Going Batty at Gulf Branch


We’ve all heard of Christmas in July, but how about Halloween in August? The annual Gulf Branch Nature Center Bat Fest on Saturday, August 16, definitely had the feel of a Halloween preview with its celebration of all things bat. The planet’s only true flying mammals got their moment in the sun…er, dusk…with a wide variety of activities that acknowledged their important roles in insect control, pollination, and ecosystem health–– and especially their enormous contribution to international agriculture.


Why Bats Matter: A display from The Save Lucy Campaign (Photo courtesy of David Howell)

There were games of skill, crafts, bat walks, and lectures and live-bat demonstrations, as well as several opportunities to “be” a bat. ARMN volunteer Samantha Gallagher made another one of her whimsical animal boards that allowed bat aficionados of all ages to be photographed as a bat on the wing. To make the experience more authentic, the bat wannabe could chose from a variety of bat nose types to wear in the photograph. (Samantha’s glow-in-the-dark firefly board has been the hit of the past two Firefly Festivals at Fort C.F. Smith.)


A vampire bat and a leaf-nosed bat hit the skies. (Photo courtesy of David Howell)

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Bat Festival at Gulf Branch Nature Center

By Carolyn Semedo-Strauss

I grew up in a big, old house in a very small town. With a cranberry bog on one side, a forest on the other, a swamp to the rear and a cemetery across the street, we had all of the makings of spooky stories, creatively crafted by an abundance of older siblings (nine to be exact), many of whom were eager to scare.

Yes, I grew up afraid of things. Bats were no exception.

In addition to all of the creepy falsehoods that I had learned about bats from movies and books, there were the tales woven by my older siblings: how bats attack at dark and drain one’s blood before retreating to the cemetery across the street and how they love hair … just about the scariest thing you could say to a little girl with hair the likes of Diana Ross on the head of a small seven or eight year old. My hair in an untamed, unbraided state was perfect terrain for a bat on the run.

So, when word spread that a bat was in our house and was flapping about in an upstairs rear bedroom, I was petrified. With the long, thick, and wiry head of hair that grew upon my head, I was the perfect target if what my siblings said about bats loving hair was true. I don’t quite recall how the whole thing unwound … there were sheets and towels being cast about the house in an attempted to capture the bat and send it back into the wild. However it played out, it didn’t warm me up to bats at all. Continue reading

Ms. Owl Poses for ARMN at Gulf Branch Nature Center


It isn’t all service and no fun:  A small group of ARMN has met a few times informally to practice sketching.  The charismatic Ms. Owl at Gulf Branch Nature Center makes a perfect and natural model.

One of the artists, Cathy Broad, says, “The barred owl posed very nicely, after some curiosity at human attention.”  Below are Cathy’s lovely sketches of Ms. Owl.

Please join the ARMN Sketching Group for informal sketching sessions starting later this summer.  Email Kelly Brown KellyB2dogs@gmail.com if you’d like to be added to an email list to help plan or to be alerted about upcoming sessions.

Read Catherine Howell’s March 23 post Gulf Branch Welcomes Mr., errr…Ms. Owl  to discover the story behind the barred owl’s mistaken identity.