Jack, Nature Detective with a Townsend’s Big Eared Bat. Illustrated by Diana Weddle.

How do you feel when someone starts talking about bats? Warm and fuzzy? Uneasy? Disgusted? Cautiously curious? In the fourth episode of the Highland Wonders Podcast, The Secret Life of Bats, Roger Christophersen of the North Cascades National Park addresses our ideas about bats, and sparks a sense of wonder at these flying, fuzzy, leathery insectivores. To learn more about bats, how and where they live, and how we all can support bat populations (and why we should), check out the Highland Wonders Podcast wherever you normally get your podcasts! And now, a story from our intrepid Nature Detective. Enjoy!

Jack, Nature Detective: season 1, episode 4: The Secret Life of Bats

Jack’s family is enjoying a weekend camping in the highlands, escaping the heat of summer for a few days, and exploring the forests and lakes of the Okanogan. As they sit around the campfire, they notice something winging through the air in the little clearing, fluttering here and there. It’s flight pattern seems different from a bird, and the creature itself is bigger than the insects that Jack normally sees. “Eek! It’s a bat!” Jack’s mom exclaims. Jack gazes into the fire, thinking.

“What are bats, anyway?” Jack thinks about what he knows about bats, trying to sort them into a group with other animals he knows. Recently, he had a chance to get a close-up look at a bat during the day, as it clung to his house, sleeping. It was definitely fuzzy, with a pointy little snout. 

“I don’t think they are birds because they don’t lay eggs. If they DID lay eggs, how would that even work? They hang upside down, and don’t have nests. The eggs would just crack on the ground! That would be bad.” 

“Are they insects? Some insects are furry, like bumble bees. Maybe bats are insects?” Jack is not sure. He thinks, “Bees and other bugs don’t take very good care of their babies. But I heard that bat moms carry their babies around and feed them.” Jack glances over at his mom, who is giving his little sister a piggy back over to their tent. “Maybe bats are more like people. Mammals. Mammals?!? FLYING MAMMALS?!?! Is that possible?” 

When they get home, Jack asks his mom to look up pictures of bats on the internet. One image of a bat skeleton pops up and Jack notices that the wing looks a lot like a hand – it even has a little thumb! He also notices their ears, “My what big ears you have, little bat!” Jack cackles at his own Little Red Riding Hood reference. So far, the evidence points to bats being mammals. But Jack still has a lot of questions. “Do bats have predators? Why do bats have big ears? Do they hibernate in the winter or go south like birds do? How high can they fly? I can’t wait to learn more!” Luckily, Roger Chistophersen, of the North Cascades National Park has the answers to some of Jack’s questions in the most recent, very fascinating, Highland Wonders Podcast! 

Stay tuned! Jack will continue to solve nature mysteries on topics related to upcoming episodes of the Highland Wonders Podcast. Episodes and stories can be found at: okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders/ or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts.

The Backstory on Jack:

Meet Jack, Nature Detective: Jack is inquisitive, skeptical, creative, quirky, determined, and a friend to ALL critters. His observations of subtle clues and brilliant reasoning make him, quite possibly, one of the world’s most talented nature detectives. Like most of us, Jack’s understanding of the world comes from his own life experiences. He is five years old, and his investigative skills are top notch. If you were to stop by his house you might find our Nature Detective in the midst of an experiential study of squirrel movement, or determining the optimal shelter and food stores for his new pet grasshopper, named Grasshopper. Today, we will share a mystery that Jack uncovered in the Okanogan Highlands. What clues can you uncover in the story?

OHA is delighted to ring in the new year with Episode 3 of the Highland Wonders Podcast: Bighorn Sheep of the Okanogan. In this hour-long episode, Jeff Heinlen of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife shares his fascinating expertise and entertaining stories of bighorn sheep, the history of the herds in our valley, and gives an update on how our local herds are currently doing. And now without further ado, a story from Jack, Nature Detective!

Jack Nature Detective with a sneaky bighorn sheep illustrated by Diana Weddle

Jack, Nature Detective: season 1, episode 3: Bighorn Sheep of the Okanogan

Meet Jack, Nature Detective: Jack is inquisitive, skeptical, creative, quirky, determined, and a friend to ALL critters. His observations of subtle clues and brilliant reasoning make him, quite possibly, one of the world’s most talented nature detectives. Like most of us, Jack’s understanding of the world comes from his own life experiences. He is five years old, and his investigative skills are top notch. If you were to stop by his house you might find our Nature Detective in the midst of an experiential study of squirrel movement, or determining the optimal shelter and food stores for his new pet grasshopper, named Grasshopper. Today, we will share a mystery that Jack uncovered in the Okanogan Highlands. What clues can you uncover in the story?

“Hey dad, want to hear a riddle?” Without waiting for an answer, Jack recites, “What has a hard head, loves to climb and likes to lick salt?” His dad knows immediately: “Your sister.” “No!” Jack yells. “A wild great horn…” “…Owl?” his dad finishes for him. “No!” Jack yells again. “They have four legs, no wings, and huge, curly horns. We saw one on our hike today!”

