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Looking at a Red Bat

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I opened Blogger to make a new post tonight. It said that I've written 1,700 posts since December 2005.  I'm trying to get my head around it, that I've sat down 1,700 times to do this, that I've had that many things to share. And yet...

My mild frustration these days is that I can't get to it all. Every single day I see or do or experience something I long to share. I often take several hundred photos in a single day. Videos, too. I squirrel them all away, wishing I could show them all to you. I'm keenly aware that the kinds of things I find where I live simply aren't available to everyone who enjoys this blog, and that's part of its appeal.

Or maybe they are, but you wouldn't pick them up with your bare hands. That's OK. I ain't skeert. Had my shots.

Serendipity: Unless I'd been jogging early in the morning along my county road, I likely never would have recognized the tiny bundle of russet fur on the asphalt as a red bat, freshly killed by a car. And because I am the Science Chimp, and to me certain roadkills represent a pearl beyond price, I picked it up and folded it gently into the cargo pocket of my shorts, saying a fervent prayer that I would remember there was a dead bat in my shorts before oh, I don't know, rolling down a hill or cooking dinner or putting the shorts in a drawer or sending them through the wash. 

 Look at that furry red tail membrane, folding up over his body!! It's his take-along blanket; he comes with his own pouch he can fold himself into.

I was so very sad to find it a past bat. The red bat is perhaps my favorite (although any bat I get to see is my bat du jour and de facto favorite ever). It's one of eastern North America's largest bats, but even so it's absolutely tiny by mammal standards.

 That's an average size facial tissue, and the wingspan is maybe 9" fully extended. The literature says it goes up to 13". Hmm. Maybe this is a pup? It seemed teeny to me, the body not even two inches with the tail folded under.

  I was taken by the sooty black and pink-trimmed wings, and by the cream colored stripe along the shoulder

and the two little headlights of white fur on the thumb joints, as well as the subtle necklace of white around the neck. He looked as if he were wearing a costume head.

Note the rounded ears, set well into the fur. This, like many other of the features we'll see, is an adaptation to cold temperatures. You wouldn't want long delicate ears sticking up out of your fur if you're a northern animal, and you're active in cold winter temperatures, as is the red bat. Here, too, you can see the tragus, a process in the ear opening. It was so diaphanous as to be translucent. This bat's eyes were tiny, smaller than those of a big brown or little brown bat. But that's mostly because it was dead. As you'll see in Part II, a live red bat has very bright eyes indeed. 

One of the things which impressed me most, and which I wasn't expecting, was the thickly furred wing membrane. All along the wing bones is soft silver-buff fur, another cold adaptation.  

The wing bones, so very birdlike, until you realize that the bat's fingers extend into and are connected by the wing membrane. In birds, the fingers are all fused into one sort of paddle, including the stubby bony alula (that little thumby thing that sticks up on a chicken wing) and feathers grow out of that bone, and take the place of membrane. With bats, the hand bones extend out to the perimeter of the wing.

This post has proven to be a hogchoker, with more than 20 photos, so I'm going to give you more bat bits on Thursday. 

Which will be
Post #1,702. Gack! I could do this full-time, you know, and never run out of inspirato. The problem is I have other stuff I have to do. Don't we all.


"I could do this full-time, you know, and never run out of inspirato. The problem is I have other stuff I have to do. Don't we all."

Exactly. A shame that we can't all roll around in wonder and share it with each other all day, y'know?

So, what happens to a past bat? Does it get a burial? This is a serious question. And hard post to read just because the bat was dead, but you teach me so much!1701posts!! Well done! and amazing.

Hi Julie:

I found a red bat pup here in Ocean County, NJ some years ago. Its body was about the size of the first joint of my thumb, say an inch and a quarter. It was lying in my driveway. Guessing it fell off mom, but by the time I found it, it was dead.

I've never seen an adult red bat, just the little and big brown myotis.


What a great post. I love the photos. I've been known to run from bats . . . we have some that like to hover when I'm walking my dogs early in the morning (before sunrise). My son said they're just eating the bugs following us, but it makes me uneasy having them flit above my head. Sad, but true. :-)

Posted by Anonymous August 22, 2013 at 8:42 AM

You learn something every day. By "you," I mean me. Thanks again, Julie.

Such a sweet little bat. Thank you for sharing her with us.

Love you, your tenacious spirit, and your generosity. I know well the passion and work it takes to publish a post. If I could do it as easily as you, I might not have burned out. You continue to inspire me as you did back in the fall of 2006 when we first met.


You're so lucky that you had already had your shots!! I just did the same thing: found a gorgeous bat drowned in some rainwater about five days ago now. Picked him up. Examined from every angle. Took all kinds of photos. Mine aren't as lovely as yours because of poor lighting. Unfortunately, upon advice, had my bat tested for rabies and he came back positive! Currently undergoing my rabies series. :( Boo.

Oh, Becca. I am so, so sorry to hear that. And I know what you've gone through and are going through. That 100% fatal just can't get around it. I had to get a whole 'nother series of shots when a bat spluttered in my face while I was giving it water. I couldn't get anyone to get me a titer in a timely fashion, so went ahead and spent the additional 600 bucks. It sucks. Fortunately the shots are no big deal any more. Be safe, be well. I understand.
If you want to read more bat lore and rabies stuff, just type in bat in my search box on blog home page. There's a whole saga about Daryl the Bat, sad but illuminating.

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