Hike to the Continental Divide and back!

MTBC’s Bat Adventures in Panama Week 1 group started out from our base camp for an energetic hike to the top of the mountain ridge. Some did it in 3.5 hours, some 6.5 hours, and everything in between. My GPS said I hiked 19,190 steps (about 10 miles!) and burned 2,701 calories. Some will go back at night to net for bats in this cloud forest where they hope to find different species than the ones found at the Cocobolo Nature Reserve banana plants, and along the lower river forest.

Merlin in the lead for our hike from camp straight up the vertical climb to the ridge top of the Continental Divide, about halfway between the Pacific and Caribbean.
Vista at the top!
We did it! 2,000 feet (600 meters)
Paula and Merlin Tuttle with Teresa Nichta at Cocobolo Nature Reserve, Panama.

It’s the dry season, but there have been just enough showers to keep things cool!

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Off to a great start!

34 species, over a third of Panama’s 100+ bat species have been captured by our intrepid bat enthusiasts in just three nights!

Rebecca Edwards and Melissa Donnelly are raising the triple-high, while Fiona Parker looks on. This is a special rig to catch the freetail bats (high flyers) coming in to drink.


Fieldwork is teamwork! Melissa Donnelly and Daniel Hargreaves upright the triple-high net pole, while Fiona Parker and Baptiste Chadeyron open a mist net.




Processing team trio: Mary Smith weighs the bats, Karen Slote measures the bats’ forearm, and Mindy Vescovo enters all the data.




Melissa Donnelly has lots of experience catching bats and processing them. Here she trains Gretchen VanCleave, Maria Serrano, and Mindy Vescovo how to process the bats caught.
Merlin is set up for bat portraits, after bats are processed. Maria Seranno, Daniel Hargreaves, and Baptiste Chadeyron are checking out the setup.






Maria Serrano, a teacher and photographer, practices taking bat portraits.
Merlin assists Gretchen VanCleave in hand-feeding a fruit bat a sweet drink before release.

The bat list as of Day 3:

1 Artibeus intermedius

2 Artibeus jamaicensis

3 Artibeus lituratus

4 Artibeus phaeotis

5 Artibeus toltecus

6 Artibeus watsoni

7 Carollia brevicauda

8 Carollia castanea

9 Carollia perspicillata

10 Chiroderma salvini

11 Chiroderma villosum

12 Cynomops greenhalli

13 Desmodus rotundus

14 Eptesicus brasiliensis

15 Eumops auripendulus

16 Glossophaga commissarisi

17 Glossophaga soricina

18 Lichonycteris obscura

19 Lonchophylla robusta

20 Micronycteris microtis

21 Molossus molossus

22 Myotis albescens

23 Myotis riparius

24 Noctilio albiventris

25 Noctilio leporinus

26 Phyllostomus hastatus

27 Platyrrhinus helleri

28 Pteronutus parnellii

29 Pteropteryx macrotis

30 Rhogeessa tumida

31 Rhynchonycteris naso

32 Saccopteryx bilineata

33 Uroderma bilobatum

34 Vampyrodes caraccioli

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MTBC’s Bat Adventures: Panama-Week 1

MTBC’s Panama Bat Workshop Week 1

Merlin and Daniel Hargreaves, co-founder of Trinibats, have teamed up to co-lead two weeks of bat workshops at the Cocobolo Nature Reserve in Panama. The reserve is over 1,000 acres located about halfway between the Pacific and the Caribbean on the narrow Isthmus of Panama, about 35 miles wide.

Cocobolo Nature Reserve

Our days have basically gone according to the itinerary:

Day 1. Our group had a rendezvous at our hotel Riande Aeropuerto in Panama City the first night. Some of us purchased rubber boots at Novey or the Discovery Center, then we met at the poolside bar for drinks and dinner.

Day 2. The next morning we departed by minibus to Las Margaritas where we transferred to a few 4WD vehicles via primitive roads, fording several rivers to our destination in the heart of the tropical rainforest. Cocobolo Nature Reserve is located near Las Zahinas village in Chepo District, Panama, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Panama City.

Upon arrival at Cocobolo, we found our individual tents, with air mattresses, underneath thatched cottages raised from the ground called “ranchitos”. The field station has two bathrooms with composting toilets (home to resident bats!), and cold showers. The onsite kitchen provides our meals and the main hall is our regular meeting and eating place. We have access to onsite wifi and solar panels enabling us to keep our equipment charged.

