Bat Photography Workshop!

Bat Drinking During Workshop

In early October I went down to Amado, AZ to spend some time with Bill Forbes – I purchased one of his Phototrap camera triggers and wanted to learn to use it. Bill has a regular outdoor studio set up around his house along with a guest cabin! I spent the evening listening to Bill and asking questions about this new piece of equipment. At dusk I set my camera up on one of his ponds where, he assured me, bats would come to drink. The weather was just starting to cool down and bat activity was on the decline. We needed to make several adjustments to the equipment and the picture above is the only one that I got which I like very well. It would be better if the bat were over to the right a little bit, giving it room to “fly” into the picture, but I will take what I can get!

Once the bats slowed way down at the pool, Bill got out an agave flower that he had managed to find which was still in the fairly early stages of opening. Once again, the lateness of the season was a hindrance. Fortunately, Bill has several hummingbird feeders that he fills every evening. Nectar-eating bats come and drain 3 quart feeders every night in season. Bill said they were still coming…

We set up the flower close to the¬†hummingbird feeders¬†and Bill doused it liberally with sugar-water from a squirt bottle. We got the flashes and the camera trigger adjusted and prefocused on the flower. Now to wait. It wasn’t too long before the flashes went off! Did I get the shot? We waited a little more before approaching and checking the pictures on the back of the camera. Sure enough, there were bats in the frame, but they were out of focus. Adjustments were made, and we waited a while longer. More flashes! Check the camera… good focus. Now, off the bed and let the camera work until the batteries run out (several hours).

In the morning, I found hundreds of pictures of nectar bats feeding on the flowers/sugar-water! Here is one of my favorites:

Nectar Bat Feeding

We spent some time in the morning working on flying insect photography but the bugs were uncooperative. I will have to keep trying on my own. Next summer, I hope to get some fantastic shots like the ones Bill has been able to take with this equipment!

We set up the system to see what kinds of animals are coming to the water features in our yard just once since then. The system didn’t fire at all, so we guess nothing came while the batteries lasted. The nighttime temperatures have been such that I don’t want to leave my camera out all night, so we haven’t tried since. Next summer should offer a lot of interesting possibilities!