Friday, July 15, 2016

The Exodus of the Bats

I wrote a few times last fall about the bat cave near my village. Each evening at dusk, thousands of bats depart the cave for their nightly feeding forays. I find it fascinating to watch the long undulating string of bats stream out of the cave, and then divide up into different groupings. Most of the villagers are so accustomed to this nightly ritual that they barely pay attention to it.

Although I can see them from my porch, I often use the bats as an excuse to make my way down to the bay after eating my dinner. There is no exact time (I think it varies with the weather conditions and other factors), but lately it has been around 6:25 PM. I enjoy spending time just watching and listening to the surf, and feeling the cool sea breezes while I await their appearance. The pelicans (and on rare occasions, the bobbing head of a sea turtle coming up for a breath) provide some extra entertainment while awaiting the main show—the bat exodus. Frequently, a few of the children will see me walking down the main street and follow me to the bay, but the bats do not seem as special to them as they are to me.

Recently, another Peace Corps Volunteer was visiting my village, and she got to see the bats fly out. I was very pleased that she also found it just as fascinating as I did.

Last night, I decided to get a new angle to view the exodus. I climbed up the rock wall of L'islet and headed out to a small clearing, so that I could be further out in the bay as well as higher up than just sea level. I patiently awaited the appearance of the bats from this new vantage point atop this narrow peninsula jutting out into the ocean. The following pictures are presented in the order in which they were taken (hopefully you can see the miniscule black dots against the evening sky—clicking on the pictures to blow them up may be worthwhile for this story).

After a few early individual bats were spotted leaving the cave, the numbers gradually increase as they make their way out. Notice how the string moves as they change altitude and flutter about.

In this first wider shot I took, you can see the string reaching across the sky as the numbers of exiting bats increase.
The string begins to split up and go separate ways in the next few pictures. It makes me wonder if there is a meeting each afternoon of the “Bat Air Force” officers, as they study maps and decide the nightly “target area” for each “squadron.”
In the next three pictures, some of the squadrons began to allow the sea breeze to push them back over top of my position, as they continued to divide up into smaller groups. Look towards the top of these three pictures and you can see different groups of bats flying over my head.
In the last shot, you can see that the numbers leaving the cave have drastically dwindled, although there are always a few stragglers (who must have had a hard time waking up from their daily upside-down, hang-by-their-feet slumber). There are none flying over my head, but many are still headed down the coastline for their nightly foraging.
It is all over in less than five minutes, but I think it is amazing to watch. These still shots really do not adequately represent this natural phenomenon, but even if I posted a video, I don't believe it would do justice to this magical sight. Just like the Peace Corps Volunteer who recently visited me, you have to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it.

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