Nothin’ but Bat Bliss

Chasing Bats at Congaree – Episode 12

Going through the media on my phone, I tripped upon some cool bat video that I never used. It was the perfect excuse to make one last episode in this series and it certainly highlights my enthusiasm of working in Congaree.

I enjoyed making these videos; they were fun to create and share. They were a great way to keep in touch with friends and family and let them know what I was up to. I’m also glad that I kept a record of my adventure in Congaree.  Perhaps I will create another vlog for my adventures Yellowstone!

Without further adieu, here is the last episode: Nothin’ but Bat Bliss!


A Life Plan That is Working

Fieldnote 4

January 14, 2017
Congaree National Park – Bates Ferry

I’m enjoying a Saturday afternoon break. Today, I began the final push to wrap up the glow stick project. A couple hours in front of the computer, I had to get outdoors. I’m not used to spending that much time staring at the monitor or sitting in one spot for that much time. Nothing wrong with a slight diversion, right?

Congaree River

Bates Ferry Trail provided the break that I needed. It’s only a little over a mile from the trailhead down to the river and it’s a quiet, seldom used trail. I doubt that I will see another soul out here.

On the bank of the Congaree River, I am writing. My life back home seems so far away. It’s cold there and this afternoon, it’s warm here. I’ve never spent a January like this. I am warm and comfortable as I sit in my flannel shirt. I’m contemplating what to do next – maybe Alaska!

Life has changed so much since quitting my job at Pride Mobility. Times may have been rough in that year between then and school but I survived. Continuing my education, I had a vague direction; I didn’t know where this path would lead. I’m happy that it lead here – the outdoors.

Swabbing a bat’s wings and nose for Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes White-nose syndrome

My career is unfolding before me. I made a life plan that is working. I earned my education and identified great opportunities along the way. It has been fulfilling. For instance, last night, I was netting for bats at Congaree National Park in South Carolina. I do good work and the experience is rewarding. Five years ago, I could not imagine the possibility!

A thousand miles away on the shores of the Congaree River. Who would have thought? Maybe one day, it will be at the very top of the Alaskan Highway or out west somewhere. For now, I am content to sit in the warm sun, chasing bats through the swamp, and finishing my manuscript.

I am forever grateful to those who have supported me on this journey. A career in wildlife isn’t an easy one, but the reward is grand. I could have never attained this success without you.

~ Michael

Piggies of the Floodplain

Chasing Bats at Congaree – Episode 11

With less than a week remaining, it’s hard to believe that five months have passed! Although I absolutely enjoyed this chapter, I’m eager to head home to my old stomping grounds, see my loved ones, and pursue my next adventure.

In this episode, I present some video of the feral pigs that I encounter almost daily in Congaree. More accurately, they are animals that have descended from domesticated pigs and have established a population in the wild. While relatively benign to park visitors and me, they negatively impact the ecosystem by out-competing native species and extensively disturbing the forest floor. Often, such as the case in Congaree, they have no natural predators to restrict their growth. I have mixed feelings about them like I do with most invasive species.

There’s a Raccoon on My Log

Chasing Bats at Congaree – Episode 10

Over a month has passed since I’ve posted an update to my vlog. Lately, I’ve been very busy at work and on my free time. During the past several weeks, I’ve been in a hurry to capture canopy photos and survey vegetation plots throughout the study area before leaf-out. Spring arrived a few weeks early and shortened the timetable to complete this work. Searching for the next adventure, many of my off hours have been spent on the job hunt. Lately, I haven’t had much time to relax.

This hectic period certainly doesn’t mean that I wasn’t enjoying my time outdoors. My travels often took me to new places in the park and I watched Congaree come alive in the essence of springtime.

One of my favorite moments was a visit from a raccoon. I was sitting quietly on a log, consulting my notes, when I heard something walking towards me. Oblivious to my presence, a raccoon walked near. I stealthily employed my phone to capture some video of the close encounter. Certainly, I did not think that I would be sharing the log with this visitor!


Broken Peace, Reflections in the Water

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Congaree National Park – East of Weston Lake

Lunchtime is on the banks of a swamp, east of Weston Lake. The sun shines and a breeze blows with temperatures in the 70s. Not a bad way to enjoy a January winter’s day. My job here at Congaree rarely feels like work. Most times are a stroll through the woods on a sunny and pleasant day, collecting data as I go.

