I was driving to Osbornedale State Park this afternoon when I saw something totally unexpected.... A bat flew down the road, just over my car!
I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've seen bats in Connecticut. (In case you didn't know, White-Nose Syndrome is a new disease that's been horribly decimating north-eastern bat populations in recent years.... Perhaps that's why I hardly ever see bats now.) Not only was this bat at close range, but it was out during the day, and in winter, no less! So even though I was on a fairly busy residential road, I just had to pull over and get out of the car to see this awesome creature. People, there's a bat flying over your driveway!
This bat was flying back and forth along a short stretch of the road, presumably hunting insects. At this point in the afternoon, the temperature was just over 50°F, and I did see some flying insects later in the day, so perhaps this was a good area for a bat to find food. My best guess is that this was an Eastern Red Bat, a tree-dwelling species, and I have read that these bats do sometimes wake up on warm winter days to feed. (Here's hoping that's actually the reason, and not that this bat was ill.)
I would have loved nothing more than to just sit and watch the bat zooming around, but unfortunately people kept stopping their cars and coming out of their houses to make sure I was OK. (Which was nice of them, but I had to keep explaining that everything was fine, I was just taking pictures of a bat. Yep, totally normal.) So I couldn't stay too long without feeling like a complete creeper. Also, bats are insanely hard to photograph! (Birds fly, too, but they don't zig-zag.) Here's the best and closest picture I ended up with, in which you can just barely see its little ears and eyes (and a tiny hole in its wing):
So yeah, bats are awesome. I actually reported this sighting to the CT DEEP, because their website asked for reports of bats flying in winter. Hopefully this wonderful auburn fellow got a nice meal, and will enjoy a safe sleep until spring!
[Update, 1/17/13: I just heard back from Connecticut's DEEP, and this was indeed an Eastern Red Bat! Apparently these bats typically migrate south (and out of CT) for the winter, but there have been more reports of Eastern Red Bats than usual this fall and winter, possibly as a result of Hurricane Sandy. How interesting!]
Highlights from my subsequent (less eventful) walk in Osbornedale State Park include a few Mallards taking advantage of some remaining ice in the pond as a place to rest and stretch:
And some fantastically gruesome-looking Blackberry Knot Galls (deformities on blackberry stems caused by the larvae of a small wasp, Diastrophus nebulosus):
Spring-like days and dark, damp woods are lovely, but I'd like some more snow this winter, please!