July 30, 2008
Bats don't deserve the bad reputation that they have developed over the centuries. For starters, they eat 20 to 50 percent of their weight in insects like mosquitos every night -- about ten per minute. Imagine how many bug bites you would have if bats weren't cleaning up the sky for us. And that old wives' tale about bats flying into your hair - don't believe it!
Bats are nocturnal mammals that hibernate or migrate during the winter. They roost in caves or trees in groups ranging from only a few to millions. Bats hang upside down when they sleep and can tilt their heads so far back they can look behind themselves. There are nine species of bats in New York State.
Cave Bats vs. Tree Bats
All six species of New York's cave bats spend the winter hibernating in caves and mines where they live off stored fat reserves. During the summer, they move to a variety of places, including bridges, buildings, rock crevices or the cracks or loose bark of trees. Cave bats can be identified by the lack of fur on their tail membranes and plain brownish coloring.
The three species of New York's tree bats live year round in trees. They tend to be more colorful than cave bats and have full-furred tail membranes which they curl around themselves like a blanket. Tree bats don't form large colonies like cave bats, preferring instead to hide among leaves or branches, or to roost in crevices of trees. All fly south for the winter.
Two species of New York bats deserve special note: the most common and the largest.
Little Brown Bat - The most common bat in New York State, the little brown is probably the bat you see flying low over the water on a summer evening. A cave bat, it frequently occupies buildings during the summer, but also lives in tree crevices. Unfortunately, white nose fungus is killing little brown bats at an alarming rate, and scientists have not yet pinpointed the source of the fungus.
Hoary Bat - The largest of New York's bats, hoarys have a wingspan of nearly 1 ½ feet and weigh up to seven times more than the smallest species of bats. A tree bat, the hoary is most abundant in the Adirondacks, and roosts high in trees and feeds above the tree tops.
Build a Bat House
Want your own bug zapper? Build a bat house to provide bats a safe place to stay and help control the mosquito population in your yard.
You will need an untreated plank of wood about 3/4 of an inch thick, 6 inches wide and 16 inches long, as well as four 6- inch strips of wood about 3/4 of an inch wide. First, cut a piece of plank about 10 inches long. This will be the back of the bat house. Staple some screening to the plank to help the bats cling to the inside. The remaining 6-inch board will be the front of the bat house. Lay the front board on top of the back board one inch from the top and draw a line around it with a pencil.
After removing the front board, lay the four small strips of wood on their edges along the pencil lines that you drew. Make sure that they fit snugly. Trim about 1 ½ inches from the strip that will be at the bottom of the house and angle it toward the other strips to make an entrance. Using carpenter's glue, glue the side and top strips to the back board and then nail them in place to make the box secure. The bottom strip should be nailed lightly, so that the box can be easily cleaned out annually. Now put glue on the top edges of the strips and lay the front board on top and nail it down. Painting it a dark color will help absorb the heat. Hang the bat box in a tree, sheltered from the wind and away from branches, about 12 to 16 feet above the ground. It is best if it faces the southeast or southwest, since bats like warmth. Leave the box up over the winter - a bat may move in right away or wait until the following spring to try out the house. When you clean out the house, handle the bat feces (guano) with care - although it can be used as a beneficial manure, it can also cause respiratory problems. You can protect yourself by wearing latex gloves and a face mask.
On a clear night, put on some dark clothes, grab a flashlight and head outside with a friend. Tie a red bandanna or other piece of material over the flashlight so the beam glows red and allows your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Take a moment for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and when you can see, sweep the dark with the flashlight. As soon as you hear a sound or see something in the sky, shine your flashlight in that direction. Black zigzagging shadows in the air are bats flying around and catching bugs to eat. Although the shapes may be dipping and swooping, don't worry, they have no interest in bothering humans.
Contrary to popular belief, bats can see just fine. However, because they feed at night, they rely on their hearing to find food. Bats send out a series of rapid sound pulses, and when the sound bounces off an object, an echo returns to the bat, enabling the bat to pinpoint the location, size and shape of the object. This is also how they avoid objects in their paths. This process is called echolocation.
