Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Million Ghost Faced Bats

Sunday May 28, 2006, Tamaulipas, Mexico
Sunday we had breakfast and coffee and met an Audobon director, looked at the cabina owner’s photo slide show of snakes and a gruesome jackass that had been killed by a jaguar. We left Gomez Farias around 10 and headed to Quintero Cave. Along the way we stopped to examine and take photos of a very interesting tree. It flowered along the trunk, had branches and leaves similar to ocotillo. Air plants, or epiphytes, and flat cactus pads adorned the branches throughout. It was quite unique, decorated and draped by climbing, clinging, prickly arms. As we took it in, we admired one interesting growth after another. I pressed a couple of the flowers between a sheet of paper in my field guide and saved a small branch with leaves as well. Then on to the cave. Easy to drive to, steps to walk up, graffiti all around. Quite a popular destination. Inside the cave was pretty massive, and it was fairly extensive with domed spots used by certain bat species that like to roost in cup-like domes. Inside there was a huge mexican free-tailed colony, a small cluster of about 20 hairy legged vampire bats, we could see by their rounded ears. Also, glossophaga. The cave had at one time had quite a bit of standing water, as evidenced by the water line, several feet up the wall. But perhaps for 40 years since landowners down the hill had laid a pipe to send the water down to livestock, or agriculture maybe, the cave had dried up save for a couple pools in tiny ceynote like bowls containing endemic crustaceans moving their luminescent bodies like ghosts on curtain like appendages.
Next we headed to cave two of the day.

Quintero Gruta
Bat pollinated tree – hard fruits, look like citrus but more goard like, make maracas. Flowers from trunk, epiphytes adorn, flat long cactus intertwine, interesting leaflets like ocotillo
Red bellied squirrel
Anis orioles
Kiskadee (like)
Target range
Cuevo Quintero ~ approx 12 species use through year; had ~100,000 Tadarida brasiliensis at site visit, also hairy legged vampire (15-20), and Glossophagus

The water level in some areas was several feet, but maybe 40 years has been dry piped for agriculture. Many domes, limestone cups smooth rocks.

We sat at the mouth of the cave and discussed how to go about affecting the practice of guano mining in Mexico. From my notes: there is a permit process in place in Mexico, maybe oversight is within their energy department. In the US, the Lacey Act is that which has the potential to legislate the movement of guano and appropriate collection practices.

Guano Exports – investigate DOI USFWS Office of International Affairs, Customs, Department of Ag
Recommended action: Take action with Position Paper, cover -
*Reason why this is an important issue
*Biological impacts
*Be vigilant about the issue
*Document the size of the problem

as we drove to the next site, near Aldama, we listened to Louis Armstrong – when you’re smiling, hello dolly
Passed fields of blue agave
Tamaulipas crow
Fig tree
Black vulture
Black iguana
Heard Gypsy Kings along long bumpy gravel road to Rancho ???
Yellow necked woodpecker
Cahuamas (beer quart), Mayemos (pacifico…not sure what this note meant)

Stopped off at two large ceynotes, first containing 2 native fish, crustaceans, across way was elephant foot tree, a diver was killed there.
Second ceynote had a grebe and tree duck.
Mot mot
Elegant trogon
White tailed deer
Black tree duck
Red-billed pigeon
Gray fox
Hawk with barred tail (roadside)
La asulfrosa ranch (the water has a lot of sulfur)
Los Cuarteles Cueva – Huge and extensive. Five species were there when we visited, plus opossom, and lots of dermestids canvassing thick, spongy guano. At least a million ghost faced bats fly in a large room, their naked babies clinging to the ceiling. I'd like to say that the little ghost faced bats were cute, but they were probably the strangest most ghoulish looking offspring of any creature ever. Their helplessness, however, endeared me to stay low, quiet and ready to help any that fell from the ceiling in the bat mayhem. The cave was very humid, warm, with a few openings where trees have fallen through, and other openings to the surface. It is the most impressive, extensive cave I've ever been in and I am a little freaked out that we may get lost forever in the maze. We don't. We capture 2 mormoops and 1 lesser mustached bat with a handnet and drove to Hotel Mansion Presas del Rey in Aldama, Room 107. Flew bats in the hotel room to photograph, with SportsCenter highlights of the Suns and Dallas NBA playoff series game in the background. No bats were injured during the photoshoot and they were released back into the night immediately after. That was a fabulous, one of a kind experience - flying bats in a hotel room, that is. Mormoops are gentle and mellow, have long legs. At rest, their bodies hang pendandant; uropotagium extends and tail comes out of membrane, can extend and pull back in.

Ghost-faced bat (Mormoops megalophylla)
Lesser mustached bat (Pteronotus personatus)Common Mustached bat (Pteronotus parnellii)
Lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae)
Vampires (Desmodus rotundus)
Wind scorpions
Tiny frogs

No comments: