Sunday, October 07, 2007

On the Wings of the Night

Though most hummingbirds have departed southeastern Arizona in the last two weeks, we're keeping our feeders full for the nectar bats. Even their numbers are down as they join the hummingbirds in Mexico, but visits have been frequent enough the last two nights that we've been able to get a few photos. Here's one of the best so far:

This fox-faced creature is a Lesser Long-nosed Bat, Leptonycteris curasoae. In spring, they migrate northward into the deserts and sky island mountains of southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and the Big Bend of far western Texas. They're important pollinators of the mighty Saguaro and also feed on the juicy red pulp of its fruits and spread its seeds. Here in the high deserts and mountains, at elevations too cool for the giant cacti, their main fare is the nectar and pollen of agaves, a.k.a. century plants. Agaves are the source of tequila, so the next time you enjoy a margarita raise a toast to the velvety night fliers who make it possible.

It took over 100 tries to get a handful of good photos. Last night, I parked myself in a patio chair and waited for the soft flupflupflupflupflupflup of leathery wings to signal a bat's arrival. Only a few photos out of dozens had bats in them, and the angle was bad, so this evening we set up inside at the living room window. After a frustrating false start with several badly focused shots, we finally seem to have gotten the system down. Eight out of the last thirty images were good enough to keep, and two others were almost as good as this one.

Tom's at the camera now, waiting for the bats to digest their last drink and come back for another round. If we get anything more compelling, we'll post some new photos later.

Update: Tom got another great photo:

Note the yellow agave pollen on its face.

1 comment:

Carole said...

Wonderful post, Sheri! I know how hard it is to capture the bats by camera. Several years ago my husband was determined to photograph them and I remember what gymnastics he went through. He was successful in getting perhaps 20 great shots out of a couple hundred. Thank goodness for digital!