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

Photo credit:

Discovering Bats in the Night Sky, October 1st

Photo credit:

Sunday, October 1, 2023
7:00 – 8:30 PM

Where: Dyke Marsh,
Alexandria, Virginia
Click here for map and directions.

Registration required: Please visit the Better Impact website to register.

Discovering Bats in the Night Sky with Deborah Hammer, Interpretive Guide

Join us as we explore bats in the night sky at Dyke Marsh in Alexandria, VA with expert Deborah Hammer – this is open to any FMN member – and limited to the first 12 registrants! This event is eligible for one and a half continuing education hours.

Did you know that there are over 1400 different species of bats, about 17 of which live in Virginia? Or that bananas, agave, mango, durian and guava are among the many plants pollinated by bats? If you would like to learn more fun facts, join us for an evening walk to learn all about the amazing lives of chiroptera (“hand-wing,” a.k.a. “sky puppies.”)

Using a sonar detector, participants will be able to hear the bats echolocating as they hunt for insects.

Deborah Hammer is a Fairfax Master Naturalist and serves on the boards of Bat Conservation and Rescue of Virginia and Friends of Dyke Marsh. She is also an autism/low-incidence specialist with Arlington Public Schools.

Photo FMN Deborah Hammer

Photo FMN Deborah Hammer

Registration: Please visit the Better Impact website to register.

Instructions for signing up for a hike via BI:

  1. Login to BI and click on Opportunities -> Opportunities Calendar
  2. Find event in the calendar (October 1) and click it.
  3. Click on the Sign-Up box- this will automatically register the FMN member and will put the event on your calendar.

Note: To claim CE hours: use All Continuing Education -> FMN All other Chapter Training

On day of event:

  • Please arrive by 6:45 PM to check in – We will meet at the entrance to the Haul Rd. Trail at Belle Haven Park/Dyke Marsh. The hike will begin promptly at 7:00PM.
  • Bring insect repellent. If they have a red-light flashlight, that is preferable to a traditional light.
  • Dress for the weather – wear protection as needed (e.g., rain)
  • Wear sturdy hiking shoes – we may be hiking on some trails that are wet &/or rocky
  • Bring drinking water
  • Bring a flashlight (red is preferred)

Questions? Contact Laura Anderko FMN VP and Program Chair at [email protected]

Bat Night, August 13th

Photo by Rick Reynolds on
Saturday, August 13, 2022

Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, Purcellville
11661 Harpers Ferry Road
Purcellville, VA 20132 United States 
+ Google Map

Registration required. Learn more and register here.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is excited to present Bat Night led by The Bat Lady, Dr. Susanne Sterbing, world-renowned bat expert and research professor at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Sterbing will present a fascinating audio-visual presentation followed by a question-and-answer period. You don’t want to miss Dr. Sterbing’s description of the strange feeding rituals of vampire bats! The lecture will be followed by a live bat viewing (hopefully) down at the pond. Family friendly; wear good walking shoes and bring flashlights and bug repellant.

Urban Bats: Studying and Protecting our Wildlife Neighbors, October 26th

Photo by Rick Reynolds on

Tuesday, October 26, 2021
7 pm
Register here.

When you think of urban wildlife, critters like rats, pigeons, and raccoons may come to mind – but what about bats? Bats have a scary reputation, but play an important role in ecosystems and face serious conservation threats. Dr. Ela-Sita Carpenter will discuss her study of bats in Baltimore, as well as ways we can all support these special creatures in our neighborhoods. Presented by Audubon Naturalist Society.

Educating about “Bat Week 2020” through Nature Journaling

Article by Elaine Sevy, FMN member

Mention bats and many people cringe.  Not me!

Though I didn’t know much about them, I looked forward to seeing them each summer, emerging at dusk to dive and swoop in the sky chasing insects.  They’ve always seemed mysterious but never frightening.

As the years passed, I saw fewer and fewer of them each summer in my Springfield, Virginia neighborhood. It was comforting to still see their aerial acrobatics at the barn where I kept my horse, but numbers were dropping there too.

When my Virginia Master Naturalists, Fairfax Chapter (FMN) chapter advertised a World Habitat Council webinar about bats, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I registered immediately.  “From Tequila to Pest Control: Learn all the Ways Bats are Vital to Ecosystems and Economies”, opened the door to a fascinating new world of all kinds of bats and why we need them.  I learned that:  “Although we may not always see them, bats are hard at work all around the world each night – they are pollinators, dispersers of seeds and controllers of insect pests”. FMN members were also urged to participate in “Bat Week 2020 (October 24-31)”, an international celebration to raise awareness about the need for bat conservation.

