Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bat Sampling

Two nights ago I had the privilege of observing/assisting with part of a statewide bat inventory project at a cave less than 20 miles from my home. Keith Hudson, bat expert and one of ADCNR's Nongame Wildlife Program biologists, was directing (that's Keith's voice in this video), and other ADCNR and USFWS biologists were there as well. I'm not mentioning the cave by name because it's on private property, but it's one of the largest and most significant bat caves in Alabama's Coastal Plain. Keith was hoping to get four or five species, but we found just two. Southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius) is the most abundant, and was all we caught in the harp trap. We caught a few hundred, but there had to be many thousands of them in all, although we did not attempt even a ballpark estimate. Eastern pipistrelles (Pipistrellus subflavus) were also present in fair numbers, seen clinging to the cave wall well after most of the other bats had emerged.

The Austbat harp trap Keith uses is an amazing thing. Set up at the cave entrance (or exit, from the bats' perspective), it intercepts emerging bats after dusk, gently plopping them down into a collecting bag. Clear plastic flaps hang down on the inside of the bag, keeping them from crawling out. Incidentally, all bats were released following species ID and determination of sex and reproductive status.

This cave is in an area known as the Lime Hills, a physiographic province just south of and adjacent to the Red Hills. I've been there several times over the years, and it's really a special place. Not only is it perhaps the most important maternity cave in the state for southeastern myotis bats, it is the southernmost known occurrence for pickerel frogs (Rana palustris) in Alabama, and botanists recognize it as one of the southernmost localities for red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).

Monday, October 5, 2009

RCW Translocation Time Again

Here's what I'll be doing again later this month. This ADCNR video is from the 2007 translocation of 7 endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers from Ft. Benning GA to Enon Plantation near Hurtsboro AL. That was the first time this was ever done on private lands in Alabama, and it's been a huge success. This year we're moving 12. A couple of weeks ago a team of 17 people installed 57 artificial cavity inserts in just a day and a half to get ready for the move.

Without the generosity, support, and conservation ethic of the landowner, Cam Lanier III, obviously this could never happen. Some of the funding is Mr. Lanier's contribution, with the rest in the form of a federal grant through the Alabama Forest Resources Center. Eric Spadgenske (USFWS) is featured, and he's really the brains behind the operation. Also featured is Mark Sasser of ADCNR. I'm in the video, too, but kind of as an "extra" in a couple of scenes. (That's me grabbing the end of the net at the beginning, and installing an insert later on.)