Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
- Bold - are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
- Italics - are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
- Regular - are my own words.
1. Read pages 241-245 in the Handbook of Nature Study. Although the lesson for bats states that it should not be given unless you can directly observe bats in person, I think this interesting creature deserves his own Outdoor Hour Challenge.
These are some points that were made in the book that I shared with the girls:
[The] wing [is a] thin membrane...equipped with sensitive nerves which inform the flier of the objects in his path, so that he darts among the branches of trees at terrific speed and never touches a twig.
Bat wings have raised domes which act as touch receptors.
The flight of the bat consists of darting hither and thither with incredible swiftness, and making sharp turns with no apparent effort.
[Bats]...catch insects on the wing for food. He makes a collecting net of the wing membrane stretched between the hind legs and tail, doubling it up like an apron on the unfortunate insects, and then reaching down and gobbling them up; and thus he is always doing good service to us on summer evenings by swallowing a multitude of insects.
The short fur of the bat is as soft as silk, and covers the body but not the wings.
The plan of the wing is something like that of the duck's foot; it consists of a web stretched between very much elongated fingers.
If a boy's fingers were as long in proportion as a bat's, they would measure four feet.
Since fingers make the framework, it is the thumb that projects from the front angle of the wing, in the form of a very serviceable hook.
Bat wing bone structure.
These hooks the bat uses in many ways. He drags himself along the floor...or he scratches the back of his head with them.
He is essentially a creature of the air and is not at all fitted for walking; his knees bend backward in an opposite direction from ours. This renders him unable to walk, and when attempting to do so, he has the appearance of "scrabbling" along on his feet and elbows
Bat walking using its wings/elbows to help move it along.
He uses his teeth to aid in climbing.
The little brown bat's wings often meausre nine inches from tip to tip.
Brown bat flying with wings outstretched.
He does not fold [his wings] like a fan, but rather, like a pocket knife.
The tiny foot...is armed with five wirelike toes, tipped with sharp hooked claws. It is by these claws that he hangs when resting during the day, for he is upside-down in his sleeping habits, slumbering during the daytime.
The bat is very particualr about his personal cleanliness.
He washes his face with the front part of his wing, and then licks his washcloth clean; he scratches the back of his head with his hind food and then licks the foot. [To] clean his wings, he seizes the edges in his mouth and stretches and licks the membrane.
The bat has a voice which sounds like squeak of a toy wheelbarrow, and yet it is expressive of emotions.
He squeaks in one tone when holding conversation with other bats, and squeaks quite differently when seized by the enemy.
Little brown bat.
The mother bat...takes [her babies] with her when she goes out for insects in the evenings; they cling to her neck during these exciting rides; but when she wishes to work unencumbered, she hangs her tiny youngsters on some twig and goes back for them later.
The little ones are born in July and usually occur as twins.
During the winter, some bats hibernate like woodchucks or chipmunks. They select for winter quarters some hollow tree or cave. They do not awake until the insects are flying. Others migrate to the south with the advent of cold weather.
2. Supplemental reading in The Burgess Animal Book for Children: Read Story 21. Use the illustration on page 128 to prompt a narration after reading the story about the Little Brown Bat.
The girls both enjoyed the story. There was one section about where bats will rest, and barns were mentioned. This, of course, made them think about how fun it would be to take flashlights and go the hayloft in the barn and see if they could spot any bats.
"Should we go at night? Like around 10 p.m.?" Olivia asked.
"No, they'd be outside eating bugs," said Sophia. "Let's go up during the day when they'd be hanging there."
We went to the barn loft and I gave each of the girls a flashlight. They were so eager to shine their flashlights on the inside of the barn roof and find bats.
Climbing on top of some old hay bales to find bats.
They walked the entire loft and then Olivia suggested they climb on top of some hay bales. Although they wanted to see bats, I couldn't even begin to imagine what would happen if bats flew out from behind the wood pieces in front of them.
Looking for bats in the barn loft.
Since we didn't see any bats in the barn, we headed to the pine trees in the front yard since I've seen bats flying around the trees at night. Again, we didn't see any bats from the ground.
The girls even climbed one of the tallest pine trees to see if they could spot any bats.
Sophia enjoys climbing trees.
She said the pine tree had a lot of sap where she was standing.
She even spotted raccoon scat on one of the limbs.
If there are any bats in the front yard pine trees, they must be up near the top of them.
