17 March 2013 – challenging bats…
Our friends, Keir and Alouise Lynch, had managed to arrange access to a cave in De Kelders near Gansbaai for us to have a look for some bats for our challenge list, so we joined them and Cliff and Suretha Dorse for a little visit to the cave this morning. We had also managed to borrow a bat detector from our friend, Samantha Hockey, which would prove invaluable in pinning down the identification of the bats.
We entered the caves with much anticipation not really knowing what to expect and, after squeezing our way through a small tunnel, entered the main chamber which had several large pools of water in it and where we were immediately faced with numbers of bats, both hanging from the roof of the cave and flying around. Over the course of the next few hours, we moved around the labyrinth of chambers looking at and photographing all the bats and were able to conclusively identify 3 species.
The most numerous one was Natal Long-fingered Bat which we already had for our Western Cape biodiversity challenge, but it was still great to get to see so many of them and photograph them. If you think photographing birds in flight is tough, try having a go at bats. It is damn near impossible and extremely frustrating…!
The other two species that we located in the caves were there in much lower numbers and were both new for our challenge list – Cape and Geoffroy’s Horseshoe Bats. This is where the bat detector was invaluable as we were able to check the level of their echolocation and confirm their identifications that way. According to the experts, short of checking a few dental features, there is no other way to separate these two species on sight alone.
Whilst it wasn’t a day that delivered a whole host of species, it was certainly an interesting day where we got to experience something a little different and new to us and something that we look forward to doing again sometime in the not too distant future.