28 August 2012

From Out Of The Blue... Eh Black

I've always wanted to get images of bats on my camera traps. I assumed that it will require lots of hard work setting up various camera traps that specifically target bats. The dream was to, one day, get at least one semi-decent photograph of a bat flying past the camera. (I still hope to one day stumble onto a bat roost and find a way of setting up a camera close by.)

When I went through my Birdcam's most recent photographs I was very happy to find a few great photographs of bats. They were flying close to the ground amongst the thickets in the Woody Cape section of the Addo Elephant National Park.

Egyptian/Common Slit-Faced Bat (Egiptiese/Gewone Spleetneusvlermuis - Nycteris thebaica) flying in the thickets of the Woody Cape

The photographs are even good enough to identify the species! After spending hours going through my various field guides I managed to narrow it down to a handful of species, however I couldn't be sure... Then I noticed a picture in one of the books showing a forked tail! TA-DA!! As easy as that!

This is an Egyptian Slit-Faced Bat. As far as I know the forked tail is unique amongst mammals (being limited to this genus).

The photograph also nicely shows the elongated heel bone (aka the calcaneum) that helps support the tension in the tail.

I think this individual has the rare rufous coloration that is apparently more frequent encountered towards the eastern parts of its range. These images were photographed close to the coast in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, which might explain the colour.

The stretch of thicket where the bat was photographed, with the small holiday town of Cannon Rocks in the distance

These bats have huge ears. They use echolocation for navigation and catching their prey, but they also rely heavily on the mechanical sounds emanating from the bugs to track them down. They prefer feeding on various forms of beetle and crawling critters, instead of the usual moths, mosquitoes, etc. Because of this they can often be found catching their prey on the ground. They also like to return to a feeding perch to finish the meal.

Catching something amongst the leaf litter

The Egyptian Slit-Faced Bat is a slow flier and this probably played a part in capturing these photographs. Their echolocation and good maneuverability allows them to navigate and hunt in the thick vegetation at night.

I'm not sure but I think the photograph below shows the bat either in the process of snatching up some dinner, or maybe it is carrying something it caught amongst the leaf litter in its mouth to a feeding perch close by.

I think this might be one of the more handsome species compared to some of the craziness found in other bat species

All in all I think these are some great photographs from the Birdcam. This is only my second round with this camera, and although it definitely has some flaws, it does seem to be able to produce some very pleasant surprises.