Olivia was determined to find at least one bat.
3. This week during your 10-15 minutes of outdoor time, look for any mammals in your neighborhood or in a near-by park. Many of us will not find any mammals to observe or signs of mammals like scat or tracks. This should not discourage us from taking the time to be outdoors with our children.
When the girls were climbing the front pine tree, Sophia spotted some raccoon scat. Near the base of the tree, there were parts of pine cones that the raccoon (s) didn't want to eat.
Parts of pinecones that the raccoon didn't want to eat.
Both of the girls were excited to have spotted evidence that there are other wild animals here that we don't see during the day.
4. After your walk, discuss any interesting things that you observed. Help your child to find words for their experience. Record their words on paper and have them sketch a simple drawing for their nature journal.
Use some of the ideas that worked in the past like a rubbing of a leaf or feather. Take photos for your nature journals. Research and record what you learned about the bat this week from reading in the Handbook of Nature Study. One idea would be to sketch and record how a bat’s wings are different from a bird’s wings.
You could discuss why a bat is considered a mammal and how it differs from other mammals that we have studied. Keep it simple but make some connections this week.
The girls will be working on their nature journals and doing an entry about bats now that they saw the bats flying at night (see more information below).
Summer Series #4
Bats and Sense of Hearing - Train Your Senses
Sight: Observe the sky at sundown, look for the silhouettes of birds, bats, or insects in the air.
Hearing: Observe the sounds of the night starting at sundown: bats, crickets, frogs, bark of a dog, hoot of an owl, birds, rustling in the leaves, wind, etc. Can you hear more sounds on a damp night? Can you hear more sounds at night when your sense of sight is not as keen?
Inside Preparation Work - The reading from the Handbook of Nature Study is the same as above. There was another book reference "Discover Nature at Sundown," but I didn't have this book.
Outdoor Hour Time:
1. Things That Go Bump in the Night: Spend 15 minutes outdoors at sundown, observing some of the sounds suggested in the book. The book suggests observing sounds on a damp night and a dry night and comparing your results. Something else to listen for is “sudden silence” where the night noises completely stop and then start up again after a period of time.
Since we didn't spot any bats during the day, we agreed that we would go out again when it was starting to get dark. So, around 8:45 p.m., we walked to the front yard.
The girls both heard frogs in the pond and pasture and birds in the trees. They said they felt a few rain drops and the wind.
We looked at the pine trees and walked up and down the driveway where the bats are often seen, but there wasn't a single bat out at that time. I suggested that we come out again when it's a bit darker...in about 15 minutes.
So, around 9:00 p.m. we went out again when it was much darker. It took a moment for our eyes to adjust from being in the light indoors to the dark outdoors. Yet, we could easily see everything outside after a few minutes.
Again, Sophia and Olivia heard frogs calling to one another, but the birds had now quieted down. A new sound was apparent: mosquitos buzzing around our ears.
Then...the first sighting! "Bats!" the yelled enthusiastically and pointed up.
Sure enough, the bats were flying within 3-4 feet of our heads. It was a great opportunity to see the bats up close and in flight.
Olivia and Sophia looking at the pine trees
where the bats were flying to and from around 9:00 p.m.
We walked to the pine trees again and saw that they were heading in and out of one of the trees more so than the others. Olivia began counting the number of bats she saw and got to 14.
As we walked back to the house, I saw a firefly near the pasture gate. We walked over to where I saw it, and then the golden glow happened again, but closer to the girls this time. Needless to say, they were thrilled! They had never seen a firefly up close.
The more we looked, the more fireflies we saw around us. It was a wonderful time outside - seeing both bats and fireflies!
2. World of Bats:
“Although an occasional bat can be found flying about during the day, most bats take to the sky during the twilight hours. On a summer evening you can observe them in a dance of twists, spirals, and loops that is choreographed by the insects they pursue.” Discover Nature at Sundown, page 148
If you have the opportunity to observe some bats up close, make sure to use some of the suggestions from the Handbook of Nature Study and/or the Discover Nature at Sundown.
The girls were able to see quite a few bats fly and the variety within the flight pattern. Both were amazed at how quickly they flew.
Although some bats did fly relatively low (about 8-9 feet from the ground), the majority flew much higher (about 20-40 feet high).
Make sure to give time and the opportunity for a nature journal entry.
Sophia and Olivia will work on their nature journal entry in the morning and recall their experience of seeing the bats flying around them.