Back by popular demand, South Sound bat researcher Greg Falxa is offering a bat walk along the northwest shores of Capitol Lake at 9 p.m. Friday. All you have to do is meet him on the Deschutes Parkway sidewalk in front of Marathon Park for an evening of close, but not too close, encounters with bats that congregate over the lake at night to feed on insects.
Thousands of bats converge on the lake shortly after the sun sets. Many of the Yuma and little brown bats – they weigh no more than a nickel – arrive like clockwork from a Woodard Bay maternity colony, the largest known colony in the state.
Falxa, who has been studying South Sound bats for more than a decade, was the first to document that the female bats commute 16 miles to 20 miles per night to feed before returning to nurse their pups. Some even make the trip twice a night.
Another steady stream of bats flies to the lake from roosting areas around The Evergreen State College.
Go to a bat walk and Falxa will enthusiastically share with you bits and pieces of bat biology and bat behavior he has gleaned from spending many sleepless summer nights tracking bats electronically and recording their sounds. For instance, the bat journey from Woodard Bay to Capitol Lake and back is the longest commute by these tiny bats ever documented in North America.
The Woodard Bay bats rely on an abandoned trestle at the Woodard Bay Natural Resource Conservation Area to give birth to and nurse their young. Portions of the trestle not used by the bats has been dismantled, but the bats don’t appear too fazed. The last population count was in late May and stood at more than 2,000, which is about par for that time of year, Falxa said.
In addition, crews from the state Department of Natural Resources replaced some of the rotting beams in the roosting area and added some additional crevice habitat before the bats arrived this spring. DNR also built a bat roosting shed at an undisclosed location nearby. One of the hopes is that the bats will eventually prefer that to the remnant trestle.
A noteworthy cultural event takes place from 12:30-3 p.m. Saturday at the state Capital Museum to honor Chief Leschi, the Nisqually tribal leader who was hanged in 1858 for the murder of Washington Territorial militiaman Abram Benton Moses during the Puget Sound War of 1855-56.
Leschi denied the charges and his first trial ended in a hung jury, in part because the judge issued a jury instruction reminding the jurors that killing of combatants during wartime did not rise to the level of a crime. A second highly suspect trial lacked the same instruction and also excluded testimony that placed Leschi somewhere else at the time of Moses’ murder. Leschi was found guilty.
Flash forward to 2004 and a Historical Court of Inquiry presided over by then state Supreme Court Justice Gerry Alexander exonerated Leschi of the murder charge, relying in large part on the jury instruction about enemy combatants from the original trial. Much to the relief of Nisqually tribal members and others, Leschi’s name was cleared.
On Saturday, a canoe paddle once possessed by the revered tribal leader will be placed on display at the museum inside a climate-controlled case. It will be there through Aug. 4, which coincides with the Paddle to Squaxin 2012 Canoe Journey involving more than 130 Pacific Northwest tribes.
“We’re happy to be able to show the paddle during the canoe journey,” said museum manager Susan Rohrer.
Donated to the State Capital Museum in 1943, the paddle is normally stored for safe-keeping at the Washington State Historical Museum in Tacoma. This is a rare opportunity for the public to see this 1850s treasure.
Featured speakers and performers at the free museum event Saturday include Nisqually Tribe Chairwoman Cynthia Iyall, the SQwALI?ABSH canoe family drummers, carver Philip Red Eagle and Salish flutist Garry Stroutsos, among others.
Noted South Sound historian Roger Easton, who died July 2, always said he didn’t want a funeral or memorial service. But that won’t stop family members and friends from gathering in his memory from 6-8 p.m. July 18 at the Jacob Smith House in the Lacey Corporate Center, 4500 Intelco Loop S.E.
Everyone is welcome to attend and share stories and memories of Easton and his many accomplishments on behalf of historic preservation and education in South Sound.
For more information, contact Terri Huntley at 360-352-2967.