The bats were late arriving, but eventually put on quite a performance at Pukemokemoke last night. More than 120 people turned up for an evening picnic and to learn more about New Zealand’s only native land mammals. In perfect weather, they heard from Gerry Kessels and others about how bats, which are in decline in most parts of the country, have been found in many locations around the Waikato including Hamilton (the only NZ city known to have a population of bats) and, recently, Pukemokemoke.
Several “bat detectors” (devices which convert ultrasonic bat calls to frequencies that humans can hear) were distributed among the crowd as the sun set, and everyone watched the sky and waited. And waited.
Other than one quick fly-over by a single individual around 7.45pm everything was very quiet, apart from the moreporks. Some folk went up the track into the bush to see the glowworms, others admired the moon through a telescope, then people started to drift away, until only about 15 remained.
Suddenly at 8.20pm, the bat detectors burst into life. There must have been several bats at once, whizzing low overhead, although with the Milky Way showing in the sky it was too dark to see them. But their various calls, through the bat detectors, were loud and clear – a “chip-chip-chip” that they made as they flew straight, a buzz as they homed in on an insect, and a chirp, made by the males.
Just as soon, they were gone again. Then after a few minutes they returned, serenading the assembled humans in ones and twos for the next half an hour. A magical night at Pukemokemoke.