Bat Blitz Jitters
July 27th, 2010
I woke up this morning and realized that for the first time in nearly two weeks I hadn’t had the recurring dream that had plagued me – the one about the bat that rode around clinging to my back, underneath my shirt, I know it may sound ridiculous, but for me I fully realized what my subconscious was telling me. The Bat Blitz was coming and my mind was in a frenzy, feeling slightly (okay, more than slightly) unprepared.
The last time I had the dream was of course the worst of all, because I pulled the bat off, and it was pale, malnourished and neglected. I rather dejectedly handed it over to Trina, our nongame bat biologist where she informed me the bat was so far gone, it would most certainly die. I awoke in a cold sweat. It was the day before the blitz.
I have never been one for superstition. I routinely walk under ladders, “jinx” myself, spill salt and tangle with black cats, much to my husband’s dismay. I do however tend to listen to my gut instincts, so perhaps all that women’s intuition stuff is not such a myth after all. I am thinking I should have paid more attention to my gut this time and stayed home. But let me back up.
July 25, 2010
I got a late start heading out. My son wrapped his arms around my waist and begged me to take a day off, maybe I should have listened.
When I got the office I realized I did not have a key to get in, half my key ring was missing and I was standing there sweating in what felt like 95 degree heat with all my junk, locked out of the office on a Sunday, nearly an hour away from my keys.
I called my WONDERFUL co-worker who was able to bring me a key, and after loading up the van I headed out. I was running about an hour behind at this point.
About an hour and fifteen minutes into the 2 ½ hour drive the car began to cough and jerk. Uh-oh. The check engine light came on and all of the sudden I was wishing I had taken the auto-mechanics class my dad kept recommending way back in high school. Stubborn girl that I am, I just kept pushing, determined that I would not miss this event. I had put too much time (not really), and they needed me (nope). Work-a-holism at it’s very worst had taken over and it can make you a very scary creature.
By the time I pulled over, the check engine light was ON and no longer flashing politely. It was not a suggestion any longer but a clear order to PULL OVER.
My first thought was of course, how do I get to the park now? Made all the requisite calls. Of course there is no reception in the mountains, and was feeling pretty low until low and behold another DNR vehicle pulls up across the highway at the Sunoco. I start jumping up and down and waving while simultaneously speed-dialing my good buddy Jim Ozier and I can see that he is reaching for his phone. My eyes have not deceived me.
He has a carful of bat biologists but manages to stuff me and nearly all my gear into the truck and off we go. Disaster averted, at least temporarily. (Or so I think) It is only once we get 20 minutes down the road that I realize that I have not only forgotten the bat pictures for my trivia wheel, but also my toiletry bag….looks like it will be a stinky couple of days and I suddenly feel sorry for anyone who will have to be anywhere in the near vicinity of my armpits for the next few days in this heat.
Okay, so enough complaining. We get there, check in. The event goes great despite my lack of pictures (although I swear people were giving me a wider berth than usual…I bet I was smelly…) A Dalton reporter showed up and interviewed Trina and we had a ton of kids running around in bat masks! The presentations were terrific with Phaedra the fruit bat making a big hit with the crowd.
When the night finally draws to a close, I feel much better about my role in the whole blitz…and am relieved that at least for the moment, the bat is off my back.
July 26, 2010
Day 2 is actually the first day of the official blitz. All of the participants from all over the country have checked in by now and are just itching to get their hands on some bats. The favorite target of the crowd seems to be the Hoary bat, one I have never seen except in photos. I listen in while Trina goes over all the rules with the team leaders and participants. There are a bunch since here in Georgia (and everywhere) we are dealing with White Nose Syndrome protocols for the first time since the these blitz’s began. There are all new decontamination rules and regulations that the participants need to follow and everyone is extra alert.
I notice a couple familiar faces when Sharon and Shane from GPB walk in and start filming. I can’t wait to see this on Georgia Outdoors. This will make a great episode! (shameless plug I know!)
After all the meetings I head out to run the dreaded errand of delivering the keys to Cartersville,GA where my defunct van is sitting at Wilson’s repair shop. I make the two-hour long drive (round trip) down highway 411 thinking it is the loooooongest road in the world. but at least I see some interesting landmarks along the way. Seriously, would you get your hair done at a place called “Curl up and Dye” ?? Or eat at any place with word roadkill in the name?
By the time I get back, it is nearly time for the groups to head out for setting up the mist nets.
I join up with my team and we start gathering equipment. By the time we drive to our site, it is raining but we wait it out in anticipation of seeing a few bats.When we finally get the all clear via radio contact from bat central (HQ), we open our nets and from that point it doesn’t take long. Our first bat – a tri-colored bat, formerly called a Pipistrelle. Beautiful little thing, but squawky! I guess I would be too if I had just been caught in a net!
The team gets to work, taking measurements and recording data while I am snapping photos and taking video. The bat ends up being a complete ham, giving me several “perfect” shots. After the work is done, we thank the little guy and release him, squawking all the way, back into the night to catch his dinner.
Although still rushing a little bit from catching the bat, the team gets right back to work to catch the next one. They will be out here until nearly 2AM.
This public affairs person has had enough excitement for one night however and will call it a night. Tomorrow will most certainly be another adventure.