Batty About Bats
This is not an early Halloween post, though I suppose it is fitting since we’re into October and parents kids are already amped up on the Halloween candy that hit shelves two months earlier. No, this is an update.
As you may recall from my last bat post, I’m monitoring bat activity at my hummingbird feeder. The study encourages us to submit photos of our rare nectar-sipping visitors for identification, because two types of backyard bandits drain Arizona feeders from July-October: the endangered Lesser Long-Nosed and the threatened Mexican Long-Tongued. Here they are, in action:
And, yes, if you keep reading, you’ll find a writing lesson hidden between the backwards feet of these bats (True: a bat’s feet are rotated 180 degrees, meaning its knees face backwards. This rotation allows a bat to to hang by its feet and to navigate while flying).
But let me tell you: photographing these buggers in not an easy feat. Look at the way they swoop and skitter about (thanks, hubby, for setting up an infrared video camera).
My first solo photography attempt failed miserably — maybe because I had a flashlight, a camera, and a gun to juggle WHILE taking photos? The next time, hubby accompanied me. Again, no go. Zero shots.
But on the third try, we got lucky:
Ted Fleming, the researcher heading the study, successfully identified our visitors from this single photo! We’ve got the Mexican Long-Tongued nectar eaters. When I indicated I was a little disappointed we didn’t have the Lesser Long-nosed, he had this to say:
I think you should celebrate having Mexican long-tongues at your place. They’re much less common than lesser long-noses. Arizona houses tens of thousands of lesser long-noses seasonally but only a few thousand long-tongues (nobody really knows).
OMG … music to my ears (and I had already begun to celebrate, happy just to know “who” was hanging around). But, of course, one photo was no longer enough. I dragged hubby outside again. I needed more, more, more! And he got these … Please click to enlarge so you can see the ‘horn’ on the nose, the tongue length, and the incredible skeletal systems:
This experience has really been a metaphor for the writing life, I realize. When you photograph fast-moving bats, here’s what you’ll experience:
- A Need for Patience – Bat photography is an art. Like all art, it challenges you to resist the urge to get up and leave before something beautiful happens. Give up too soon and you might miss it.
- Lots of time in the dark – You will spend lots of time wondering if you really know what the hell you’re doing.
- Anticipation – You really do have to contemplate the bat’s next move if you want to be successful at capturing him in your lens at just the right time.
- Exhilaration – The small victories – a wing-beat near your head, soft as a lullaby, or a bat nearly brushing your cheek – can lead up to the big reward: completing a task you deemed nearly impossible (In this case, the “money” shot. In your case …?)
For Readers, For Everyone: Do you think things that you’ve waited for offer a sweeter reward? What are some examples in your life?
For Writers: Do you recognize the roller coaster of patience-darkness-anticipation-exhilaration in your own writing? In your life? In what ways?
Stay tuned for next week’s update about the ghostly apparition in the historical society window. Hint: my cousin went back and took her own photos … Yes, I guess I am getting in the spirit of Halloween.