29 Nov 2016: Diary of a batman

29 November 2016
I embark on the SDNHM field trip to Granite Well solo in my trusty FJ to meet up with the rest of the group - I leave at 7:30am and hope to arrive by 1:00 or 1:30pm. The drive from SD is a nice one, once you get past frey of Riverside County. Proceeding on Hwy 62 off of the I-10 east I head up the hill towards Yucca Valley and it is very windy down in the pass. I watch an RV in front of me struggle to keep a straight line and it almost appears to begin to tip. As high profile a vehicle my FJ is I'm so glad I'm not driving an RV. The drive through Joshua Tree is always nice, though CHP are abundant I notice. Luckily I am in a calm, patient mood that is not typical for me, though I am striving to be more like this as I rather enjoy the peaceful version of me. Perhaps the best part of the drive is summiting the hill adjacent to 29-Palms MCB and heading down towards Amboy - the scenery is vast and amazing.
I cross the I-40 heading north and turn on to Black Canyon Road - I am impressed with the geology and petty high desert landscape before me. I arrive at our camp site - a small dirt road to the west leads me there. Only Phil and Lea have arived before me - Scott, Howard, and a mammal trapping volunteer Shawna King have not yet arrived. I check out the cattle drinker - a 5' diameter metal cylinder fed by a small water tank with a float system. I immediately notice a dead pallid bat laying on a wooden plank on the edge of the drinker - it is wet and freshly preserved as if it had been frozen in time (drowned in the cold water, no doubt - I notice there is an escape ramp but it is not properly in place at this guzzler). Phil and Lea show up and confirm that they had found the bat at the bottom of the guzzler - poor guy (a male indeed).
The rest of the team arrives an hour or 2 later, Scott has the project bat detectors with him since I haven't been on any of these field trips to date. I take possession of our 2 anabat express bat detectors funded by NSF and go about setting them up in the canyon near our camp (Borrego Canyon). As I hike around I see an Audobon's cottontail scurrying frantically, and observe 2 antelope ground squirrels. I hear and see a bird in the distance - looks like a Thrasher to me but Phil later suggests it might have been a cactus wren - I don't think so. A short time later it is approaching late afternoon and since the sun is setting early (4:30pm) I begin to get my dinner ready so I can set up a single mist net at the guzzler and have it in place before 4:30pm in case there are any early bats, which is often the case in the winter. I notice several cattle including some mothers with calves and a very large bull are slowly coming over towards us and the guzzler - I was a little worried this might happen. We were warned about aggressive cattle at this site. They held their distance.
Phil comes over to help me set up the net - since he regularly mist nets he understands how much better it is when you have help. We begin to put up the nets when suddenly a vehicle arrives - 2 men get out and it is obvious they are cattlemen. They have quite the strern look and immediately make it known that this is their property and they don't appreciate me messing with their guzzler. I explain that we have permssion from the NPS to do research here but the head honcho, named Rob (his sidekick is Tim), blurts out that the water guzzler is his regardless of who's land it is - he is obviously leasing the land for his cattle and is pretty possessive about this guzzler. I stand my ground but offer to take down my net and go elsewhere if it is such a big deal. He becomes disarmed and says go ahead as long as my stuff is gone by daylight, so the cattle can come drink - a deal is a deal. He does mention that he is going to go call NPS and complain - I thought about mentioning the fact that his guzzler killed a state-sensitive bat species because he has not adequately maintained an escape ramp but I decide this is not the time and place (I'm sure NPS would not like to hear this). However, I do mention that there was not an escape ramp properly in place and that there should be one - he agreed and said he usually maintains them but that so many 'people' come around (he meant recreational hikers, campers, etc) that they are constatnly messing with the ramps. Hmmmm I guess I believe him...anyways, I fixed the ramp and secured it with large rocks that I don't think even the cattle could budge.
As night falls it becomes very cold and blustery - not good conditions for catching bats but I am here so nothing to do but be hopeful. The thought of catching a spotted bat becomes a distant wish and now I am just hopeful to catch anything. I have an Echo Meter Touch bat detector plugged into my ipad so I am able to watch for bat echolocation activity at my FJ near the guzzler. I begin to see faint pulses characteristic of the California myotis - perhaps the only species active on this night. Indeed the call sequences bcome more frequent so I go and check the net - sure enough a small dark bat appearing to be a Cal myotis is flitting about the guzzler, making tight turns and I can see it is able to negotiate the net and get a drink without getting caught - bats 1, SDNHM 0. I continue to net until around 7pm when it has become ridiculously cold and windy - near 40 F. I decide the bats and the weather have won tonight and take down the net. I climb into the back of my FJ that doubles as my tent in cold weather. I lay on my back - the windows appear to be blurry versions of Van Gogh's 'Starry Night', since without my glasses I am blind as a...ahem..blind as a mole. I drift off to sleep serenaded by the wind as it softly howls across an open beer bottle outside my FJ. Goodnight, my small furry winged friends.

Publicado por dcstokes dcstokes, 29 de noviembre de 2016

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