Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marathon Mammals

This post, admittedly, is missing foxes, coyotes, badgers, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, desert cottontails, black-tailed jackrabbits and javelinas. But for one weekend around town, it's a novel sampling of the local mammals!

We'll start with "It's a bird! It's a plane! ..." except it's up in the tree and someone called it in as an escaped pet monkey. Personally, I think sloth would have been more descriptive. Our local deputy had a good laugh, though, because Prickles is the porcupine (erethizon dorsatum) who lives just west of the Marathon Motel and has a few favorite trees that s/he loiters in. What a lovely face!

We now turn to another arboreal inhabitant, but one that would generally be mistaken for a bird around dusk... our beloved bug-eater, the Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus). Matt spotted this one roosting in a cottonwood tree just south of the pond at the Marathon Motel.

Like a dark brown hamster with frosting on the fur tips, Hoary Bats are adorable. And remarkably strong, to cling to a leaf clump on a gusty day! Here's a closer look at the roosting critter:

Alas, not all Hoary Bats are so fortunate. This one was found dead under a suspected roosting spot (and ironically, fairly close to an 'old school' windmill). The lighting here gives you an idea of what to expect when you see a Hoary Bat in flight - dark flight webbing contrasts with the pale fuzz along the leading edge of the wing, so identification isn't too challenging if the light is decent.

Identification is still pending on this last bat, a very small critter (about thumb-length) found by our neighbors with an abdominal wound. Current guess is Evening Bat, but we'll have to see what the experts say!

Edit: As of April 18th, we have ID! Thanks to Dr. Chris Ritzi from Sul Ross for identifying our California Myotis (Myotis californicus); click here for TPWD link.

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