Get some friends or family together, and select one person to be the bat. Tie a blindfold over his or her eyes and the other players will be the "mosquitos" and should make constant squeaking noises, but can't move from their spots. The bat may need a helper to make sure he or she doesn't bump into anything. The bat listens to the direction of the squeaking sounds and tries to tag the "mosquitos." Make sure you are playing in a large open area, so the bat doesn't run into anything. The last mosquito tagged becomes the bat for the next game.
Check out Conservationist for Kids for more information and activities!
Hempstead Lake State Park
Family Freshwater Fishing Clinic for All Ages
Saturday, August 9 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Pre-registration required. Spend the day with the family fishing and learning about the aquatic environment. This event starts with education stations and follows with open fishing. A children's casting contest is held throughout the day. Loaner rods and free bait are available at every event! Cost: $6 parking fee; free with Empire Passport. Event Limit: 150 participants. To pre-register, please call Malynda Nichol at (631) 444-0283.
Saturday, August 2 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Do you know what it's like to be a caterpillar and change into a butterfly? During the festival, learn about the butterfly life cycle and local species. Listen to butterfly stories and create a butterfly craft. Visit an enclosure to view butterflies up close. Fun and educational for the whole family.
Fruits of the Season
Saturday, August 9 at 10:00 AM
Discover the variety of berries and other wild edibles at Stony Kill. Some of the weeds you are pulling out of your garden could go into your salad or soup pot!
Make a Spy Scope
Saturday, August 2 at 10:00 AM
We will make our own working monocular (binoculars for one eye). Then we will hit the trail to see our feathered, furred and scaly residents up close. Cost: $3 registration fee.
Tuesday, August 5 at 7:00 PM
Join us for an evening walk along the Vlomankill trail to enjoy the beauty of the forest evening and look for stream life. Bring old shoes that can get wet.
Friday and Saturday, August 8-9 from 6:00 PM to 10:00 AM
Our annual campout at the center is a gentle and safe way to introduce your family to tent camping. You provide Friday supper, we provide Saturday breakfast and lots of experiences including a nature walk and campfire. We have a few tents and sleeping bags to loan. Pre-register by August 1. Cost: $15 registration fee per family.
Free Fishing Day
Saturday, August 9 at 10:00 AM
This will be strictly catch-and-release fishing for beginners. Bring your own tackle if you like, but we will provide the barbless hooks. We have a limited number of poles and can make "soda can" poles if necessary. All ages are welcome, but children must be accompanied by a parent.
Wild Turkey Trail Walk
Tuesday, August 12 at 7:00 PM
An exploration of one of our wildest trails, the two-mile long Wild Turkey Trail. We'll look for evening wildlife and enjoy the forested areas in Five Rivers' remoter corners.
Paddle Ninemile Swamp
Saturday, August 2 from 8:30 AM to Noon
This slow-moving river is a gem. It has an assortment of summer flowers and birds to enjoy and a fascinating cultural history. Registration is required. Cost: $5.00 non-refundable fee per paddler using our equipment. Meet in the Rogers Center main parking lot.
Saturday, August 9 at 8:30 PM
Have you looked up at the night sky and its abundance of stars and wondered how to find constellations and where to look for shooting stars? Join us for a tour of the night sky. David Terrazas of the Central New York Astronomy Club will have some large telescopes for exciting viewing. Bring binoculars if you have them. Rain or clear!
Advance registration is required. Call 716-683-5959.
Wednesday, July 30 at 8:00 PM
Bats are amazing animals, but are often misunderstood. Separate fact from fiction and learn about the only true flying mammals.
Friday, August 1 at 10:00 AM
Dive into the world of aquatic organisms and see what is living in our ponds. For children ages 6 to 12; parent or guardian must attend.
Saturday, August 9 at 10:00 AM
Make the fairies happy... build them a house! Use natural materials to build your house among the trees of Reinstein Woods without disturbing anything that is growing there. Once you learn how, you can make one anywhere.
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