Often the forest’s peace is broken by fighter jets flying above. Some days, they fly singly, every now and then. Other days are like an airshow with loud engines overhead as planes go this way and that way. I’m not used to such a commotion. I often seek peace while enjoying the woods; unless of course, a woodland creature decides to make its presence known. That obnoxious anthropogenic thunder of horsepower took a while to become a familiar part of my surroundings.

Once considered a nuisance, the jets remind me of my brother. Paul loved the military jets since he was a child. It was a fascination that I didn’t understand in my youth. However, sometimes they fly so low, I couldn’t help but to be intrigued. He would have loved to visit Congaree. Besides the planes, there are plenty of amphibians for him to harass. I remember family fishing trips where I was on a mission to catch the big one and he was content on getting the drop on a bull frog. Again, it was a fascination that I didn’t understand in my youth. However, sometimes he was successful and I couldn’t help but marvel over the creature.

Since his death, I find that I understand my brother more in these years.

In the sunlight, a green and a yellow butterfly dance together in the sudden stillness of the air. With an otherwise constant breeze today, they must have waited a while for that moment. Time passes, in another moment, a lone butterfly.

Watching the Floodplain Work

Friday, January 6, 2017
Congaree National Park – Kingsnake

I get a rainy day. Lately, the floodplain is inundated with water. This condition is making work more difficult yet exciting. For the first time, I could not survey certain cavity roost because the openings were nearly submerged. I had to reorganize the gear on my body so it would not get wet. Nothing is hanging from by waist anymore. Instead, everything is attached to my back and shoulders. With my 5’6” stature, I have to be cautious that my gear is not getting wet inside my pack, not because of the rain but because of the rising water that I’m wading through.

I am amazed with how much water the floodplain holds. I am seeing how the landscape buffers the river during a storm event. This is elementary knowledge but to observe the process is exciting. I love to watch it work in Congaree. Continue reading “Watching the Floodplain Work”

A Night on West Boundary

January 5th, 2015
Congaree National Park – West Boundary

The work day is over and I sit in the sunset at west boundary. I’m enjoying the last light of the day and the cool air settling in around me. It’s hard to leave the twilight. There is something appealing about this transition time – the day ends and the night begins. Some nights, however, are stranger than others. Continue reading “A Night on West Boundary”

Why Bats?

Chasing Bats at Congaree – Episode 9

For a while now, I wanted to do a “why bats” video. Not until I got half way through the first draft would I settle on a direction for this episode. My first thought was to make an educational piece. I began amassing content to talk about the order’s evolutionary adaptations, the ecosystem services that bats provide, and dispel many of the widely held myths. However, I decided to scrap that idea. You can google that information anyway! Instead, I wanted to share my experience and tell you why I like to work with bats.


Sights, Sounds, & Netting for Bats


I write to you while sitting on the banks of the Congaree River in seventy degree weather. This was a week of extremes! Snowmageddon was a dud but it left us with temperatures in the twenties. Netting was canceled due to the inclement weather; therefore, I was not tracking bats this week. Instead, I was after random trees and checking roost-tree cavities. Ice formed on much of the water and I had an interesting time walking through the flooded areas of the park. The weather warmed as the week progressed, however. Through the week, along with my daily assignments, my eyes and ears were open for the sights and sounds inside the park. Friday was a beautiful night to net for bats. With the addition of Will, our roommate, Piper and I had extra help and I was able to shoot some video of us handling bats!

Continue reading “Sights, Sounds, & Netting for Bats”

High Water & Snowmageddon

Chasing Bats at Congaree – Episode 7

It’s always bittersweet leaving family and friends back home to embark upon adventure. The same was true after spending the holidays at home and returning to Congaree. I’m two out of five months into this assignment. I’m happy to report that I continue to be enriched by this experience.

It’s true, first week back after the holidays, I was greeted with high water and threats of Snowmageddon looming in the forecast. The heavy rains on my travel back down to South Carolina certainly foreshadowed the rise of Cedar Creek. The high water certainly keeps things interesting and adds additional challenge to the job but I’m having fun nonetheless. Snow was in the forecast and I enjoyed listening to the media insight panic among the populace. I couldn’t laugh too hard at the weather wimps of South Carolina because the same excitement happens back home in Pennsylvania with every snow event.

Continue reading “High Water & Snowmageddon”