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15-21 June 2001

Drawing: Hummingbird & FlowerDON'T MISS

Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of Hilton Pond Center, again will offer his entertaining and informative "Hummingbird Mornings" at Carolinas locales in July & August 2001. Click on the hummingbird drawing at left for details.

Bats In Our Belfry

We don't actually have a belfry at Hilton Pond Center, but like most Piedmont locations near water, we do have bats. Almost every evening from late March through November, ghostly dark shapes begin swooping overhead as the sun goes down, undoubtedly picking off aerial insects that may have emerged from the warm waters of the pond. Occasionally, a bat will become entangled in a mist net we use to capture birds, but such bats don't usually stay snared for long; they just chew their way out, leaving a small round hole in the net as a calling card.

Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus)

All photos & text © Hilton Pond Center

One day this week, we were a bit startled when we walked through the old farmhouse and spied a bat flopping helplessly on the slick vinyl floor of the office. This scenario was surprising in the first place because it was midday, and second because we weren't really sure how it got into the office. All we can figure is it came down a chimney and squeezed through a narrow crack--something at which bats are very adept--eventually finding its way to the office.

Since all bats are capable of carrying rabies, we carefully captured the bat in a towel and handled it gently while wearing gloves. Some experienced batmen and batwomen hand-tame their bats and scoff at danger from disease; nonetheless, we've always thought that foaming at the mouth would be an unpleasant way to leave this earth and prefer a more cautious approach.

Not being bat experts, we spent a great deal of time poring over our available mammal guides--most of which proved to be weak at offering useful tools for identifying bats. Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus)Bat identification is based in part on the shape of the "tragus" (a flap of skin in the ear opening that helps with echolocation), whether or not there is a keel on the "calcar" (a sliver of cartilage that stiffens the tail membrane), shape of the head and face, length of hairs on the hind toes, and color of the fur and flight membranes. Unfortunately, word descriptions in our books often seemed to contradict the accompanying illustrations, and even the World Wide Web is short on clear, concise photos and descriptions of Piedmont bats. To resolve the identity this amazing creature, we issued an all-call for Carolina bat experts; when several responded, we showed them the pictures on this page. Regretfully, even the experts didn't come to consensus on what kind of bat had invaded the office at Hilton Pond Center.

The best information we got indicated the bat in question is a Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus), an uncommon species throughout the Piedmont. Big Brown Bats aren't all that large, with bodies 4" to 5" long and wingspans of perhaps 14", but they are bigger than most other local bat species. Big Brown Bats frequent human dwellings, roosting colonially in attics and behind shutters, but also "hang out" in hollow trees. True hibernators, they seek caves, abandoned mines, and old buildings in which to overwinter.

Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus)Big Brown Bats feed on a wide variety of insects, including beetles, bees, and wasps, but they seem to avoid moths. The Big Brown Bat we captured has teeth that are broken or chipped (see top photo)--certainly to be expected of an animal that flies around at night banging into hard-shelled beetles with its mouth wide open. Or maybe this particular bat is just getting along in years; after all, Big Brown Bats have been known to live for nearly two decades.

We could rattle on a bit longer about Big Brown Bats, but some other bat specialist may argue that the individual illustrated above is actually another species. We're striving for accuracy here at Hilton Pond Center, so please do help us out on any problems we have with bat identification. We'll be happy to post whatever corrections might need to be made.

All photos & text © Hilton Pond Center

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Brown-headed Cowbird (fledgling)
(Young birds resemble females, but have lightly streaked breasts)

The following species were banded this week (15-21 June):

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher--2*
Carolina Chickadee--1*
Eastern Phoebe--2*
Acadian Flycatcher--1
Chipping Sparrow--1
Black-and-white Warbler--1
Louisiana Waterthrush--3*
Northern Cardinal--4*
Gray Catbird--2*
Wood Thrush--2
Brown-headed Cowbird--2*
Carolina Wren--10*
Downy Woodpecker--2*
Tufted Titmouse--2*
House Finch--12*
American Robin--2

* = At least one Recent Fledgling

Black-and-white Warbler (female)
(Males have a black mask
surrounding eyes)

(15-21 June 2001)
16 species
49 individuals

63 species
671 individuals
(since 28 June 1982)
122 species
38,954 individuals

Eastern Phoebe
(This large flycatcher typically
bobs its tail when perched)

American Goldfinch (2)
Red-eyed Vireo (1)
Northern Cardinal (2)
Carolina Wren (2)
House Finch (2)
Eastern (Rufous-sided) Towhee (1)

All photos & text © Hilton Pond Center

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Made With MacintoshHilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka "The Piedmont Naturalist," it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this website, contact: WEBMASTER.