Many summer evenings, I can sit on my front porch and watch the bats begin to fly. I love it. They must be scarfing down mosquitoes by the skillions. There are more than half a dozen barns within a long block of where I live, so that's where they're likely coming from.
Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is looking for people who know about bat roosts in the state -- places like barns, church belfries, attics, garages. Or, yes, bat houses made to attract the creatures.
If that's you, the foundation is hoping to enlist your participation in the 2010 Summer Bat Count. It's a volunteer research project to obtain information about the distribution of summer bat roosting colonies in New Jersey.
Once a roost has been identified, volunteers can get in touch with the foundation to get a data sheet. Then, they're asked to visit the roost four times between May and early August. Get there a half hour before sunset, count the bats as they fly from the roost, and that's it. No handling required, or even encouraged. You don't even have to identify the bat species.
The data will help biologists create distribution maps for the state's bats, determine roosting and feeding areas, and monitor population trends over a period of time. To participate in the count, contact Maria Grace at email@example.com or call 609-984-0621.
Bats have been in big trouble of late. Traditionally, it's been loss of habitat, direct killing, disease and disturbance of hibernating and maternity colonies. But lately, a mysterious fungus known as White Nose Syndrome has been affecting bats, with as many as 90 percent in a single wintering cave dying as a result. The race is on to find specific causes and a cure.
In case you need a reason to love bats, the Foundation says that a single little brown bat can eat 3,000 mosquito-sized insects a night, and a colony of 150 big brown bats can eat enough cucumber beetles to save farmers almost a billion dollars annually in crop damages and pesticide costs.