Discovering Bats in the Night Sky, October 1st

Article and Photos by FMN Laura Anderko

On October 1, 2023, FMN offered a hike to its members to learn about and view bats, with expert Deborah Hammerer. The group met at Dyke Marsh trail in Alexandria, VA to discover the many bats native to the area. Deb used a sonar detector to hear the bats echolocating as they hunt for insects. The group was not disappointed! We were treated to dozens of bats including Little brown bats and big brown bats. Adding to the suspense, a barred owl called out into the night while the bats were in flight, catching insects – these birds are hunters of bats….

Photo credit: FMN Laura Anderko, Bat Night 10/01/2023

Deborah offered insights and information about bats. Bats belong to a group of animals called Chiroptera (Kir-op-tera), which means “hand wing.” Bats are the only flying mammal. Using a bat puppet, she described how bats fly.  Deborah described a bat’s wing resembling a human hand — with a flexible skin membrane that extends between each long finger bone and many movable joints. This makes bats acrobatic in their flight, helping them catch insects. They also use echolocation – sending out waves of sound to locate insects during flight. Each night, bats can eat their body weight in insects, numbering in the thousands, reducing disease and helping farmers. Bats are important pollinators too – over 500 plant species rely on bats to pollinate their flowers including mango, banana, guava, and agave. Bats are incredible creatures!

The evening ended with a beautiful moonrise over the Potomac…

Photo credit: FMN Laura Anderko, Bat Night 10/01/2023