As part of the Conservancy’s Urban Ecology Lecture Series, we invited Gabriel Willow to lead guests on a bat walk. Willow, who is a naturalist and urban environmental educator, has led tours and taught classes at NYC Audubon, Wave Hill, and was even the Senior Naturalist at the Prospect Park Audubon Center. Having a speaker as experienced and knowledgeable as him was a treat; what better way to learn about bats than from an expert?

To start the lecture, guests gathered at Gowanus Studio Space where they were given a brief presentation on bats. We learned that there are actually 47 different kinds of bats in the United States and that there are actually a few species that are common here in New York City! He also gave us some information on widely believed bat myths, like the fact that vampire bats DO exist (they don’t suck blood however, they actually lap in it).

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Most people consider bats to be rodents and overlook their value as a species. But, did you know that bats actually help manage mosquito populations, which greatly improves our quality of life? Their ability to do this however is greatly hindered by numerous threats to their survival, like white nose syndrome. White nose syndrome has no cure nor are there any means of preventing it. Discovering facts like these definitely changed our perspectives on bats and created a newfound appreciation for these nocturnal animals!

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After the lecture, we went to the Salt Lot and began our outdoor sunset walk. He taught us how to use an echo locator device which helps people find and identify bats. Because Willow is primarily an ornithologist, he also pointed out the species of many birds around the Salt Lot. We hope he can visit again and share his knowledge on birds with our community!

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Our walk ended at the Gowanus Dredgers‘ launching site and we celebrated the event with a nightcap. The night was a huge success with 41 people coming to learn about bats and their local presence. For more photos of the walk, please visit our Flickr.

A big thanks to our captivating and engaging guest lecturer; we hope you will come back! If you were unable to make it to this lecture, Gabriel Willow also leads bat tours in Central Park and you can learn more about that here. Stay tuned for the next event in our Urban Ecology Lecture Series; we hope to see you then!

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