On a sunny afternoon at Ashbridges Bay I noticed something flying very low overhead. Whatever it was had strangely shaped wings and a rather odd flap pattern.
When I asked my friend Richard what the bird was, he informed me that our visitor was actually a bat. The bat continued to fly around us for a few minutes, giving me time to study its different flight patterns, and when it left we decided to follow it around the park.
With considerable luck we tracked it long enough to observe it land on a fence surrounding a tree. I was able to get several great photos of another bat, a little brown bat, or little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) I discovered later. It was hanging upside down “just like a vampire bat,” according to my grandson Cole.
Sadly, in February this year the little brown bat was put on the endangered list. They have become threatened by a disease known as white nose syndrome, caused by a fungus. The fungus causes them to come out of hibernation too early. Because they wake up so early, much of their insect-based diet is unavailable. Their body fat supplies are used up, starvation begins, and they quickly die. In Ontario the bat population has dropped over 90 per cent.
While doing volunteer rescue work at the Toronto Wildlife Centre I was able to watch their dedicated staff and volunteers clean cages, feed each bat six to eight bugs, and administer medication every day until they were healthy enough to go back into hibernation. Their work is truly amazing.
About little brown bats
Little brown bats have glossy brown fur and weigh between seven and nine grams. They are 4 to 5 cm long and have a wingspan of 25 to 27 cm. They feed mostly on insects at night – by late summer they catch 1,000 insects an hour while they are preparing to hibernate. The female only gives birth to a single baby which is on its own in just three weeks. Bats are nocturnal and during the day they roost in trees and buildings. The little brown bat can live as long as 34 years – wild!
How can you help bats?
Building and installing a bat house can help bats find a suitable resting spot during the summer months. You can make them yourself or buy them at the Toronto Wildlife Centre. Also, when gardening or caring for your lawn, use no pesticides, since they can get into the bats’ system through their insect diet. For more facts on little brown bats check under ‘mammals’ at hww.ca.
Ann Brokelman is an avid birder and nature photographer – naturephotosbyann.blogspot.ca