Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Collaborating and Conserving Across Borders: PIT Tagging Workshop

What happens when you bring together researchers and conservationists from the U.S. and Mexico for six days in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains of Nuevo Leon? You get an amazing, collaborative effort to save the endangered Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis)! I joined colleagues from Especies, Sociedad y Habitat A.C., Instituto Tecnológico de Ciudad Victoria, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Bat Conservation International, New Mexico State University, and Texas A&M for a six-day PIT tag training workshop in the Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey. We gathered near an important roosting cave for the Mexican long-nosed bat, Infierno Cave, where the females gather every summer to give birth to their pups (babies).

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Best Part of Fieldwork? Cool Slow-motion Bat Videos!

When watching some of the videos I have collected so far this summer, it became obvious that identifying the specific species of the bats feeding on the agaves is no easy task. The videos are really cool to watch, but the resolution is not high enough to see the distinguishing features (e.g. tail membrane size/shape, length of nose, etc.) of the species well. (For a more complete description of how to identify the different species, see my previous blog post: “The Many Faces of Agave Visitors”). So, I figured out how to take zoomed, slow motion video clips while monitoring at night! I’m super excited about the results. The videos are a tad dark, since slow motion recording requires a lot more light than normal recording, but you can clearly see the bats and all their features! For example, you can see how the back legs look like a “V”, which means that the tail membrane is relatively small. This means the bat is not a Mexican long-tongued bat (Choeronycteris mexicana), which has a large tail membrane. These videos have allowed me to definitively confirm that they are Leptonycteris. Anecdotal evidence says that Mexican long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris nivalis) make a “whooshing” sound when flying, while Lesser long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) don’t. Since I did hear “whooshing” while the bats were flying around in the field, I’m pretty darn sure they’re Mexican long-nosed bats, the target species for my project. This is definitely an exciting finding! I hope you enjoy the videos below!

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Typical Day (and Night) in the Field

So you may be wondering just what exactly my fieldwork entails. Well, read on to find out!

First, a summary of what my project is about. I’m working with the endangered Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) in northeast Mexico (the states of Nuevo Leon and Coahuila). Every spring and fall, Mexican long-nosed bats migrate over 1000 km (600 miles) between their mating cave in central Mexico and their maternity caves in northeast Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. (A maternity cave is where the females give birth to and raise their pups.) During this migration, the bats feed on the nectar and pollen of agaves and cactus plants. However, in the northern portion of their range where I’m working, they feed solely on the nectar and pollen of agaves. People in the region also harvest and use agaves for a variety of purposes, including several beverages and food products, forage for livestock, and housing material. In order to help conserve the bats, I’m working in several rural communities throughout the region to understand how they are using agaves and if there may be opportunities in the future to promote “bat-friendly” agave harvest and management. I’m also trying to figure out what the bats need in terms of food (agave) resources when they are in the region in the summer.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Many Faces of Agave Visitors

While my project focuses on nectar-feeding bats and agaves, there are MANY other animals that make use of and benefit from agaves, some of which I have caught on camera!

First off, there are insectivorous (insect-eating) bats that take advantage of all the nocturnal insects flying around the agave flowers and feeding from the nectar. Moths and beetles provide a smorgasboard to these insect-eating bats. I managed to get some infrared videos of one of these visitors in the desert scrub ecosystem of Coahuila. From the still-shot beloow, it looks like this visitor is a Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus), a fairly common desert bat found in the western U.S. and much of Mexico. These bats are super cool because they typically glean prey off of surfaces, and even ambush large centipedes and scorpions on the ground!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Back in the Field!

This field season is off to a fast start! I’ve been back in Mexico for 4 ½ weeks now and it seems like just a couple weeks! I’ve been quite remiss in keeping up with my blog. This summer has been a lot more jam-packed than last summer, since this year I have funding to support my field work and have been able to rent my own field truck, and therefore get into the field a lot more. This year my work is being supported by a Rufford Foundation Grant, a Phoenix Zoo Conservation Fund Grant, an Idea Wild equipment grant, and the Kate Barlow Award from the Bat Conservation Trust. Without these groups this work would not be possible!

While 4 ½ weeks is a lot to cover, I’d like to share a few highlights so far so you can get an idea of what life has been like during my third field season!