Jenolan Caves

She Didn't Bat an Eye

April 14, 2015

Eastern Bent Wing BatStories from the lunch room can be pretty good when you work at Jenolan Caves. Story telling is becoming a dying art. Such a pity, because I love to hear funny or heartwarming stories, and Jenolan Caves tour guides are experts at telling them.

So, I was in the lunch room, munching on my pasta salad yesterday, when Felicity sat down. I begged her to tell me one of her favourite cave stories once again. (She told me this story years ago and I never forgot it.) She said,

“Well, I was leading a tour in the Lucas Cave one day, when a big, sooky man had a panic attack. He was claustrophobic. I had to take him out of the cave by the quickest way. The stairs were very steep. The cave roof was low, and we had to duck and lean forward as we went down, to not hit our heads. I lead the way, with my whimpering charge behind.

“In those days, cave guide uniform shirts for women were not supplied. So I was wearing a man’s uniform shirt which was way too big for me, especially around the neck.

“When I bent forward to miss the limestone overhead, the back of my shirt gaped wide open at the neck. And a bat flew down my shirt! I felt it whiz past my ear and down my back. Then it sort of tickled a bit as it did a 360 and flew out again.

“I was shocked, but didn’t scream. I didn’t want to further upset my trembling charge, who, luckily, had not seen the bat! So I just giggled like nothing happened.

“Fortunately, now we can get women’s uniform shirts that fit around the neck.”

She didn’t bat an eye! They don’t come more professional than Felicity Rowling, who has worked at Jenolan for 20 years this July.

The Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve is home to more than 16 species of bat, including 5 threatened species. Three species are largely cave-dependent: the Eastern Bentwing bat, Large-Eared Pied bat and the Eastern Horseshoe bat. They are all microbats, which eat moths and other flying insects at night.

The Eastern Bentwing Bat is the one which is most commonly spotted by visitors in the caves at Jenolan. It has chocolate to reddish-brown fur on its back and slightly lighter coloured fur on its belly. It has a short snout and a high 'domed' head with short round ears. The wing membranes attach to the ankle. The last bone of the third finger is much longer than the other finger-bones giving the "bent wing" appearance. It weighs up to 20 grams, has a head and body length of about 6 cm and a wingspan of 30 - 35 cm. See the threatened species section of the OEH website.

Eastern Bentwing-bats occur along the east and north-west coasts of Australia. Colonies can number from 100 to 150,000 bats.

So small, in the caves, they move lightning fast, so that visitors often don’t even see them. Movement might be detected ‘out of the corner of the eye’. But in the split second that it takes to look, the bat has vanished.

2 Comments (Reply)
Jill Rowling (Reply)
Good on you, Felicite! We have bats in the farm house ceiling, and one got inside once. The silly thing tried to roost on my nose! We counted seven bats in their evening flight coming from the verandah ceiling last weekend. Cheers, Jill.
Margie Lowe (Reply)
Yay Felicity - great stor.y Hello from Margie (long time no see!) Cheers
4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911

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