As dusk settled over Fort Greene Park on Wednesday, local parents and their bug spray-slathered children gathered around the big rock outside the tennis courts, ready to learn about the wildlife that comes out in the park after hours.
Local science educator Paul Kiem was there to give the last seasonal Urban Night Sky tour, which explores the lives of resident insects and their dogged predators, little brown bats.
“I don’t see any bats,” one boy said when he arrived, clambering to the top of the big rock for a better look. Kiem explained that the group needed to wait for several minutes to let the sky darken, before introducing his bat detector, a device that converts the echolocation signals bats send into audible frequencies.
After a brief introduction to crickets and katydids, which operate on the same frequency as bats do, and a discussion of why bats are so cool (they’re the only mammal that can fly and account for 25 percent of the world’s mammal population), the tour got moving. The group padded along the park’s pavement, listening closely for the low drumroll-like rumble that the bat-detector made when a bat was nearby. Sure enough, within minutes the group spotted one swooping overhead and darting abruptly after a bug. The kids shrieked in excitement.
The group enjoyed about ten minutes of bat watching near a lamplit area of the path. As Kiem explained, insects are attracted to the light and bats are after the insects for food. Bats can eat about 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour, he added.
“My favorite part was getting to see the brown bat,” said Joie Berhe, 5, after the tour. She came to Kiem’s Urban Night Sky tour two years ago and said she returned because she enjoyed it so much. Joie said she was anxious to come back again with her little sister. “I also liked learning that vampire bats are real. My mom didn’t believe me when I told her that!”
Lila Corbell, 3, agreed that the best part of the evening was bat-watching. “Seeing the bats was the best part,” she said. “And I found a bat,” she added proudly.