COLUMBIA — Inside Songbird Station, between the children's corner and the bird feeders, a table was set up with three different containers. Several audience members curiously examined the containers, trying to catch a glimpse of the bats inside.
Sybill Amelon, a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service in Columbia, spoke about bat conservation during a free bat seminar held Sunday at Songbird Station, a local wild bird and nature store.
Amelon, who fosters and rehabilitates the creatures, brought five live bats — one Eastern Red Bat, one Northern Long-Eared Bat and three Big Brown Bats — along with her to the seminar.
"I've always been interested in most kinds of wildlife," Amelon said. "I'm a little bit extra fascinated with bats just because there's so little known about them."
Amelon then began to unzip the mesh bat enclosure much to the excitement to those in attendance. She brought out the Eastern Red Bat, affectionately called the "Little Red-Haired Boy," a reference to the Peanuts character, The Little Red-Haired Girl.
She let people pet the bat, which had a broken shoulder and was unable to fly. Many people commented on how soft his coat was.
The second bat she brought out she called a "newbie"; it has not been with her at many lectures. The Northern Long-Eared was sent to Amelon from St. Louis after it was found stuck to fly paper. She plans to release it into the wild soon. She brought out another bat — a Big Brown Bat — which came to her with a torn wing. Much to the surprise of the audience, Amelon said the bat's wing regenerated on its own.
The last bat to make an appearance at the lecture was Mrs. Pinky, a Big Brown Bat, that Amelon has kept for eight years.
"I hope our participants do come away with lots of interesting facts about bats and answers to the myths we all hear about them," store manager Holly Seaver said. "I was fascinated to learn that they’ll drink out of your hummingbird feeders at night. I was always blaming the raccoons for getting in mine."
Many of the audience members appeared to be enthralled by the bats as well.
"My husband is a bat nut. I can see their appeal now," said Beverly Keiper, a customer who attended the seminar with her husband. "I think if a person has an opportunity to come to a bat lecture at Songbird Station they should, because I think most everybody left with a whole different feeling than they came in with."