.

    1. Henry - I agree that different kinds of bats will be easier and harder for various reasons, such as size, speed, flight height, predation style, etc. These Townsend's are pretty good size - about 12" (30cm) across - and like to fly low and back and forth, so I think those aspects give me an edge in catching them too.


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