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A New Bat! or maybe not...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I took a walk with Bill on August 12, 2013, out our goldenrod-spangled meadow. It was a misty, dewy morning and everything was shrouded in moisture.

There's an old slot box standing three quarters of the way out the meadow. It's made of Nebraska barn siding, raises two broods of bluebirds each season, and when it's done with that the bats have a chance at it. Opening that box in late summer and fall is way better than Christmas morning for me. 

It just looks like a place a bat might hide, doesn't it? 
"I'm going to peek in this box and see if there's a bat in there," I said to Bill.

And there was. I am forever suppressing screams, and this was one of those times.

For there was a quivering, perfect, pink-faced, wide-eyed batlet inside. Silent SQUEEE!!
The white mass is probably a jumping spider egg case. Ooh, he was tiny!

A distinctly mousy look to this face. I knew I'd not seen a bat face like this before. With bats, it's very subtle. Identifying characteristics include color of facial skin, the degree of inflatedness of muzzlepuffs (big browns, for instance, have very inflated looking muzzlepuffs, while little browns don't). Ear size, color and contrast of fur--see the whitish underparts? You don't see that on either of the brown bats.

Bill took the above photos with his iPhone and we moved some way off to squee and hug and high-five and jump up and down. I had my suspicions that we'd just nabbed a life bat, for us and for the sanctuary. 

I thought about that bat all day. Did some riffling through field guides, and finally decided it must be an eastern pipistrelle, with that pink muzzle and bare eye skin, those long, upswept ears and that multicolored fur. As much as I hated to disturb it twice in a single day, I was afraid that it might be a one-day wonder. Bill said, "Better go back before twilight and get more pictures." Right. Because when does the Science Chimp get a chance like this?

Perimyotus subflavus, the eastern pipistrelle, is the only member of its genus. It is not a true pipistrelle (Pipistrellus), but rather something different, and the monotypic genus reflects this. Science Chimps love monotypic genera.

I headed back out the dimming meadow. Early goldenrod abloom everywhere. Or maybe it's tall goldenrod. I have little conversance with goldenrods. Too busy with birds, bugs, bats. If forced, I can key them out. Mostly I just look at them.

Tall ironweed has been competed out by sumac in this dynamic meadow, but a few persist.

I approached the box with great excitement. Opened it and found the bat in a classic head-down roost position. Oh, perrrfect!

Once again, I called my iPhone into play, because its macro capabilities simply outstrip my beloved Canon G-12. I had to have a camera that would reliably focus on the bat, flash free, in a low-light situation, so I wouldn't come away with a sharp picture of the edge of the box, for instance, with a blurry brown mass inside. You can touch the item of desire on the screen of your iPhone, asking it to focus just on that. So I pointed the phone camera at the bat, touched the bat's image, and the camera focused on the bat. Boom.

I was delighted to get some detail on the tragus, the process in the ear that helps baffle wind and channel sound. Eastern pipistrelles have a broad tragus, unlike the sharply pointed tragus of a big brown bat, or the rounded one of a little brown. All that bare skin on the face and around the eye is a pipistrelley thing.

Do not be alarmed by the white dust on the batlet. It's feather dust from a recently fledged brood of bluebirds. There are probably also some mites in there. Itchy!

This is a video in which nothing happens, except some whispered endearments, ear swiveling, and rapid breathing. That's enough for me. I thought you'd like to see an eastern pipistrelle, alive and quivering, and hear the crickets and katydids in our autumnal meadow.

So come on. Squee with me!

UPDATE: Facebook is a marvelous thing. For instance, I'm Facebook friends with the person who wrote and illustrated Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Field Guide to Mammals of North America. Her name is Fiona Reid. And after I posted a link to this blogpost, I got this comment from Fiona.

Fiona Reid Hi Julie, sorry to burst your bubble 'n all, but that ain't no pipistrelle, It is definitely a Myotis. Could be little brown or northern Long-eared (which tends to be a bit paler around eye and underside, but it is quite hard to separate these two species in hand let alone by photos). Pips have much pinker faces and ears, plus they have tricolor fur, light/dark/light, the wing bones are pinkish and thumbs also pinkish.

And it did burst my bubble, a little, not because it's not a new species for me, but mostly because I despair of ever being able to tell one durn bat from another. This bat's forearms and face look really pink to me. I can't really say whether the fur looks tricolored. The tragus looks longer than it probably should be for a pipistrelle (here, the Kaufman Focus Guide to Mammals of North America shows that better). But I gladly yield to Fiona's expertise. Whether it's a pipistrelle or a Myotis, it's a little gift and a miracle, and it's in our bluebird box. It will be loved and welcomed no less for being something other than a pipistrelle. It's a bat and I'm still all asquee!



How cool is that?!? Congratulations. I want you to know that I did squee a little for you too. : )

Bounced up and down I did. Lookit that!

Kathy in Delray Beach

Super cool Julie.

Utterly fascinating.
Please keep us posted.
How I envy you.


"pipistrelle"... love that name (don't even know for sure how to pronounce it or what it means, but definitely very squeee-ish!)

High 5!


A definite SQUEEE! Thanks for showing us this adorable little critter.

Very interesting watching the evolution of a Science Chimp's knowledge. I'd squeee too no matter what the species was if I found a live bat sleeping on my property!!!!!

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