Seeing Elusive Bats

I live in a suburban area, where there is a mix of buildings, farms, and forests. Bats are a creature that I have always wanted to see in my area, but I never got the chance. Every night, I look at the field out my window, and I also look at water, but in all my life, and every time I looked out that window at night, all I have seen are a few great horned owls. Any tips on seeing bats? I have heard of countless sightings of them in my area!

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I often see them in the twilight hours. They are easy to confuse with birds if you aren’t paying attention. Also, while we (by definition) can’t hear their ultrasound clicks, some make audible sounds while flying. Whereabouts are you? You can always try reaching out to locals who’ve observed bats and ask them directly for tips!

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You mentioned it, but i would go to water. One of the first things bats will do upon leaving their roost is to find water. So if you have access to farm ponds or other ponds, and are at them from early evening to dark, you should hopefully be able to see bats skimming water from the surface, or foraging above the surface. Another would be at isolated security or area lights, like streetlights, say near outbuildings or farm houses or along county roads - insects are attracted to the lights, thus attracting bats. And, if you have infrequently traveled roads that travel thru the forested areas (like Forest Service roads), parking on one of those roads in the forest in the late evening, staying until dark, may allow you to see bats foraging in that linear clearing made by the roadway.

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I typically see Red Bats on my property in Mullica Twp. Depends on the day but they’ll fly around the driveway and backyard at dusk, usually swooping to about 1 foot overhead.

Farm/woods country near Hammonton and Mullica is the spot!

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I’m not sure looking out the window is ideal. I see them when outside looking straight up as it gets dark–and see them silhouetted against the sky. Lay a blanket on the ground, and watch as the stars begin to become visible.

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Some observers have also been lucky enough to get close up photos of bats they find attached to trees in the daytime, which may be uncommon. Any advice to find bats this way? I live in northeastern US.

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Can’t speak on your local species, but I only saw bats past 8p.m. (though sometimes the fly in day), when sun is half gone, so sky is getting from orange to purple, you often can hear them squeaking, sounds like a mouse or some small birds, so short “sss”, they’re flying very fast and kinda look like small birds, but you can easily feel those are not birds. When we had biopractice far from urban area there was a lightpost on the way to toilet, with insects flying around, bats could be heard and seen through the night, so if there’s a similar spot near you, you could check it.

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I used to see bats just as it got dark near a creek in a semi-rural area. But, those were so small and flit so fast, I was not able to get pictures.

There are bat detectors (works on sound frequency, I think); but I’ve no idea how to get one or how to effectively use one. I got to go on a bat walk once at a local reservoir. The bat expert used his detector to track a bat and then caught them in a high-powered flash light beam. I guess, if one tried a bat detector, a sound recording of the high-pitched squeal would be the way to go.

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In my neighborhood there is a sloped area with an updraft that maybe carries insects upward, and it’s common to see a few kinds of flycatchers, chimney swifts and the occasional large dragonfly feeding there regularly. I’ve noticed that when those go to bed, some bats (maybe due back for spring any day now!) seem to cover the same territory.

So, if you can find daytime insectivores hanging out in some area, maybe check back at the same place for the “night shift”?

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There are lots of bats around. They are just hard to see. The are nocturnal so we can’t easily see them. The are extremely loud but call at frequencies we can’t hear.

As other mentioned, watching over smooth water like ponds or lakes is a good way to see bats. Sometimes you can see bats foraging around lights at night. Another way to watch bats is to find a big roost, list the congress street bridge in Austin or Carlsbad caverns, and watch the bats emerge at dusk.

Bat detectors are relatively inexpensive these days. Even you can’t see the bats you can “hear” them electronically with a bat detector. Check out the echometer touch.

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If and when I am lucky enough to see bats around me, I take video. Then you can try making screen shots to use in an iNat observation (if that is what you are interested in doing). If it’s quiet enough during the video, you may even hear the squeaks on the audio.

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Probably the easiest way to see them is at day roosts. I’m not encouraging you to go into caves or mines where disturbance of major roosts may have negative effects on them. But individuals will often roost in sheds, barns, culverts, under bridges, and other structures where they can be more visible during daylight. When I go into a little-used building that might be partially open to the outside I usually check along the juncture of the wall and ceiling and around beams where bats often roost. Keep in mind that bats are notoriously hard to ID to species from photos, especially the Myotis and especially when they are folded up in a roosting posture, but some species can be photo’d and IDed when roosting and with little disturbance to the animal.

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I used to mistake some for birds, when they were in flight. Is it possible you are seeing some without realizing it?

I can’t speak to your location, but here’s some things I’ve noticed in central Texas, especially the Austin-Metro area, that helped me realize I was seeing bats:

  1. Active around sundown.
  2. In urban areas, they love overpasses and bridges (yes, bridges. Plural. It’s not just the Congress Avenue bridge) and other structures with an overhang full of nooks and crannies.
  3. You can hear some audible squeaks, as others have said.
  4. They tend to be more “flappy” than birds.
  5. They tend to be in constant motion across the sky while chirping (by contrast most birds around here, aside from grackles, aren’t all that active around sundown).
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Head to some type of wetland around dusk. As mentioned previously, bats need to drink water after leaving their day roost. It’s difficult for them to drink from fast moving water like creeks and rivers, so heading to a wetland pond or reservoir is the best place to see them. You’ll definitely be able to see them around any type of water because that’s where the bugs are! Nearly all bats in North America are insectivores so go to where to the the flying insects are at. And wear long-sleeved clothing or bring along non-toxic bug spray! The mosquitos will be vicious wherever you find bats.

Their flight is different from birds. They flap much more constantly and pretty much never glide. They can also turn on a dime, which most birds are not able to do.

If you’re really serious, I would also pick up a bat detector. It translates the high frequency echolocation calls that bat’s use into lower frequencies that we can hear. It has certainly helped me learn more about them and enjoy them even more! Here’s the link for the organization I purchased mine from: https://batmanagement.com/

I got the automatic bat detector, which is more expensive but helps you hear more bats. Different species call at different frequencies, so having the automatic one helps you pick up whichever bats are in the area. The manual ones are cheaper, but you have to set it to one frequency. You’ll be able to hear them, but might miss out on ones that are calling at a lower or higher frequency than what you have it set at.

Hope this helps and I hope you get to enjoy the bats! They really are amazing creatures.

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That is the usual way I see them. They are so small, you really need to get the silhouette against the sky.

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Welcome to the forum and thank you for the link to the bat management company. I’m tempted by the bat houses, but I’m not sure I could care for one properly.

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I see bats nearly everywhere both in rural and city’s. Watch an old barn just as it’s becoming fairly dark, the bats will start leaving just keep watching. City parks, especially if in an older neighborhood and with wetlands or a small lake will likely have bats overheard. In Costa Rica there is a place I stayed that mist nets bats (researchers do the catching) and then you can help them release them. Just don’t touch them with your bare hands.

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Thank you so much everyone! I will definitely try out these tips- hopefully I can see some bats!

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