Arriving in a country with 350 pounds of photographic and field gear is always stressful. The immigration folks at the airport carefully examined every piece of equipment, but enjoyed Merlin’s stories of how he photographs bats. An hour later, we were cleared.
The first order of business was to set up the studio in a building next to Fred and Paul’s casa. Everybody pitched in, including their son Darwin.
After dinner, we drove to the nearby desert to look for cardon flowers and bat roosts. The scenery was gorgeous with the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains and the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) as a backdrop.
At sunset the big white flowers of the cardon, the largest cactus in the world, opened up. We watched and waited for the bats, using a red light. Sphinx moths were the first to arrive for the nectar, but they were clearly not doing much by way of pollination. A while later, bats arrived, mostly Lesser long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae). We did see a couple of pallid bats (Antrozous pallidus) at the flowers, but not nearly the numbers Fred and Paul expected to see from past experience. Click to view a brief video clip I took: Baja-Bats visiting the flowers of the cardon cactus.
The roost in a woodpecker hole in a cardon had been abandoned. And soon after our arrival, a strong cold front arrived, dramatically reducing bat activity, due to high winds and low temperature. Capturing bats under such conditions seemed unlikely.
The next day we drove an hour and a half north to a beautiful remote area where pallid bats were known to night roost in a building. We set our nets and did our best for several hours, but were only able to capture a single pallid bat. We were hoping for at least a half a dozen. The good news was that the one bat seemed to be quite cooperative and began eating mealworms from Merlin’s hand, though it ignored our cactus flowers in the studio.
Finally, at 3:30 a.m., we’ve done all that was possible for the first night and went to bed, hoping the bat would visit some of our flowers, in our absence. The next morning, Merlin was pleased to find evidence that the bat had indeed visited our flowers. But with just one bat we were deeply concerned about our ability to get pictures on the coming evening.