An evening was spent sharing and talking about bats with the Friends of Doringkloof Spruit [translated from the Afrikaans meaning “Thorn Ravine small-stream”]. This urban open space is located in the suburb of Centurion, South Africa, where a dedicated group of community members have taken on the management of this open space as a wildlife refuge and green corridor. This site is important as a corridor for a variety of wildlife such as birds and small mammals. But on this night, it was the bats that were in the spotlight. About 50 members of the community, from children to old age pensioners (and all ages in-between), braved the dark to come and learn more about the creatures of the night in their neighbourhood. Teresa Kearney, Ernest Seamark and Mariette Pretorius were on hand to speak to the residents and answer questions about bats.
In the early evening, mist nets were set up with the assistance of community members, all of whom were amazed at how fine a mist net is. Once the nets were up, Teresa gave the group general information about bats, whilst Mariette was asked about her PhD project – Miniopterus on the Move. A group from an Afrikaans junior school came to see what we were up to. Mariette took up the challenge of these young minds and presented to them in Afrikaans (which is her home language). Unfortunately, this group of young learners could not stay for the capture period. But there were many questions.
When it got dark and the bats started flying, out came the bat detector – where the echolocation calls of the bats could be seen. Unfortunately the bats needed to compete with the ultra-sonic sounds produced by insects in this green belt – which drowned out sounds coming from the bat. A few residents who were closer to the detector could see and hear when the bat was calling. But the skill of echolocation utilised by bats was witnessed by all with many bats flying towards and net and then up and over without being caught.
When time was getting to 20h00, we starting to think about calling it a night with not a single bat caught yet. A few die-hard bat fans were still with us. Suddenly, a small vesper bat was caught in the topmost pocket of the mist net. This caused much excitement. Mariette removed the bat from the net, then proceeded to measure and identify the bat, all the while speaking to the children and adults. Everyone was amazed that this small bat, weighing only 7 grams, was an adult.
The highlight of the evening was when the wing of the bat was opened, with an audible gasp heard from the group, as the hand-wing of the bat is its most amazing feature to behold. The bat was identified as the Cape Serotine Bat (Neoromicia capensis). It was then released to continue its night of eating insects.
Ending the evening on this exciting note, it was time to take the nets down and pack up.
I would like to thank the Friends of Doornkloof Spruit for the opportunity to show and talk about the amazing bats that occur in this area. Watch this space, as we are currently looking at setting up projects to examine bats within urban areas to investigate how important these green belts are.