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Showing posts from 2009

My Costa Rica Travel Journal

As everyone who knows me knows, I cannot say enough good things about Costa Rica! I have finally typed out my travel journal from the trip my husband and I took there in June & July of 2008. To this I have added my photos and informative links. The intent is to share my love of this country and perhaps provide some useful information for anyone considering or planning a trip there. I am dating the entries with the original dates, so you will have to go back to these dates to read the posts. Here is the first post: Costa Rica: day 1 - Adventure, Exploration and Relaxation.

(Please note that this has been quite an undertaking. I will be posting these in batches as they are ready. I apologize for any errors I might have made, as I have not been able to fully proofread everything. I will slowly be doing this after I post everything.)

White-Nose Syndrome

Little Brown Bats exhibiting WNS symptoms photo courtesy of Nancy Heaslip, New York Department of Environmental Conservation

I'm going to switch gears now and tell you about something quite serious that is devastating bat populations in the Northeastern United States and continuing to spread. It is called White-Nose Syndrome, or WNS, and since its discovery in a cave near Albany, New York in February 2006, it has wiped out an estimated 1 million bats in 9 states - with some caves experiencing a 90-100% mortality rate! - and scientists have yet to figure out the how's and the why's.

So far, it has affected 6 different bat species, all of which are insectivorous and hibernating species - the endangered Indiana myotis (Myotis sodalis), the little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus), the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), the tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus), the northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis), and the eastern small-footed myotis (Myotis leibii).
To begin, let me provid…

Why Bats Are So Amazing, Important & Misunderstood - part III

adult White-Winged Vampire Bats (Diaemus youngi) - photo by Daniel Riskin

So Why the Misunderstanding... Like most misunderstandings, it comes down to people's ignorance. Through research, the myths surrounding bats have all been dispelled: They're not blind.They don't get tangled in your hair.They don't carry rabies any more than any other wild animal.They're not mice with wings.They're not bloodsuckers.They're not ugly. Read Merlin Tuttle's Rebuttal to These Common Bat Myths

Why Bats Are So Amazing, Important & Misunderstood - part II

Tamana Cave, Trinidad - photo by Daniel Riskin
Some Amazing Bat Trivia click on the links to view a photo of the bat/s* The world's smallest mammal is the bumblebee bat of Thailand, weighing less than a penny.Giant flying foxes that live in Indonesia have wingspans of six feet.The common little brown bat of North America is the world's longest-lived mammal for its size, with life spans sometimes exceeding 34 years.Mexican free-tailed bats sometimes fly up to two miles high to feed or to catch tailwinds that carry them over long distances at speeds of more than 60 miles per hour.The pallid bat of western North America is immune to the stings of scorpions and even the seven-inch centipedes upon which it feeds.Fishing bats have echolocation so sophisticated that they can detect a minnow's fin as fine as a human hair, protruding only two millimeters above a pond's surface.African heart-nosed bats can hear the footsteps of a beetle from more than six feet away.Frog-eating bats

Why Bats are So Amazing, Important & Misunderstood - part I

Lesser Short-Nose Fruit Bat (Cynopterus brachyotis)
photo by Jose Iriarte-Diaz & Arnold Song*
Some Important Bat Facts click on the links to view a photo of the bat/s** Nearly 1,000 [now 1,100] kinds of bats account for almost a quarter [now 20%] of all mammal species, and most are highly beneficial.A single little brown bat can catch 1,200 mosquito-sized insects in just one hour.A colony of 150 big brown bats can protect local farmers from up to 33 million or more rootworms each summer.The 20 million Mexican free-tails from Bracken Cave, Texas, eat approximately 200 tons of insects nightly.Tropical bats are key elements in rain forest ecosystems, which rely on them to pollinate flowers and disperse seeds for countless trees and shrubs.In the wild, important agricultural plants, from bananas, breadfruit, and mangoes to cashews, dates, figs, rely on bats for pollination and seed dispersal.Tequila is produced from agave plants whose seed production drops to 1/3,000th of normal without b…

Buffalo Bayou Park Biking Trails

Location Trails run along Buffalo Bayou, in between Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway, from Shepherd Drive in the west to Bagby Street in the east. Buffalo Bayou on Google Maps
Trail To me as a mountain bike beginner, aside from a few "steep" hills and a couple of sandy parts that are pretty slippery, this trail is easy. The circuit is a little over 6 miles long. Most of the trail is not shaded, so use sunscreen.
Crowd Midday Sunday in the summer doesn't seem to be that crowded, nor as hot as one would think. Weekday evenings tend to be fairly crowded. On a bike this means a lot of maneuvering around walkers, joggers, and dogs.
Parking Ample parking is available in the lots to the side of Sabine Street Lofts, off of Memorial Drive. There is also the Eleanor Tinsley parking lot off of Allen Parkway.



Interesting Notes: Along this trail, you will cross paths with the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony. You'll know it when you start smelling the guano.

If you take the trail all the way east, y…

Camping & Hiking - Now Let's Try Biking!

