Our Batty Summer 2021

By: Melissa Donnelly

Now that the summer season has come to an end, we have wrapped up our batty field work! Our summer field assistants have now left us, and our city bats have started to leave their summer homes and are making their way to their breeding grounds, known as swarming sites, before going into hibernation.

That being said, we had a busy field season with just over 100 bats captured from four different species! We banded more Species at Risk bats than any previous season and successfully identified several roosts while learning more about their foraging behaviour. We tested out new equipment from Sussex AutoBat, which improved our northern myotis capture rate, and miniMOTUS towers which showed the promise of documenting a bat’s movement throughout the night.

We travelled all throughout Ontario from South Bruce, Frontenac County, Northern Ontario, and Georgina. We experienced the rashes and devastation of the LDD caterpillars. We mostly managed to avoid getting ticks, and narrowly missed getting struck by lightning and have a tree fall down on our net. We even likely confused a police helicopter with our headlamps shining through the night in the middle of the woods as they continuously circled above us!

Northern myotis
Big brown bat
Little brown myotis- extra fluffy
Eastern red bat

As exciting as some of our nights proved to be, bats were not the only animals we encountered. We were stalked by some kind of huffing, grunting animal (probably a coyote or a pig). Infrared footage revealed what really happens at our nets when we’re not there! We commonly recorded several inquisitive raccoons getting handsy with all our gear, and a nosy deer booping our net! We also spotted a barred owl jingling the rings of our triple high system before it spooked. We caught several birds, mostly robins, one other species of thrush, and some kind of sparrow, who were all released unharmed. We watched some plump marsh bird chase bats in the air as they guarded their food. We also caught a southern flying squirrel!

Our work was featured in several media stories, from the Scarborough Mirror (1), Midwestern Newspapers Corp (2), Wingham Advance Times, The Toronto Star (3), and CBC Radio: Here and Now Toronto (4). Our paper on northern myotis was accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

We were invited to assist bat walks at High Park and join community scientists Friends of Cedarbrook on their bat walks. We hosted three Facebook Lives (5)(6)(7) and a sold-out virtual bat event at Our Toronto Zoo.

We are quite proud with what we were able to accomplish this summer and look forward to our next field season.

Finally, we would like to thank Adopt-a-Pond for allowing us to join their Facebook page with batty content and thank all of you for tuning into #WingedWednesdays! We hope you enjoyed our posts and have a greater appreciation of bats.

Fun fact: bats breed in the fall but the females don’t give birth until June! They have the ability to delay implantation and pregnancy until they come out of hibernation! Not all bats leave the city to hibernate in caves; some have adapted well to the city and will hibernate in buildings that are cold enough. Back in 2014, 55 Big brown bats were brought into a wildlife rehabilitation centre when their hibernation site, a mall in Newmarket, was inadvertently disturbed (8)!

References:

(1) https://www.toronto.com/news-story/10462291–a-bad-rap-bats-are-scary-in-movies-but-scarborough-volunteers-happily-seek-them-out-for-zoo-study/

(2) https://midwesternnewspapers.com/toronto-zoo-conducting-bat-research-in-south-bruce/

(3) https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/07/30/toronto-zoo-conducting-bat-research-in-south-bruce.html

(4) https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-82-here-and-now-toronto/clip/15863259-how-bat-walks-helping-better-understand-torontos-night-flyers

(5) https://www.facebook.com/TheTorontoZoo/videos/148220207241908

(6) https://www.facebook.com/TheTorontoZoo/videos/533986681049306

(7) https://www.facebook.com/TheTorontoZoo/videos/582220902904868

(8) https://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/4299207-bats-rescued-from-cold-in-newmarket/