Friday, December 24, 2010

Woolly and the Bats

Central American Woolly Opossum
One night Marco left a terrace light on just outside the kitchen door when he came back inside. A few minutes later, we noticed that a lot of bats were careening up and down the length of the side terrace, back and forth, veering wildly and flitting every which way for insects. We have plenty of insects around here, and at night, we see a lot of moths outside the kitchen door. We had been leaving a bit of banana in a feeder out at night for the moths, but that night we forgot and left several bananas in several feeders. The bats were also feasting on the bananas left in the bird feeders. Some of the bats hang on the feeders, licking at the bananas for 3 or 4 seconds, while others perform touch-and-go maneuvers. Due to the rapid movements of the bats, combined with the low light levels, we do not have video of them.

But there was someone else interested in the bananas - a Central American Woolly Opossum (Caluromys derbianus). We thought we had one of these a few months back, but it turned out to be a Common Opossum. The faulty ID was made before we received the excellent and invaluable "A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico", written and beautifully illustrated by Fiona A. Reid. This Woolly is for real - long, woolly fur, large pinkish (and very expressive) ears, dark median line on forehead. The very long tail is thickly furred for half its length, the naked midsection has dark brown freckles and splotches, and the rest of the (also naked) tail is entirely bright white. The combination of parts and markings make it quite a cute little beast. Once I walked outside with the intention of shooing a Woolly away from one of the feeders that the bats were using. (The opossum had already emptied two other feeders that night.) I moved slowly toward it, expecting it to make an exit, but it held its ground. It did stop feeding and looked intently at me, waving its big ears back and forth. Then it resumed licking the bananas. I was about a foot away from it. The fur does look woolly and remarkably thick. I probably could have touched it, or even brushed it, but I resisted.

Marco shot some video of one of the Woollies. We now have a minimum of three who have visited the feeders. Two of them do not have a nick in their ears, as does the one in the video (named Nick.)

One night I saw a Woolly lunge at a bat who came in for a nibble at the feeder where it was feasting. We have not seen Nick lately, but there are still two regulars who compete for the bananas. Sometimes they tangle and a chase ensues, complete with nipping, squealing and squeaking. They sound a little like a Blue-gray Tanager.

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