A sample of Elaine’s work

Another Virginia Master Naturalists webinar, “Get Batty,” helped me focus the educational material to Virginia native bats. Dr. Mark Ford, associate professor of wildlife conservation, Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, taught us about “… the threats facing some Virginia bat communities due to invasive fungal disease, wind-energy expansion, and urbanization.” We learned how Virginia Tech researchers “…have been working to better define bat distribution, current status, and habitat associations/needs within and around the commonwealth.”

When Dr. Ford said that Little Brown Bat populations had plummeted by 90% due to White Nose Syndrome, and many bat species were endangered, the sadness I felt quickly grew into a sense of urgency. I began brainstorming ways to educate our community about the bats found in Virginia and especially in Fairfax County.

Bat programs offered through Fairfax County parks are very popular and they fill quickly. Our Fairfax County Park Authority naturalists deserve lots of praise for offering these valuable community programs.

Given COVID restrictions and time restraints, I decided to use The NOVA Nature Journal Club (NNJC) on Facebook, a group I administer, as my education platform.  The NNJC is inspired by the teachings of Artist, Naturalist John Muir Laws and his philosophy of “Nature Stewardship through Science, Education and Art,” (  Mr. Laws has been very supportive of our group’s creation and ongoing programs.

A sample of Deirdre’s work

Dr. Ford was very helpful and put together a list for me of 16 bats that reside in or migrate through Virginia.  “Bats of Fairfax County,” which lists seven common bat species on the county’s website, Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources’ “Guide to Bats of Virginia” and Bat Conservation International became my go to sources for creating a brief biography of each species of bat.

A request to use photos from the “The Save Lucy Campaign,” a local nonprofit committed to saving bats, quickly became a collaboration thanks to Leslie Sturges, Save Lucy’s President, who offered to work with our group on the week-long education effort.  She taught us so much about our local bats, offered photos, video clips, her personal stories about rehabilitating bats, and shared our journal pages on “Save Lucy’s” website and Facebook page.

With so much encouragement and valuable information, the “Bat Week 2020” virtual education program through nature journaling kicked off on Oct 24 and continued through Oct 31.  A different bat was featured each of the eight days with photos, specific information about its conservation status; migratory, roosting and hibernation habits, physical attributes for ID, mating patterns, fun facts and more.

Our group had fun and learned a lot about bats that week.  We were even able to feature a “How to Draw a Bat” video lesson by John Muir Laws.  We all shared the posts with other Facebook groups and friends.  One of our members, Deirdre Pistochini, an award winning artist, took nature journaling to a whole new level.  She produced a series of 9 beautifully illustrated journal pages about Virginia’s bats that was featured by The Save Lucy Campaign as an online flip book during Bat Week.

The “Bat Week” journal pages are still featured on the “Save Lucy” website.  Go to the Education Link and Scroll down to “Things to do” to view them.  

I am so grateful to FMN for sharing excellent programs about bats with our members and everyone’s support in helping me put this educational program together. 

Leslie Sturges and I are already considering future collaborations when COVID restrictions are lifted and it’s safe to hold in-person educational programs with live bats.

NOVA’s Annual Green Festival 2020, Waste and its Impact on Habitats, October 28th

Photo by Gary Robinette

Wednesday, October 28, 2020
10:15 am – 3 pm
Online – Via Zoom

Free! More information and registration here.

Keynote Speaker: Chad Pregracke – 10:15 a.m.
Cleaning America’s Rivers

Everything Counts / Waste Prevention / Habitat Loss – 11:30 a.m.

Richard Reynolds, Wildlife Biologist, DWR — 1:00 p.m.
Bats and Wind Energy Development

Raptor Lecture / Live Birds – 2:00 p.m.
Secret Garden Birds and Bees

Friends of Runnymede Park Annual Meeting-Go batty Mar. 10th!

Herndon Community Center, Herndon VA
Sunday, 10 March 2019

Guest speaker Leslie Sturges will present “Save Lucy.” “Lucy” is a Little Brown Bat growing up and facing the threat of white-nose syndrome, a cold-loving fungus that attacks bats while they are hibernating. Leslie’s program will focus on the amazing abilities of bats, the crucial role they play in our ecosystem, and why it is important to “Save Lucy.” Leslie will bring live bats. The program is designed for adults and children. Free. Light refreshments at 4:15 PM, program to follow. For more information, call 703-437-7451.