Last night the NYC Audubon hosted a bat and bug walk led by the Bat Man of Brooklyn, Paul Kein. Now, yesterday I was exhausted. I have been burning the candle at both ends, trying to wring as much out of this amazing opportunity as I can, while also having a new project requiring an extensive build in the works in Harlem, where I also live. I mention this because that means that the daily commute, usually carrying forty pounds of gear in backpack and bags, is a BEAR. And now, splitting my time (and tiny overtaxed brain!) between projects... Oh, and have I mentioned that I have trouble sleeping?
Needless to say, by the time I got to 103rd and CPW I was DONE. Sweaty, stumbling, mumbling, dragging gear, rethinking my life choices. And then I met Paul. His enthusiasm for the natural world is infectious; like a super cool, positive version of the cordyceps fungus, it gets inside your brain and takes over and the fatigue vanishes, replaced by bats and crickets and katydids hopping and swooping through your mind.
Paul is an artist as well, and I immediately wanted him to be my naturalist sensei. I've always longed for a mentor, and this unassuming dude with his hand held bat detector, giant insect net, backpack of field guides, and boundless enthusiasm for his subject matter, well, it just made me wanna get out there and bat walk the hell out of the night!
It doesn't hurt that the bat detector makes THE BEST clicking, burping and farting sounds...did I mention mentally I am a twelve year old boy?
We listened to and differentiated species of of crickets, katydids, cicadas, discussed the difference between a cricket's stridulation and a grasshopper's crepitation, and the fireflies, both photinus and photuris (the femme fetales of the beetle world). And the the bats!!
Seriously, just step a hundred feet into Central park on a muggy late summer evening, and you'll be surrounded. Our bat detector, with its popping belching, helped direct us of course, but once you know where to look...little brown bats swooping and gobbling the smorgasbord of all those crickets and fireflies and katydids. Just so cool. And worth fighting the fatigue.
If you get a chance, take the time to meet Paul Kiem. You won't regret it.