The tour started at 8:30pm on the steps of the museum, under the statue of Teddy Roosevelt. (As an added fashion and sports treat, since the museum was hosting the World Cup Soccer Gala that evening, we made friends with the paparazzi and critiqued the handsome players' outfits and their escorts' gowns. But we digress...)
We were first given an overview of the history and terrain of Central Park (a totally man-made park specifically designed by Frederick Law Olmstead to look "natural") and its flora and fauna. Originally, sheep (hence "Sheep Meadow") inhabited the park, but its current denizens include raccoons, opossums, squirrels, chipmunks, turtles, hawks, egrets, owls and occasional feral cats and insects (something like 20 species of butterflies and 100 species of moths, but don't quote us). There are three species of bats in Central Park: small brown bats, large brown bats and red bats. (Those are both formal names and descriptors.)
At about 8:50 PM, armed with our trusty flashlights and two of the museum's battery-operated bat sensors, our merry little band headed off into the park. Ages ranged from 5 to about 70. (And no, kiddies, we were NOT the oldest. No jokes about old bats out hunting for old bats - or for young bats!) We'd barely entered the park before encountering our first wild animal (hit with the glare of our flashlights at the first rustling): a large, lazy raccoon rummaging for a snack. As we had bigger fish to fry, we soon moved on. We sat on a rock at the edge of Central Park Lake for about 45 minutes and, in between a question and answer session, tried to listen to the bat sensors click in response to bats' ultra-high frequency calls. (Note to the file: Next time, dress more sensibly and bring something soft to sit on!)
Valerie is wearing a cap of white perforated leather by Antoinette, gray nylon vest by Final Home, printed tee shirt by H&M, vintage Issey Miyake leather, metal and elastic belt, cotton and acrylic resin pants with drawstring knees by Oska, and her perennial favorite comfortable shoes - nubuck flats by Arche.
Jean is wearing a DKNY knit jacket, Calvin Klein t-shirt, Urban Outfitters harem pants, Titan nylon skull cap with Art Deco Bakelite domino pin, Ice Pirates watch, charm necklace (with idiosyncratic charms of her choice), white Bakelite chain necklace (from the Brooklyn Bridge flea market), Lounge Fly bag and Gucci glasses.
On a more serious note, our host and hostess suggested that one of the reasons they did not get the number of bat sightings they expected might have to do with white nose syndrome, a fungus which has wiped out whole colonies of northeast bat population who hibernate in caves. As bats play a major role in controlling insect populations, their loss is very threatening to the balance of nature. Scientists have not yet learned the source of white nose syndrome, or how to combat it. Anyone interested in finding out more, or making a donation, is encouraged to visit the Bat Conservation International website.