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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Silly superstitions about bats should have faded long ago



They’re cute, innocent mammals that weigh about half-an-ounce, but eat lots and lots of mosquitoes – they don’t get in your hair, suck your blood and they have less chance of having rabies than your pet dog. Superstitions like that are just plain silly and outdated. Most were created by Hollywood!

Bats are about to return from wintering in Central America. The bats in north Texas, mostly Mexican free-tail Bats, cleanse the nights of tons of pesky flying bugs, while avoiding humans as much as possible. A colony of bats is an environmentally-safe replacement for a lot of malathion and a lot of chemical spraying! 

An average bat will eat up to 5000 flying pests each and every night. In terms we can all understand, that’s like a 60 lb. child eating 126 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches every day. Sadly, bat populations have fallen for several reasons. It’s a shame since nothing gets rid of flying insects as efficiently, cheaply, quietly and safely as bats.

A silly myth concerns rabies: actually, less than one-half of one percent of bats have rabies, admittedly a serious disease. They are not carriers without becoming sick themselves!  If bitten, they’ll come down with rabies; just like any other mammal. If a bat gets rabies it’ll probably die in a few hours.

If you find a bat during the day (un-bat-like), pick it up only with heavy gloves, and bring it to a wildlife rehabilitator.  He’ll be scared and may bite in self-defense.  He may not be sick, however. He could have been attacked by a predator, blown down in a storm, or orphaned by chemical fogging. Or it could be a young bat learning to fly.

Bats don’t try to get in your hair. That’s silly! They avoid humans by every means possible. Getting tangled in anything could probably mean death.

Bats aren’t blind. They “see” far better than humans do, using a system similar to radar, but much, much better – to get around fine even in total darkness.

Providing housing for a bat colony is environmentally-smart. In fact, it’s the responsible thing to do. Now, while they’re returning to the north Texas area looking for a home, is the ideal time to put up a bat house. If you have any fear of putting up a bat house because you might attract vampire bats, fear not. No vampire bats exist (or have ever existed) on this continent (except Hollywood seems to have put them in several movies).

 

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Robins' winter diet in Texas




 
 



American Robin
During the winter months, Robins who happen to live up north migrate to the southern states (including Texas!) to find food. But the ones that are already here, stay here. So the local population swells. All these Robins don’t eat earthworms in winter of course, but modify their palates to consume large amounts of wild berries (like from hollies) and mealworms (which are actually beetle larvae).

 


     Birds’ flights for the Gulf crossing are affected by the strength and direction of winds in the upper atmosphere not by what’s in your feeder or anything else. These winds may be stronger than surface winds, and often are not from the same direction. They usually try to fly with the upper-air winds so they can cover greater distances and not use up all their stored energy. Birds will be moving much faster than observed wind speeds so flocks are easily distinguishable on NexRad.

      For the record, a really strong-flying bird, with really good winds and perfect weather, can make the non-stop Gulf crossing in just over 8 hours. It takes an average of 19 straight hours of flying, however, for an average bird, and more for a small bird.


 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.