To find Painted Bats, villagers took us to their rice paddies in small carts pulled by tiny “tractors” that looked like a tiller on two wheels.
We traveled narrow, dirt roads between flooded rice paddies. A cow blocked the road, but the always cheerful Thais got off and pushed backwards to take a different route.
The farmers and their sons looked for dried banana leaves around their rice paddies. Once we had to take an alternate route to avoid a seven-foot king cobra.
When a farmer got stung by a wasp, he took down the nest and ate the larvae, handing one to me. Before I had time to think, I popped it into my mouth and chewed. It actually wasn’t bad.
Lying on his back for hours in 100-degree heat, Merlin would wait for the opportunity to get a shot of bats roosting in a leaf. Nearly constant wind tossed the leaves around in a two-foot arc, leaving only an occasional second-long lull in which to shoot.
The painted bats were quite tolerant of us, but not so if the leaf was touched.
Two solitary males were taken back to Merlin’s studio for photos in flight, fed on mealworms which they ate ravenously, then taken back to their roosts. Merlin set up an infrared beam and got some very nice photos that I’ll post in the next blog.
I’ve included a very nice little video created by Daniel Hargreaves, from a previous trip to the Painted Bat Village of Thailand which captures our same experience.