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Capturing Photographs of Bats in Flight

February 2, 2015

Gorongosa Field Notes: Capturing Photographs of Bats in Flight

By Jen Guyton, PhD student in Rob Pringle's lab at Princeton 

“Come on, little dude. Fly for me.” I gently prodded the outside of the fabric box that held the dark brown fuzzy lump. It was an Angolan free-tailed bat, Mops condylura, and it wasn’t cooperating.

I was working with Piotr Naskrecki, the director of Gorongosa’s E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory and a renowned nature photographer, to create a photographic catalog of all of the bat species of Gorongosa. Piotr had put together a rather complex setup, involving a white fabric box with holes cut in two opposite sides. A laser points through each hole, and where the two lasers meet is the sweet spot: the bats have to barrel through it to trigger the camera. When a flying bat breaks the laser beam, six flashes burst aflame as the camera, mounted on a tripod a few feet away, snaps the picture. Read More