First order of business, Merlin set up his traveling photo studio…
…while Daniel Hargreaves gave the group a safety briefing.

In the afternoon we prepared for the bat survey work, organized teams, equipment, and netting sites.

Day 3. After a short presentation by Michael Roy, the Founder of Cocobola, we all went on a two-hour hike, searching for new netting sites. In the evening we split into teams so that everybody has the opportunity to do netting, radio tracking, photography and processing.

Wifi is slow, so many more pics to come of all the fun we’re having!



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The Power of Bat Photos


Stellaluna was brilliantly written and beautifully illustrated by one of our first Bat Fans, Janell Cannon. It’s the story of a baby fruit bat who gets separated from its mother. Since publication in 1993 this book has been translated into 30 languages. Stellaluna is a classic that significantly helped to endear kids, big and small, to if not love bats, at least appreciate them better, much the same as Merlin’s photographs.


In fact, Janell credits Merlin’s 1986 National Geographic article “Gentle Flyers of the African Night,” about epauletted fruit bats, for inspiring Stellaluna.

Janell recently emailed Merlin to share one of her community presentations, explaining how much she appreciated free use of his website photos. We love, love, love this kind of feedback! It Illustrates one of the many ways our website photos are making a difference for bats. As Bat Fan numbers grow, we’re happy to see the wide variety of creative uses individuals and institutions are making of our website gallery. Please share with us how you’re using our photos in your corner of the world to make it better for bats and people. (more…)

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Mission Accomplished in Taiwan


Setting up our bat photo studio at the Endemic Species Research Institute in Taiwan
Setting up our bat photo studio at the Endemic Species Research Institute in Taiwan

Taiwan’s Endemic Species Research Institute provided ideal facilities and hospitality thanks to Director, Kuo-Yun Fang’s and Research Fellow, Hsi-Chi Cheng’s enthusiastic support and the outstanding collaboration of their staff, especially Cheng-Han Chou (Shock) and Yu-chun Tan (Tammy).

Teresa Tang helping Merlin frame and focus on a tame Formosan golden bat in a studio set.


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Formosan Golden Bats’ Home to Taiwan’s National Museum of Natural Science

After taking over 1,500 photographs, here are some shots from the Formosan Golden Bats’ Home.

After completing work at the Formosan Golden Bats’ Home, Merlin traveled to Taichung, the second largest city in Taiwan, to speak at the National Museum of Natural Science. (more…)

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Formosan golden bats of Taiwan

Mr. Chang and mascot of the Formosan Golden Bat's Home

Mr. Chang and mascot of the Formosan Golden Bats’ Home

Following 30 hours of travel, we spent our first day recuperating in Taipei, got up early the next morning for a 2.5-hour drive to the Formosan Golden Bats’ Home on the campus of the Sheng-Zheng Elementary School, where we met our host, 43-year-old Heng-Chia Chang. As a teacher, he had noticed beautiful little golden bats (Myotis formosus flavus) roosting in school yard tree foliage. (more…)

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Finding bat roosts in Trinidad

Our digital and social media coordinator, Teresa Nichta, is learning firsthand the challenges of bat photography, whether in the studio or in the wild. This is her experience in her words.

I already knew I would love the rain forest; it was so massive yet I felt right at home.

Documenting where bats live was a major objective of this trip, and that was just what we did!  Of course, I’d seen Merlin’s photos and learned about what we were looking for but seeing bats at home in the forest in person was even more enthralling than I had imagined. Bats are nearly everywhere but they’re seldom seen because they hide so well. (more…)

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Teresa’s continued adventures with Merlin

In our previous blog, Teresa told us what it was like to follow Merlin into a hollow tree in the rain forest. Now she tells us what it was like netting and radio-tracking bats, and what happened to the bats once we caught them.


My next adventure with bats began when I accompanied Merlin and the Trinibats teams netting and radio-tracking rare bats to see where they lived. It was a lot of work packing and carrying all the necessary equipment to the middle of the rain forest, then keeping vigilant watch over the virtually transparent nets for hours on end. This was my first experience with bat netting and I kept thinking to myself, “These bat people are hardcore!” It’s tough work!


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