Today Jack and his cousins adventured up the Whistler Canyon Trail near Oroville. After climbing the long, steep path, they stopped on a bench to catch their breath and look around. The kids brought their binoculars, so they scanned the hillsides and cliffs for signs of life – and there it was.

Silhouetted against the sky, high up on the edge of a cliff, an animal was standing very still. As Jack reported, it had four legs, a sturdy body, no wings, and a huge, curled head ornament. As they watched, the animal picked its way along the cliff, and the kids gasped to see it balancing so precariously on the rocks. “How does it not tip over? Its head looks so heavy!” Jack wondered out loud. “And how does it climb those rocks like that? I would fall!” As they watched, more animals “appeared” (they had been there the whole time but were so well camouflaged and so still that the kids hadn’t seen them). Some were laying down, others munching on something. Jack was curious why different animals had different size horns.

What was this amazing creature? Jack, the Nature Detective used his trusty process of elimination, “It can’t be a cat or a dog – they don’t have horns. It can’t be a goat – they are white, and live high in the mountains. Could it be a deer? Definitely not!” If there is one thing Jack knows, it is that: deer have antlers, sheep have horns.” Jack’s cousin, Fred adds, “Those have to be horns because antlers fall off, and those horns look like they have been growing for a loooong time.” The cousins decided that it must be a sheep! Elliot, who is a little older than the others, has seen signs along the road, warning drivers to watch out for “great horned…no, wait…bighorn sheep!” Jack, the Nature Detective is satisfied for now, but he is excited to listen to what Jeff Heinlen, from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, has to say about the bighorn sheep of Okanogan County. That should help him know for sure. Stay tuned! Jack will continue to solve nature mysteries on topics related to upcoming episodes of the Highland Wonders Podcast. Episodes and stories can be found at: okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders/ or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts.

On Friday, September 25, OHA held a special edition of Highland Wonders – a drive-in movie screening of The Beaver Believers, a feature documentary. It was a clear, cool autumn evening with the moon hanging in the sky, and we were able to gather (while maintaining social distancing precautions) to watch this inspiring film. If you missed it, reach out to director Sarah Koenigsberg through her website, https://www.thebeaverbelievers.com/ to find out how you can see this fantastic film. You too, can be a beaver believer!

Chew on this

January 31st at the Merc Playhouse, 7pm

101 S. Glover St, Twisp, WA

An Edu-tainment event about People and Beavers Rebuilding Watershed Resilience …Naturally!

METHOW BEAVER PROJECT & OKANOGAN HIGHLANDS ALLIANCE
are pleased to invite you to join special guests Julie Vanderwal, Ken Bevis, Sandy Vaughn & Sarah Koenigsberg for an evening of music, engagement, joy & learning about people & beavers teaming up for watershed restoration!

For more info www.methowbeaverproject.org
General Admission – Suggested Donation $10

Chew on this

On Friday, February 3, 2017, David Moskowitz – expert wildlife tracker, photographer, and author – returned to Highland Wonders, bringing an evening of photos and stories exploring the world endangered mountain caribou and the last great inland temperate rainforest left on the planet.

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On Friday, January 9, 2015, David Moskowitz, expert wildlife tracker and author of Wolves in the Land of Salmon and Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest provided an evening of amazing photographs and tales exploring the hidden stories of our region’s wildlife.

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Ken at Lost Lake (Photo by Teri Pieper)

On February 7th, 2014, wildlife biologist Ken Bevis, who is also a singer/songwriter, provided an entertaining evening of stories, photos, songs and science, aiming for a closer understanding of some of Washington’s fish and wildlife… sometimes from the viewpoint of the critters themselves! This family-friendly program was fun for all ages! Species featured in the “Saga of Washington’s Fish and Wildlife” presentation included: sandhill crane, bull trout, chinook salmon, hummingbirds, black bear, and more…

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On Friday, January 10th, David Moskowitz came to Highland Wonders to speak about squirrels. This was David’s first time offering a presentation on squirrels.

“The Pacific Northwest has some of the highest diversity of squirrels in the world. There are about 112 squirrel species in the world, and we have about 25 of them here in the Pacific Northwest… And part of the reason we have such a tremendous diversity is because of the diversity of the landscape that we have here, ranging from coastal rainforests to interior deserts and then of course the mountains all the way up to boreal and alpine highland forests.”

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On Friday, April 6th, WA Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, Jeff Heinlen, brought to Highland Wonders the ecology, history, and management associated with the Bighorn Sheep of Okanogan County.

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Little Brown Bat

On Friday, March 2nd, Roger Christophersen, wildlife biologist for the North Cascades National Park Service, shared stories and information about the amazing adaptations and natural history of our local bat species. From the thick crevices in tree bark and abundant insect supply at Lost Lake, to the forest and wetland habitats of Beaver Canyon, the Okanogan Highlands is a great place for bats to thrive. The presentation covered bat ecology, echolocation calls, habitat requirements, and bat species identification.

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