Organizers of a bat-monitoring project beginning next month are looking for citizen-scientist volunteers to help observe the behavior of nectar-feeding bats in the Tucson area.
“Citizen scientists are crucially important because there just aren’t enough scientists to do all the monitoring,” said Ted Fleming, a bat biologist who is the volunteer coordinator for the project. “Tucson has a lot of people interested in nature, and many are really happy to participate in projects like this.”
FOCUS ON NECTAR FEEDERS
Most of Arizona’s 28 species of bats eat insects, but two species feed on nectar and they are the focus of the monitoring project by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, town of Marana and University of Arizona adjunct faculty.
The two nectar-feeding species — the endangered lesser long-nosed bat and the Mexican long-tongued bat — migrate to Southern Arizona from Mexico and often visit backyard hummingbird feeders to chow down on nectar.
Volunteers, Fleming said, will be asked to make observations and take digital photos of bats that visit their hummingbird feeders at night. They will send information to a website sponsored by Marana — marana.com/bats — where biologists will collect the data. The website is also the place to learn about signing up as a project volunteer.
“Data we’re really interested in is: When do the bats show up at the beginning of the season, when are they present in the highest numbers, and when is the last date they are seen,” Fleming said.
The bats usually begin visiting feeders in mid-August and remain in Southern Arizona until about the end of October before returning to Mexico, he said.
A FASCINATING FINDING
Monitoring efforts in recent years have turned up a remarkable finding: Even though lesser long-nosed bats are listed by the federal government as an endangered species, they have shown up in Tucson in relative droves.
“There are a lot of lesser long-nosed bats feeding in Tucson during the season,” Fleming said. “Hundreds and hundreds of them. This year, we’d like to get data on which sites get a handful of bats and which get a lot of bats.”
The study area takes in Tucson Basin sites including all of Marana as well as Oracle, Casa Grande, Safford, Globe and Picacho Peak.