Submitted by the Lopez Island Library
The Lopez Library and Kwiaht will be co-hosting a special evening program that includes dessert waffles and bat detecting. “Breakfast with Bats & Moths” will be at the library on Wednesday, August 21st at 7:30pm. Join Kwiaht researchers for breakfast food at the time when bats and other nocturnal animals are just waking up and becoming active. The program will begin inside the library meeting room, with food and a brief lecture about Lopez bats. Then, as dusk sets in, we will head outside and eavesdrop on nearby bats with Kwiaht’s new bat detector. Because bats come out at night and are seemingly silent to our ears, it’s easy to miss or overlook them. In fact, every evening as darkness falls, the skies above Lopez Island are filled with thousands of bats. Bats are the most abundant and diverse mammals in San Juan County. Kwiaht director Russel Barsh has been studying the islands’ bats since 2011. “There had only been one previous survey of island bat diversity,” Barsh says. “It was published in 1940 by a University of Washington undergraduate student named Walter Dalquest. He used a shotgun to collect specimens, while summering on San Juan Island.” Thanks to advancements in bat detecting technologies, more humane and efficient data collection is now possible. “Twenty years ago,” Barsh says, “a researcher might spend a few weeks camped out by a pond, recording and trapping some bats each night; while today, an electronic device records bats nightly all year and thousands of digital records can be identified by software in an hour or two.” One of the major advantages of newer, weatherproof recorders, he adds, has been documenting activity in the colder, stormier months in the San Juan Islands. “This is how we learned that island bats tend to disperse, rather than hibernate or migrate in winter.” Since 2015, Kwiaht researchers have installed five fixed-position bat recorders on Lopez, San Juan and Orcas islands in an attempt to gain a more accurate estimate of bat numbers and health in the islands. Over 250,000 bat flyovers have already been recorded and identified. “One thing that surprised us,” Barsh says, “is that bats move around frequently from habitat to habitat, and even island to island. Some species stick around a particular lake, wetland or field for just a few weeks each year, presumably tying their visits to the emergence of swarming insects.”
The latest innovation in bat research is a miniature ultrasound microphone that can plug into a smart phone, with an app that identifies bats in real time on the fly. One of these devices will be used at the library event on August 21st at 7:30pm. The program is free, and waffles will be provided. All ages are welcome. See you there!