Most of us are afraid of bats at an almost instinctual level. Unlike snakes and spiders though, I am hardpressed to name a species of bat. The other night I learned there are more species of bat of any other type of mammal except rodents. I might have known at one time in Jr High biology that bats are mammals, but it was good to be reminded.
I wasn’t prepared for the bat expert, Corky Quirk, to have live bats on display in small plastic carriers. They were fascinating to look at up close and watch as they stretched a wing or moved about. However, I was still pretty creeped out. Corky gives a great presentation including playing a rap on echolocation. She uses a camera to give us an larger than life view of the bats eating.
After a quick last bathroom break and a chance to buy a t-shirt, we piled into the van and our cars and drove out to the public entrance to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and drove the loop until we needed to turn off onto some farm roads to reach where the bats live during the day. You cannot go there without the Foundation volunteers, although you can watch a smaller colony of 15,000 bats fly out from the first parking lot.
The best time to see them leave is about 30 minutes before sundown. The sun had already mostly gone down when the ribbon of bats started exiting from under the Yolo Causeway. It was impressive. The colony we watched fly out to eat insects all night under the Yolo County sky was a mix of mothers and adolescent pups. Bats do us a great service by eating their weight in insects every night (and twice that when moms are nursing). I was happy to learn so much about this small but mighty member of our ecosystem.
I’ve been a supporter of the Yolo Basin Foundation for 5 years and have heard various people extol the niftiness of watching the bats leave their “cave” under the Yolo Causeway. Finally I helped to organize a group of colleagues so I participate in one of the Bat Talk and Walks. You can sign up for a public Bat Talk and Walk on the Foundation’s website. Or you can contact Corky and arrange a private tour for your group, $12 per adult and a minimum $240 donation. You must have at least 12 and they can accommodate up to 60 people.