Batting on the Maple River
Dusk hangs overhead as we diligently suspend mist nets over the Maple River. “Make sure you don’t tangle them,” Tanya, an assistant researcher from the University of Michigan directs. “The bats will eat through my nets if they get too stuck.” Carefully unfolding the black webbing from the plastic Kroger bags, we sling them over giant metal poles positioned along the river’s edge.
We are knee high in river muck and mosquito bites, grinning awkwardly at each other but shameless with enthusiasm. We are, after all, student amateurs, and hope the expertise of Tanya and fellow researchers will prevent the flying beasts from noticing our clumsy construction.
Waiting in the bush nearby, we guard the nets as the sun sinks hazily into overhead trees.
One, two, three hours pass and our hopeful anticipation gives way to mindless inactivity. The other students and I take turns spraying each other with DEET and warding off pesky night critters. The researchers scribble neatly on their clipboards.
At about 1am, tired and unsuccessful, the researchers decide its time to head back to camp. About to take down one of the nets, we notice something struggling in the lower left corner. Tanya plucks a small, brown bat from the web of string. Only three inches in length, it crawls onto her hand and sleepily hangs from one of her fingers, cloaked in its wings. “So you finally decided to show,” she chuckles. We students poke at it ecstatically and scribble notes into our journals.
As she hurls it into the air, we watch as the creature unveils itself to the night and disappears into a sky of twinkling fireflies.
By Eryn Duffield