Portraits: Bats of Bulgaria

Merlin Tuttle and Antonia Hubancheva set the Tuttle trap in front of the cave
Setting the bat trap outside the entrance to the cave

Our first night in the field we set a bat trap in the entrance of Orlova Chuka Cave where we caught six species of bats, four of which we were able to photograph. The others were nursing mothers we had to release. We haven’t been able to capture more bats for the last three days due to unseasonably cold, rainy weather.

Myotis myotis (Greater mouse-eared bat)
Greater Mouse-eared Bat (Myotis myotis)
Myotis capaccinii (Long-fingered Bat)
Long-fingered Bat (Myotis capaccinii)
Mediterranean Horseshoe Bat (R. euryale)
Mediterranean Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus euryale)
Rhinolophus mehelyi (Mehely's Horseshoe Bat)
Mehelyis Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus mehelyi)

Several of these bats will now be kept in captivity for several days, during which time we hope to train them for photographs of catching insects.  Antonia Hubancheva is training the Myotis and Daniela Schmeider is training the Rhinolophus. The next post will probably be a video of training the bats.

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Bats Televised Nationally in Bulgaria

Merlin's talk in Sofia, Bulgaria on Bats of the World
Merlin’s talk about Bats of the World in Sofia


Merlin’s talk in Sofia, Bulgaria at the British Council, the educational arm of the British Embassy in Bulgaria, was broadcast on one of Bulgaria’s most popular news programs.  The talk was an introduction to bats worldwide. Afterwards, several interested attendees were invited to join us for lunch in a nearby cafe.

After the talk, we drove five hours to the Siemers Bat Research Field Station in the village of Tabachka where neighbors enthusiastically greeted us, having just seen Merlin on television.MDT_BU_C3_9286-Edit

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Rare Lesser woolly bat caught

Merlin and Koos taking a break from bat netting to eat a South African favorite dish--bobotie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobotie
Merlin and Koos taking a break from bat netting to eat South Africa’s favorite dish–bobotie–made by Koos’ wife Riekie

Merlin would like to photograph Long-eared bats (Laephotis) catching green stink bugs which are a pest of macademia nut orchards here in South Africa. Koos Steyn has been providing invaluable help in netting and trapping for Long-eared bats on a mountain where they’ve previously been found. But even though the rains have ceased and the temperatures are warming up a little, it’s still cool in the evenings, and we’re not catching very many bats.


IMG_1642Unfortunately, we didn’t catch any Long-eared bats, and on our way back to the Taylor’s home, we got a flat tire we had to change.

But the next morning, Koos checked the trap and found a rare Lesser woolly bat (Kerivoula lanosa) inside. Here are the photos Merlin got.

Lesser woolly bat (Kerivoula lanosa)
Lesser woolly bat (Kerivoula lanosa)
Lesser woolly bat (Kerivoula lanosa)
Lesser woolly bat      (Kerivoula lanosa)

We couldn’t have gotten the Lesser woolly bat without Koos Steyn who teaches agronomy at the University of Venda and has his own macademia orchard. Koos has been finishing up his PhD and working with his colleague Peter Taylor in documenting local bats and their feeding behavior for the past several years.


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ATBI Conference Keynote address



Friday March 21, 2014 – Merlin Tuttle Keynote Address

Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg 6-9 p.m.

The Amazing World of Bats

Bats comprise nearly a quarter of all mammals. They come in an amazing variety, as cute as any panda or as strange as any dinosaur, from tiny bamboo bats that live in beetle holes to giant flying foxes with six-foot wingspans. They’re found nearly everywhere, are primary seed dispersers in both deserts and rain forests, pollinate some of the world’s most valuable crops and save American farmers billions of dollars annually in avoided pesticide use.  They maintain long-term social relationships similar to those of humans, elephants and dolphins, share information and even adopt orphans.

If you’d like to learn more about these fascinating creatures, you won’t want to miss Dr. Merlin Tuttle’s talk, “The Amazing World of Bats.” His stunning photographs show bats courting mates, rearing young, emerging from beetle holes, pollinating crops and flowers, fishing, catching insects and much more.

Introduced to the study of bats in Knoxville while a student at the University of Tennessee, Tuttle has now traveled the world for more than 50 years studying and photographing hundreds of species of bats, from bizarre to beautiful. His extraordinary photographs have been published and exhibited worldwide, including in five National Geographic articles. His latest is scheduled to appear in the March 2014 issue. He founded Bat Conservation International and has been an invited speaker at America’s most prestigious institutions, from Harvard and Princeton Universities to the National Geographic Society and Smithsonian.

Keynote address includes reception, silent auction with food and drink.

For those not attending the conference there is a $10 fee.

Saturday March 22, 2014 – Merlin Tuttle Knoxville Reception at the East TN History Center – 5-7 p.m.

A National Geographic Preview—Flowers that guide bat echolocation, the story behind the story

Dr. Merlin Tuttle has lectured at most of America’s premier institutions and his fifth National Geographic article is scheduled to appear in the March 2014 issue. The article features recent discoveries of highly sophisticated floral adaptations that acoustically guide echolocating bats to specific sites in flowers, ensuring exclusive bat pollination. Tuttle worked in Costa Rica, Cuba and Ecuador, taking more than 20,000 images for this story. He will share his spectacular, high-speed action photos as well as highlights of the challenges and techniques involved in getting these images.

Reception includes food, drinks and a signed copy of National Geographic (the first 100 paying attendees).  Cost $25.

DLIA’s All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) Conference highlights the amazing biodiversity research happening in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For more information call 865-430-4757 or visit our web site at Discover Life in America www.dlia.org.

DLIA’s mission is to discover and understand America’s species through science and education for conservation. DLIA’s flagship project, the ATBI, is a joint effort with the National Park System to identify and record every single species within the park. To date DLIA has assisted in adding 7,636 new species to the park’s records and 926 new to science.

To download the announcement, click here MerlinTuttleprogramsinformation

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The Hala Bala Bat Hall of Fame

Just four nights of photography at Hala Bala yielded photos of 18 species of bats, including the rarely seen Naked Bat, the tiny, cute Tailless and Spotted-Winged Fruit Bats. Here are nine of the beauty queens and runners up:

The Naked Bat (Cheiromeles torquatus)
The Tailless Fruit Bat (Megaerops ecaudatus)
The Spotted-Winged Fruit Bat (Balionycteris maculata)
Trefoil Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus trifoliatus)
Lesser Hairy-winged Bat (Harpiocephalus harpia)
Malayan Free-tailed Bat (Mops mops)
The Malayan Slit-faced Bat (Nycteris tragata)
The Gilded Tube-nosed Bat (Murina rozendaali)
Least Woolly Bat (Kerivoula minuta)



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