Saturday, November 26, 2011

Face in the Forest

Pallas's Tube-nosed Bat (Nyctimene cephalotes)
We tend to think of bats as cave-dwellers, gathered underground en masse only to emerge at dusk and spread across the landscape in vast numbers. So it was with some surprise that we stumbled onto this fellow, alone, hanging from a thin vine in the highland forest of Mt. Tompotika on the island of Sulawesi.  It's large eyes and small ears made it a species of fruit bat but not like any other I had ever seen.
I hoped to get a shot of it, and quickly grabbed an "insurance shot" - a poorly-composed image from ten yards away - in case it flew off as we approached. I needn't have bothered. I took a few more shots within 15 feet or so, but although he was clearly awake, he stayed put. In the end, I moved right in with my 400mm lens and got this shot, and he never budged.
Sulawesi is home to so many endemic species - things found there and nowhere else on earth - that I briefly had fantasies of having discovered a new species to science. No such luck. I showed the picture to a friend much more familiar with Indonesian wildlife - and he recognized it right away.  Nyctimene cephalotes is found in a number of islands in the region, including New Guinea. Oh well - not a new species - but a handsome little fellow nonetheless. 

Nikon D3 with 200-400 Nikkor lens