I thought it was going to be way too hot to bike in Houston during the summer. This is why I wanted to hold off getting our bikes until the fall. However, a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I had gone to Memorial Park to see what the trails would be like, and we were pleasantly surprised. As we entered the woods, both of us had that feeling that we were camping. The part that we walked (the entrance was to the left of a baseball field) was completely shaded, so it actually felt very nice, despite it being 95+ that day. This is where I became sold and gave in (after poor Nick wanting to get bikes for several months now!) I will say that I want to become very familiar with my bike before attempting this trail, as we saw some pretty steep and narrow parts.

We took our first ride yesterday on the Buffalo Bayou trails. It was a lot of fun! We loaded up our Camelbacks with ice and water and brought along some dried fruit and nuts. Had plenty of sunscreen because the majority of this trail…

Waugh Bridge Bat Colony Pontoon Boat Tour

This past Friday evening we went on the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony Pontoon Boat Tour on Buffalo Bayou. It departs near the Sabine Promenade then takes you near the Waugh bridge and stays there so that you can see the bats emergence from below. When it's over, the boat takes you back to where you started.


As you wait for the bats departure, volunteers give you some information about the colony. A specimen and photos are handed around. These volunteers also record data, like times of emergence and weather conditions.

As sunset approaches, more and more bats come out of the crevices underneath the bridge - the expansion joints are the perfect size for Mexican Free-Tailed Bats (Tadarida brasiliensis). At first they just fly around underneath the bridge. Some speculate that they do this as a kind of exercise, as a prelude to their nightly flight. Others speculate that the first bats that come out are scouting out the conditions and any potential threats. They will sometimes create a vortex …

Fruit Bats at Carruth Natural Encounters

Again, these were taken with my point-and-shoot camera set to HI ISO. They're not spectacular, but I was happy to capture at least something without using a flash, which I don't think you should do at a zoo, especially for the nocturnal animals. Anyway, this is a great exhibit. You can really observe a lot of interesting bat behavior.

Fruit bats, also known as flying foxes or megabats, have sweet faces and rely on sight and smell, not echolocation for navigation and foraging (the exception being the Egyptian Fruit Bat). Some eat fruit, aiding in seed dispersal; others drink nectar, actually pollinating the plants. Although not all megabats are necessarily large (the smallest is only 2-3 inches), the largest of the flying foxes reaches a wingspan of 6 feet!
The bats at the Houston Zoo (shown above) are Straw-Colored Fruit Bats (Eidolon helvum).
Houston Zoo Fruit Bat video BCI's Flying Foxes

Cottoncandy Tummy-aches Are the Best Tummy-aches! or My Trips to the Houston Zoo

After two failed attempts to go to the Houston Zoo on the weekend with Nick (it was perfect weather both times so everyone wanted to be there and there was absolutely no place to park!) I finally made it there with my mom last week. Of course, the parking situation didn't seem much better - school buses were taking up half the parking lot and cars the rest. It only dawned on us why this was when we got up to the entrance, after miles of walking, and saw the huge Earth Day banner. Oh, yeah!

The place that we parked had a 3 hour time limit, so we had to get moving. (And I had to get cottoncandy! I'm not a huge fan of sweets but pure sugar in cloud-like form is still heavenly to me. And I eat it like there's no tomorrow! Hence the tummy-ache.) We managed to see quite a bit.
Wake Up, Toby!
The "world's cutest animal" is always napping! (Because Red Pandas, also known as firefoxes, are crepuscular, or most active at dawn and dusk.)


I went again with Nick a few days l…

The Waugh Bridge Bat Colony

photo by Dale Martin
How neat is that? Houston plays host to its own urban bat colony! I had discovered it upon moving back to Houston's inner loop, after 4 years in New York. Exiting Waugh from Memorial Drive, I noticed a sign for the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony. I got home and googled it and found out the colony of 250,000-300,000 insect-eating Mexican free-tailed bats took up residence under the bridge in 1993. Unlike most other Texas bat colonies that migrate to warmer climates in winter, these little critters stay here year round. Though it's said they don't come out if the temperature goes below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

I will be writing more on this topic in upcoming posts, but meanwhile you can read more at the following sites:

The Waugh Bat Monitor Buffalo Bayou Partnership Houston Parks and Recreation

Houston and Beyond

I am proud to call this my first official outside-oriented blog. And this is my first official blog posting. Nature, wildlife, travel, camping, bats - I'm very excited to be able to share these things that I love!

I envision hey little bat! as a journal of outdoor activities in and around Houston, in Texas, and in faraway places that my husband and I are fortunate enough to visit, as well as a chronicle of thoughts on these subjects. Retrospectively, I plan to "digitize" the travel journal that I kept of our amazing trip to Costa Rica last year, as well as write about some of our wonderful camping experiences in Big Bend National Park. Let's see what unfolds...
Through all of this I hope to encourage people to enjoy and respect nature and animals, to travel and go camping, and to provide some practical information and advice about some of the places I've been. Finally, I hope to give people an appreciation of my favorite animal, the bat.