October 25, 2021
Getting Ready to Refuel
- as seen by -Peter Hudson
The trick to this kind of bat photography is to find a permanent water source where these flying mammals come in for a drink on a fairly dependable flight route.
My friend Dano Grayson and I were working at the pond at Elephant Head south of Tucson in the Sonoran Desert. I photographed this pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) that was getting ready to refuel there. We got a few “backside shots” as the bats flew to the water from the opposite approach, but we were okay with that knowing the perfect shot would eventually come our way.
Since bats are only active after sunset, we set up an infrared trigger with three flashes. The bats fly fast. We had to ensure the point of focus was where the bat would be when the flash went off rather than where it would break the beam, so we set our cameras on “Bulb” with an eight second exposure.
I am a biologist working with an interdisciplinary research team that studies emerging infectious diseases such as SARS, Ebola, and Hendra. Each of these viruses are passed either directly from bats to humans or indirectly from domestic animals to humans. We believe we have evidence that shows bats only shed a virus when they are nutritionally stressed. The destruction of habitat containing critically important nectar-producing flowers means that bats shed viruses when these trees are absent. We are looking at ways to replant trees that bats feed on so they can continue to pollinate plants and reduce the risk of people becoming infected.
I like to think of this as planting trees for human health.
EDITOR’S NOTE: See another of Peter’s photos of a pallid bat drinking water from this same series. Celebrate the role of bats in nature. Bat Week 2021 is October 24-31, a time to raise awareness about the need for bat conservation.
Canon 1DX, 100-400mm lens infrared trigger, 3 flashes