Driving to Rimrock Ranch just outside of Sisters, then walking down into the Whychus River canyon is always an exciting trip. Rimrock Ranch is such a special place and I’ve been there with the Deschutes Land Trust to watch birds, look at stars, see wildflowers, and check out all of the river restoration progress. When the opportunity arose to attend the Bat & Owl Night at Rimrock Ranch, naturally I jumped at the chance. Tom Rodhouse is an expert on bats, owners Bob and Gayle Baker are the perfect hosts, and the clear skies seemed endless that night. But for me, the stars of the night were not bats, owls, Tom, or the ones twinkling in the sky. The stars were the kids that attended this party.
Tom managed to trap two bats and he brought each one to a table equipped with scientific instruments: calipers, a scale, and paper to record the information. It was dark and about eight kids clustered around the table, their eyes focused on the tiny mammal in Tom’s hands. They all chattered at once asking questions, telling about previous bat experiences, and quizzing Tom about all things bat. They encroached close to the tiny bat trying to see all of the nuances down to the toenails. Land Trust staff had a colorful handout complete with photos from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife titled Batty for Bats: Facts for Kids, but most kids opted for the real live bat right in front of them! Tom had captured a California Myotis, brown with dark ears and a very tiny mouth. One of the kids became the recording scientist noting the species (Tom spelled it out slowly), the measurements, and the weight, and the remaining kids all seemed to have a suggestion about the work in progress. When it was time to release the bat, Tom and his cadre walked to an open space with Tom explaining how the little bat needed a few seconds to sound its sonar and decide which direction to take off.
It’s fun to see birds and particularly exciting to see such an elusive, tiny mammal that we generally see only as it darts past us in the waning light of day. But, to see this bat through the eyes of exuberant children with no reservations, freely and openly exuding their young spirit with excitement was a delight. I learned a lot about bats that evening, but I also remembered that nature is a wondrous thing. It’s not something we should experience stoically, looking with a blasé acceptance. We need to stop in the midst of our busy lives and look at our surroundings just the way a child would look at it--with a fresh perspective, a thousand questions, and an adventurous spirit. I walked out of the canyon that evening still hearing the chatter from the kids and thinking: isn’t this really why we all work so hard to preserve beautiful spaces like Rimrock Ranch?
Bunny Thompson is an internationally published freelance writer. She cruised on a sailboat for six years and published travel and adventure articles in national and international magazines. Now she lives in Sisters, Oregon and writes for regional magazines. Bunny also publishes a blog called Tales from Wild Goose.