Batty for Blueberries

So, as promised, the new blueberry structure is underway, yeah!  But in the midst of all of this excitement we have had some additional nocturnal visitors. A family (or so it seems) of brown bats are now hanging around at our front side door under the eaves during the day and who knows where at night. At the first sighting, we spotted a small brown bat clinging to the bricks after a very warm weekend.

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Of course bats get a lot of bad press, mostly because they are kind of creepy when we spot them like this one, hanging upside down in a very compressed mode. Can you see one of his little ears on the lower left? I had heard that when bats are visible during the day they may be sick and to stay clear of them. So I went directly to the Missouri Department of Conservation for advice. Their website has a page devoted to bats and clearly states: All bats are protected by the provisions of the Wildlife Code of Missouri. Although the Code allows landowners to take action when wildlife is damaging property, nine bat species are listed as species of conservation concern, and three are classified as state endangered. The bat wiki page had this additional information:

“Little brown bats are now at a higher threat due to white nose syndrome in eastern North America. White nose syndrome is caused by the fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which affects bats during hibernation. ” WNS is estimated to have killed more than 5.5 million bats in the Northeast and Canada. In some sites, 90 to 100 percent of bats have died (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, 2015).” Many states have made special considerations with respect to the disease, including listing them as a sensitive or protected species. Canada has listed them as an endangered species. It is estimated that 94% of the population in the eastern half of the country has died over the last few years from WNS, and the disease is moving westward at a rate that may see them extirpated within as little as 12 years. It is expected that the tri-colored bat will also be listed in a few years due to WNS, and the northern long-eared bat was recently federally listed as threatened due to WNS.”   Good grief! With mosquito borne diseases such as the Zika virus on the rise, I would think that we need to focus on protecting our bats!

I ended up calling the Missouri Department of Conservation office to discuss our concerns and was told that our area does not have a rabies problem when it comes to bats. Whew!  Our bat was indeed most likely a Little Brown Bat, as opposed to a Large Brown Bat which are two different varieties. In season, these tiny mammals eat their weight in mosquitoes and moths on their nightly forays which was good to know but they also contribute to our environment as pollinators which was new information for me. We still want to avoid direct contact with them so we will take precautions when we see them ‘hanging’ around. The bat pictured above was gone after our recent snow arrived but was replaced by a smaller sized little brother yesterday. As soon as the weather warms up we will do a house inspection to make sure they are not congregating in the attic since we do want to protect them but just not house them!

Excitement abounds with the blueberry netting construction as the poles arrived on a large truck Monday – Leap Day morning. The driver told us the shipment of eight 15 foot long poles weighed 3,600 lbs or approximately 450 pounds each ! Little Coulter was a good measure of scale. IMG_0848 (1)

Not long after the poles were delivered, the bobcat and crew arrived to off load them and begin digging the holes with two different sized giant augers. IMG_0873

Here are Glen and Mario are off loading the poles…IMG_0880

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And then delivering to the field in groups of four.IMG_0888 (1)

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Once they set them near their future locations, we double checked our measurements so that the poles would all be squarely aligned before they switched the bobcat implements from the forklift back to an auger and began to dig 7 foot deep holes that are 2 feet in diameter. IMG_0896

We had them work on the most questionable, precarious hole first since we knew that our sewer line was in that vicinity and we certainly didn’t want to hit it!  As luck would have it, with more than five acres to dig a two foot wide hole, of course we found the pipe about 4 feet down. This was the purpose of digging this hole first…so that we could inch our way to one side or another and adjust all the other holes for poles as necessary which is what we did. IMG_0901

By the end of the day, all the holes were begun and the bobcat quieted for the evening. IMG_0916

The next morning brought some early rain and a bitter, cold wind but the project continued with an additional auger that would complete the holes to the 7 foot depth. This accomplished, the bobcat switched back to a forklift and lifted each pole and placed it into position using a large woven strap. The concrete truck arrived and waited at the street while the bobcat switched implements again to use it’s loader to take bucketful after bucketful of concrete out to the field to set the poles permanently in place.  IMG_0922

The crew then had to shovel the cement into each hole. Despite the cold, they managed to be in good humor all day.

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At the end of two long days of hard, heavy work, we were left with our own little Stonehenge-like structure which will await a custom netting that is now being fabricated to fit and be cabled into place. IMG_0938

No one was more enthusiastic than 10 month old Coulter who watched wide-eyed as the work progressed. He is eager to drive the big tractor someday!IMG_0087 (1)

And is just now starting to enthusiastically walk the fields with Nana and Gramps. IMG_0833IMG_0816

The fields are soon to be plowed under but not before we capture the last of the cold hardy plants…the Brussels sprouts are among the final bit of green in the fields and are begging to be relieved of their post and enjoyed. They will be a yumbo treat when roasted in our oven! IMG_0836

We look forward to sharing more news when the netting arrives but in the meantime, our barn project is about to start! Stay tuned!

 

3 thoughts on “Batty for Blueberries

  1. I am staying tuned!!! I am learning so much – “blueberry netting” is new to me.
    And…”yumbo” – I remember that word! Sweet memories!

  2. You need Bat houses. At my request, Gino, my husband built two bat houses as a mothers day gift a few years ago. Due to WNS you mentioned we don’t think they are being utilized. We have the plans if you are interested. Bats are the best!
    You amaze me!

    • Katie, I’d love to see the bat house plans! I was thinking of that yesterday since I read that we shouldn’t let them roost in the attic for a bunch of reasons but I certainly do want to keep them around!

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