Bat In Flight - Brazilian Free-Tail

10.31.2004 - WooOOOoooOOO!! Happy Halloween! I've come to suck your blood! I mean, I've come to professionally remove the colony of bats from your attic while everyone else has fun partying and trick-or-treating.

This is my best photo of a bat in flight thus far. I took it on a normal bat exclusion job. When I block bats out of their home - and remember, I don't trap or kill them - they swirl around, trying to get back in. They eventually give up and go elsewhere, but not before I have a chance to get a snapshot of them flying about. Timing and focus are difficult for me when taking pictures of bats, because I never know just where and when a bat will fly near my lense. Plus, my crappy camera has autofocus and an annoying delay. So it's basically hit or miss for me, with a whole lot more of the latter than the former. However, I got lucky in this particular case, and got a decent shot of a Brazilian Free-Tail on the wing.

I've noticed that the tail seems to shrink when flying as opposed to crawling around. I guess that hind membrane just kind of folds up around the tail, and the tail looks about a half-inch long or more. However, when flying, one can barely see the protruding tail. Those membranes by the way, are astoundingly thin. When a bat folds up its wings, they just disappear. Check out some other photos of mine, and you'll see that the wings turn into thin little sticks. That giant bat flying around terrorizing women and children, ready to eat your pets in a single gulp, turns into a tiny mouse-sized thing when it lands and roosts.

If you look at this photo, you'll notice how velvety the wings appear - not at all leathery, as I've heard bat wings described before. Leather is thick and tough. Velvet is thin and ...velvety. These wings are so thin, in fact, that I've taken photos in which I can see the objects on the other side of the wing. That's right, they're transparent. No... translucent. No... more like diaphanous. Yes, bat wings are diaphanous. They're also hand. Bat wings are hand. Bats are of the order Chiroptera, meaning "hand-wing. So if you look at the above photo, you see an arm with an elbow, and then a hand with very thin fingers protruding out, with the membrane stretched across to make the wing.

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If you want to capture the much sought after achievement of taking a picture of a bat mid-flight, there are quite a few vital tips that you’ll need to follow. First, you’ll have to understand a bat’s routine so you can track it down. Then you’ll have to purchase the hardware your camera requires to get these shots. Finally, you’ll have to be ready to be patient; it may take more than one night to get a photo of a bat in flight. Once you understand all these things and figure out where local bats nest and what type of bats they are, you can begin trying to get the photo.

Bats & Tips for Tracking Them in the U.S.
Bats come in five varieties: insectivorous, nectarivorous, carnivorous, frugivorous, and sanguivorous. In the greater U.S., you’re likely to come across insectivorous bats which tend to be very fast and relatively small. The most common of which is the little brown bat. Although harder to photograph and track due to their size and inconsistent diet, you should expect to come across these bats and prepare to do so. Although carnivorous and frugivorous bats are generally larger and slower, it’s extremely rare to find these bats in the United States. Nectarivorous bats are uncommon in the United States but they’re easy to catch. Bats are nocturnal so they’ll be sleeping in caves during the day but once the sun goes down they’ll be flying around looking for food. The best time to find bats is during dawn or dusk because, generally, they’ll fly out of their caves in groups and be fairly easy to spot. If you believe you stumbled across a bat habitat, look out for their excrement or guano to confirm, it’s white-colored.

Required Camera Hardware
To take a photo of a bat there are a few things your camera will need to take a quality photo of a small figure in the dark. You’ll need a mid to long-range zoom lens (100-400mm), an attachable flash, a flash extender, and both a tripod and remote release will be extremely useful. The lens, attachable flash, and flash extender are absolutely essential. The zoom lens will enable you to retain quality as you zoom in or crop the photo as you edit it later. The external flash is important to ensure that your camera will have a light that’s bright enough and the flash extender will enhance the flash effect, making the photo look considerably more in focus. The tripod and remote release aren’t essential but without them, it will certainly be a lot harder to sit in one place and not ruin your camera’s angle or focus.

Time to Get a Photo!
Set up a feeder near a bat cave or an area where bats frequently visit, set up your camera, and get ready to wait! The bait will depend upon what kind of bat you’re trying to take a photo of. For nectarivorous nectar, for insectivorous insects or bat houses, for carnivorous meat, and frugivorous fruit. Once your feeder is set up, turn on the autofocus mode, set up your tripod and remote release, and get ready to take a picture of a bat!

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