Merlin went to Costa Rica last week, with hopes to photograph a Northern ghost bat (Diclidurus albus) roosting beneath a palm frond. Researchers rarely have been able to capture these bats, and almost nothing is known about them. More than 45 years ago, while leading a Smithsonian expedition on Venezuela’s Rio Mavaca, Merlin discovered that these bats are relatively abundant. He spotted them feeding high above ground where they were nearly impossible to capture, though he did get a portrait of one.
Recently, a few sharp-eyed observers have spotted individuals roosting beneath palm fronds where they are difficult to see. Their snow white bodies blend with the bright rays of sun shining through the fronds. Merlin’s friend, Carlos Roberto Chavarria, had spotted one, and helped photograph it. Merlin was also assisted by our Austin friend, Steve Swanson. He had hoped, later in the week, to show this spectacular bat. We kept our fingers crossed that it wouldn’t move before it could be photographed.
On the first evening (Jan. 27) they couldn’t find the bat where it had been most recently seen. The next morning was very discouraging. Carlos Chavarria, Steve Swanson and Merlin hiked several miles of forest trail without seeing a single bat. Then, at mid-day, they encountered a local nature guide friend of Carlos’ who had seen the Diclidurus earlier that morning. The one that Carlos had seen had returned to its former location, and his friend had seen it that morning.
He even knew where a second one was roosting just 20 feet away. They wouldn’t have noticed it without help from an experienced guide who knew the locations of these two bats’ alternate roosts. He explained that they frequently moved among several roosts. The afternoon of the 28th and from mid-morning till mid-afternoon on the 29th, Carlos, Steve and Merlin spent a total of about 8 hours photographing these bats. It was quite tricky getting flashes and ambient light to match, but as you can see, he ended up with great shots!