New York nightlife usually brings to mind concerts, clubs, and Broadway shows, but every summer a few adventurers get to see another side: bats.
Since 2004, the American Museum of Natural History has sponsored Central Park Bat Walks. The walks take place each July, when the sultry summer weather draws out swarms of flying insects, creating an airborne diner for bats, which swoop in from the city’s rooftops and eves. Only 25 tickets ($30 each) are sold for each of three walks each summer, making this a truly rare treat.
Ticket holders gather on the museum’s front steps just as the sun is setting. As our 8:30 p.m. departure time drew near, the first bats flew over our heads. Walk leaders Brad Klein and Danielle Gustafson of the NYC Bat Group escorted us through the park to Tupelo Meadow; we sat on the grass watching the bats above us and listened to their echolocation on handheld bat detectors. The bat walk also included an iPad-enhanced show-and-tell about common species of local bats, bat myths versus bat realities, and the tragic spread of White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that is threatening several common bat species with extinction.
Tickets to next summer’s Central Park Bat Walks will go on sale in June 2011; watch for an announcement on the AMNH website or join NYC Bat Group on Facebook. AMNH also offers more bat programs throughout the year, and on October 16th, they’ll host the live animal presentation, “Wild Wild World: Bats,” to celebrate Halloween.
Read More: If you’re looking to find a bat viewing site near you, check out this excellent map created by Bat Conservation International. National Geographic Magazine debunks many longheld theories about bats. And to learn about White Nose Syndrome and how you can help, visit Bat Conservation International’s website.
Photo: A bat flies over Central Park, by Matt Grayson.
- Nat Geo Expeditions