Anglers Aren't the Only Ones Trawling Lake in the Evening

By Jane Harrison, Lakeside News published January 29, 2016

They gently trawl the water, dipping in their tiny feet to gaff their prey. The nighttime foragers on Lake Lanier aren’t after the same catch as striper anglers. Lanier’s masters of the night swoop in to get their fill of insects in stretches of calm water.

Seven species of bats dwell around Lanier, which dishes up swarms of aquatic bugs for them to eat, especially in warm months. “They spend time flying and feeding on insects that hatch above lakes,” said Katrina Morris, non-game wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The rarely-seen predators are important dark-side characters in Lanier’s ecology as each can consume nearly its entire body weight – thousands of insects – in a summer night’s hunt.

A traveling exhibit at Gainesville’s Elachee Nature Science Center pays tribute to the bat world in an exhibit that runs through May 8, 2016. Grand Opening festivities are planned Feb. 6.

Morris, one of few “bat people” studying the flying mammals in Georgia, said DNR biologists find more Eastern red bats than other species around Lanier. They hide under leaf litter and pine needles during the day and devour a variety of insects nightly. Lake-goers around dark-thirty might get spooked by a flash of orangey-red when the hungry big-eared critter swoops in to feed. “They fly over large waters, streams, rivers and trails,” Morris said, and especially favor large expanses of still water. Researchers believe they detect prey through echoes reverberating from smooth aquatic surfaces.

Anglers lighting up surface water to attract insects, and therefore fish, might occasionally lure a big one: a hoary bat with a 16-inch wing span. The biggest bat in Georgia “loves foraging above lakes,” Morris said. It especially craves large insects and will venture out for a cold night meal above the lake.

“Anything above the waters that attracts insects might also attract bats that want to eat the insects,” Morris said. “You will often see bats foraging around lights on warm, buggy nights.”
Other bat species around Lanier include: big brown (commonly seen hanging on attic eaves and shutters), silver-haired, evening, tri-colored, and Brazilian free-tailed.

Bat Exhibit Turns Myths Upside-Down

Elachee Nature Science Center invites the public to the family-friendly grand opening celebration of “Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats,” a traveling museum exhibition produced by Evergreen Exhibitions. The festivities are planned for Saturday, Feb.6, 1-4 p.m. and will include special presentations by a local bat expert, live bat and other live animal demonstrations, batty children’s activities and a tour of the exhibit. Other First Saturday special events related to the bat exhibit will take place March 5, April 2 and May 7.

Elachee welcomes this bat extravaganza, its first traveling exhibition in more than a decade. The exhibit opened Jan. 16 and runs through May 8. Other First Saturday special events related to the bat exhibit will take place March 5, April 2 and May 7.

Based on the larger scale exhibition delighting audiences throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Europe, Elachee and annual corporate sponsor Murrayville Veterinary Clinic are excited to share this 2,500 square foot version of the exhibition with the north Georgia community. “I toured this exhibit while on vacation out of state and loved it, acting like a kid with the hands-on elements,” says Dianna Fuller, Murrayville Veterinary Clinic office manager. “I learned a lot about bats that I didn’t know.”

From the special effects and multi-sensory interactive displays to environmentally life-like settings – including a Gothic castle – this exhibit walks visitors through centuries of mythic representations of bats by different cultures. As well, photographic displays and video portray bats as diverse, beneficial mammals with fascinating skills and extraordinary abilities.

Dr. Merlin Tuttle, founder of Bat Conservation International (BCI), the recognized international leader in conservation and education initiatives protecting bats and their habitats, serves as scientific consultant. Evergreen Exhibitions has created this smaller exhibit in response to overwhelming demand from smaller markets wishing to bring this popular exhibit to their communities.

Masters of the Night Exhibit

When: 1-5 p.m. Sunday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays through May 8. (Exhibit closed March 27)
Where: Elachee Nature Science Center, 2125 Elachee Dr., Gainesville, GA 30504
Admission: $8, $4 Elachee Members. Special rates available for school field trips.
Grand Opening: Special festivities 1-4 p.m. Feb. 6
Information: 770-535-1976, www.elachee.org