Monday, November 21, 2011
First Pups of the Year!
I finally went out to the cave for a census last night for the first time since I hurt my knee over two weeks ago. It was great to get out with the bats again! The females are starting to give birth to their pups (yes, baby bats are called pups), which is 2-3 weeks earlier than normal. The bats came back to the cave from their overwintering sites a few weeks early this year, so we were predicting that they may have their pups early too. Looks like we were right! After the emergence ended I went to the Bat Center to look inside the cave with the infrared cameras and saw some pretty neat stuff. In the farthest chamber, a bunch of adults (probably over 1000) were grouped in about 20 large, tightly-packed clusters. I had never seen that before. Normally in that chamber there are only a few bats flying around, and when I’ve seen the bats roosting in other chambers they’ve always been much more loosely packed. I’m not sure what they were doing in such tight clusters, but they were probably preparing to give birth (all the females tend to give birth around the same day/time). I did see a cluster of four tiny, pink, hairless pups and several individual pups throughout the chamber, but definitely not the numbers I was expecting. The head park guide said there was a crèche (i.e. a group of pups—the moms put their pups in large groups so that when they leave for the night to feed the pups can keep each other warm) in this chamber today, but when I checked tonight, I again only saw those few pups from last night, and this time the adults were not grouped in large, tight clusters. Either most of the females have yet to give birth, or they have moved their pups to areas in the cave that the cameras can’t see. Hopefully the first option is true. It would be a bummer not to be able to see the pups and record information about them (crèche locations, mother-pup behavior, health, etc.). I’m hoping that when I check tomorrow more pups will be visible!