A Very Batty Night Hike

To celebrate International Bat Day (August 27, 2011), four of our families met at Village Creek State Park Saturday evening for a nighttime hike with Park Rangers Mary Kay Manning and Amanda Adair.

Village Creek hosted a full day of activities, including a presentation on the bats native to our area and a children’s program at the Village Creek Nature Center in VCSP, wrapping up with a hike down Village Slough trail.

Mary Kay brought a device that amplifies the echo location noise that bats make that is too far above our hearing range, and a UV light to help locate scorpions on the trail. Unfortunately, we only saw a single bat just before the hike got underway, and no scorpions were found (though we did see a huge fat spider overhead while Mary Kay was talking about scorpion florescence and the kids got a kick out of seeing their white clothing glow under the

blacklight).

Though we weren’t able to get our fill of bat sightings on this particular evening, we did have some lively discussion about how the drought is affecting the bats, and how they winter in this area. Mary Kay suggested that the bats might prefer to be closer to the water, but after our hour-long hike, it was already full dark and the kids were hot and sweaty so we opted for a group ice-cream break instead of trekking out to the creek.

If you’d like to try some bat-sighting locally, you might try going out to VCSP, or even in your yard about 45 minutes before sunset and plan on staying until just after dark falls. Bats are most active and visible in the half-hour before sunset. They prefer water and like to hang out under bridges, inside old woodpecker nests and under the edges of the bark in tall pine trees. If you’re up for a drive, you could go out to Waugh Bridge in Houston, or to the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin for some truly amazing bat sightings.

If you’re interested in bat-related homeschooling activities, we recommend Homeschool Share.com’s Stellaluna unit study and lapbook activity, Hands of a Child’s Bats Lapbook kit from CurrClick.com. The Teacher’s Guide also has some bat-themed lesson plans, and some ideas to inspire you at Curriculum Bridges.

To learn more about bat conservation, and Bat Day, check out batcon.org. You can also find plans to build a bat house for your yard, how to safely remove a bat from your house or other location and adopt a bat of your own!Bat Conservation International

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