On our first day in Hat Yai, after a 20-minute drive from our hotel, we arrived at the Prince of Songkla University (PSU) with Sara and Pushpa. We were given a large lab room in which to set up our photography studio while Pushpa, Pipat and others went mist netting for nectar bats for us to photograph. They returned with two Dawn Bats (Eonycteris spelaea) which were hand-fed by Pushpa and released into the studio for the night.
After midnight, finding a tuk tuk (auto taxi) on campus to get to our hotel was not possible. Pushpa found a motorbike taxi, and Merlin got on with the driver, while I got on Pushpa’s bike. At 2 o’clock in the morning, we had the roads to ourselves.
Logistically, it was difficult to work so far from the bats, so we were offered guest housing on the PSU campus for the rest of our stay. We are grateful to Tuenjit Sritongchuay (a.k.a. Fon), a Ph.D. student, for coming up with the suggestion and personally making all the arrangements. Except when we got locked into the building where we were working or got lost, wandering around the campus at 3 a.m., it worked out really well!
In the evenings, soon after sundown, we searched for flowers with limited success. We were most interested in photographing bats pollinating Parkia flowers to show the economic value of bats as essential pollinators of the petai or stink bean crop obtained from this plant. It was the end of their flowering season, so they were neither easy to find nor to reach. Pushpa climbed a tree and used a long-handled pruner and carefully lowered the light-bulb shaped flowers down to Merlin and Fon below.
One night, we went to the mangroves with Sara and two students from Bhutan to search for flowers from the tree Sonneratia ovata. Unfortunately, they weren’t flowering.
We needed to keep our bats working, coming to flowers, so Sara brought us flowering stalks of wild bananas. On a previous trip to Thailand, Merlin had taken an excellent photo of a bat pollinating wild banana all covered in pollen, but why not try to improve?
In total, we photographed 22 genera and 32 bat species, a wonderfully successful trip, thanks to many outstanding helpers.