Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet," "Endangered Edens," and the "Time Is Irreverent" series.

Bats in the farmhouse

Marty’s photo of the day #2922: I took this photo in an abandoned farmhouse in the Costa Rican rainforest. This brief excerpt from my second book, Endangered Edens: Exploring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica, the Everglades, and Puerto Rico, details the shot:

Entering the large, dark back room was intense. When I shined my flashlight on the rough sawn support beam, three rows of shoulder-to-shoulder bats glared back at me. Several bared their fangs and some took flight. I could feel the wind from their wings! The only time I had experienced bats like this was at Culebrones Cave in Puerto Rico, but here they had less flying room. Even though catching rabies from bats in Costa Rica is extremely rare, the disease is usually fatal for humans. Should a bat miscalculate its flight and end up scratching or biting me in a panic, rabies shots would be necessary.

On the other hand, this was a great opportunity to get some spectacular photos. Aside from having to steel my nerves, the lack of light created focusing problems for my camera. When I stepped outside to check the first series of photos on my digital SLR’s screen, they all looked blurry. Shining a flashlight directly on the bats didn’t work much better, as the light combined with the camera flash to wash out part of each photo. The key was to light the bats, focus, turn off the flashlight, and shoot using only the camera’s flash for illumination. I shot a series of photos doing everything myself but felt I could get crisper shots if—“Deb, I need you!”

“You’re going to make me go inside and help you. Aren’t you?”

“It would really help.”

“Ooo . . . kay. But you owe me!”

My wife is a brave woman.

By looking at my photos afterward, I could tell that three species of bat occupied the farmhouse: greater white-lined bats, Seba’s short-tailed bats, and another species I couldn’t positively identify.

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