Since our return from Ecuador in June, Merlin has been adding titles and captions to the 7,000 images taken on that trip for National Geographic, the article we’ve been blogging about. The “BAT ECHO Team” traveled to three countries—Costa Rica, Cuba and Ecuador—and came away with about 20,000 photographs. The article is based on Ralph Simon’s thesis about the unique adaptations bat-dependent plants have evolved to help echolocating bats find their specialized flowers. I procrastinated on posting this blog in hope of having a publication date, but still no word. We did hear from our Ecuadorian farmer friend, Luis, who planted our castoff cuttings of the Old Man’s Cactus (Espostoa frutescens) on his property. At least one has already flowered.
So while Merlin worked hard on his metadata, I took a trip to visit my family on the East Coast with my son, Dallas Miller. Dallas is 19 years old and just completed his first year of college. Like his mother, he has a love of travel. Perhaps he’ll be able to join us on a future trip.
In July, Merlin gave a presentation on floral adaptations to bats for the Forest Service International Programs in Washington, D.C. Once home, he upgraded to a Canon 5D Mark III camera and has been testing it out in preparation of our August 21st trip to Thailand. I suggested he try it out on some bats in the care of Dianne Odegard, Outreach Associate for Bat Conservation International. When Merlin was at the helm of BCI, Dianne was his administrative assistant and is a dear friend. She and her husband, Lee, live with many rehabilitated bats in their home here in Austin, Texas. They often get calls from concerned people who have found an injured or orphaned bat. Dianne can take care of some of the injuries herself, even mending broken bones with Super Glue. Most of their backyard is consumed by a bat flight cage where the bats can practice flying, once they recover, hopefully, to be released.
Lee does much of the day-to-day care, and he and the bats have a special relationship. This came in very handy when we strangers put them on unfamiliar props at an unusual time of the day. Lee talked to them, calling each by name. The bats listened to him, cocking their heads like little dogs. But they were sleepy enough to stay where they were placed, only occasionally looking up inquisitively when bribed with mealworms. These photos were the quickest and easiest I have seen Merlin take, enabling him to experiment with a more artsy blurred background look. Merlin’s trademark is precision, tact-sharp images of bats in action, but I was hoping to see a new look. With these images, I think he delivered it. What do you think?