Are Bats Food for Pterodactyls in Los Angeles?

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Aug 042012

Insect-eating bats in Los Angeles County are common. I remember watching them dart over my head, after sunset, when I was a youth in Pasadena, California. I no longer watch for bats at night, although one of the furry little creatures recently seems to have turned up in a photo recorded by my game camera. I now watch for a pterodactyl in Lakewood.

I recently set up a game camera over a storm channel near where an apparent ropen (a modern pterosaur) was seen clearly in daylight. I believe the flying creature is nocturnal, like most ropens. But I have not yet gotten a photo of a ropen. I have seen a number of photos in which a blur is seen flying nearly parallel to the storm channel; at first, I thought they were large insect-eating bats, possibly the Big Brown Bat, but today I noticed that those blurs are part of a cloud of dust raised by the family dog that sometimes runs along the fence where the game camera is set up. Nevertheless, I have found one photo that may show a bat in flight.

blur (top) may be bat diving after insects in Lakewood, CA, July, 2012

The blur at the top of photo is probably not a bat, for it is too indistinct and floats to the left in subsequent photos over the next 0.4 seconds (I now believe it is a dust particle). I believe that the two tiny rods are insects, but the apparent orientation of the blur (seeming to fly toward the insects) is coincidental. I admit my mistake in my original interpretation of the above photo, but the investigation continues.

The long vertical objects on the left of the frame are vines growing on the east wall, down into the channel, similar to the vines on the right. At the bottom, the union of the east wall and channel floor shows channel direction (lower left to upper right).

strange photograph of a possible bat in Lakewood, CA

The long object on the left of the above IR-night photo might be interpreted as a flying insect close to the camera lens. The problem with that interpretation is that the light reflected from the strange object is similar in intensity to the light reflected from the vines in the middle of the frame, which are over thirty feet away from the camera. An insect close enough to make that large of an image would have had to have been much closer, and therefore should have been brighter than the leaves of those vines. In addition, a closer look at this long object shows no evidence of insect wing-flapping, at least from what I have seen.

image-processed photo - infrared night recording of an apparent bat in Lakewood

The above image I processed in three small places:

  1. apparent left ear of the apparent bat
  2. apparent right ear
  3. apparent leading edge of the right wing

(To see more detail, click on this photo and then click again on the left side, getting a second magnification.)

I greatly increased both contrast and lightening to those three small parts of the photo, so my own bat-head interpretation may have introduced a bias in this processed image. I know that the body of the apparent bat appears too long, but what else could this object be?

Do Pterodactyls eat Bats?

Of course, none of the above is evidence that “pterodactyls” (pterosaurs) prey upon bats in Lakewood, California. The general concept that modern pterosaurs prey upon bats is found in other locations and is still circumstantial. A ropen flying at night through a storm channel in Los Angeles County might be chasing after a rat or baby possum when it flies right past a bat. But we need to keep an open mind to whatever we find in future game-camera photos and future security video recordings.

Do Pterosaurs Really Live in Los Angeles County?

During my teenaged years in Pasadena, when I enjoyed watching small bats at night, my younger sister had a friend, Dianne. She told my sister about the big “pterodactyl” she had seen flying around the mountains north of Pasadena. I don’t offer that as evidence that pterosaurs eat bats, but as evidence for the following: The more people talk about reports of living pterosaurs, the more additional eyewitness accounts come to light, and the more likely that people will share their own encounters. Some of those encounters have been in Los Angeles County.

Modern Pterosaur in California

. . . she remembered something that happened at night, about a year earlier. She saw something fly through the storm canal, and she heard the dogs barking, one after another, as the creature must have been flying past the backyards . . .

Lakewood, California, Flying Predator

An apparent ropen was seen by a 38-year-old lady in her backyard, in Lakewood, California, on June 19, 2012, at about noon. She at first estimated the wingspan . . . at least six feet. The tail was long, perhaps four feet long, and the end of the tail had a triangular appearance that caused the lady to think “dragon.”

Mar 112010

I’ve never been to Marfa, Texas, where dancing ghost lights have intrigued residents and visitors on countless nights for countless years; what causes the strange lights has defied logical explanation. But I have spoken with an eyewitnesses, Ed Hendricks, who for years has carefully investigated the lights. I appreciate his intense struggle to unravel a mystery that seems to defy unraveling; I respect his skill, talent, and educational qualifications; I acknowledge his careful observations, recorded in detail and shared. Nevertheless, I suggest something rarely, if ever, mentioned to explain Marfa Lights, perhaps as shocking as ball lightning or as eerie as dancing demons: a species of large flying creatures, intrinsically bioluminescent.

The puzzle cries for a solution; Mr. Hendricks and I agree. I respectfully disagree with his general assumption (something like an atmostpheric phenomenon, non-living). I credit him for his work, but credit the Marfa Lights to the flights of cryptids, notwithstanding they differ from flights of birds and bats. Why do they seem, at times, to dance? Why do two lights fly apart, then turn and fly back together? The dance sometimes appears complex but the purpose is simple. It’s just their technique: a way to catch bats.

Whatever the bioluminescent creatures are that make those lights, they may be the only ones who have worked harder in this area than Mr. Hendricks, with one possible exception. And just as this human researcher spends much time (pondering and writing) away from those fields just south of Marfa, the cryptid spends much time (searching for bats) away from those fields. Hendricks and others have tried to find what causes those lights, but bats flying just south of Marfa (and elsewhere) may try even harder to not be found by those lights.

But how could a flying creature glow, and so brightly? Even though the lights are sometimes described with the word “fireflies,” those who have observed the dancing of Marfa Lights (true Marfa Lights, not car headlights; cars never dance) sense a power, a size, a speed that dwarfs any insect. To catch just a tail feather of an answer to that question, let’s leave Texas and fly, first to Australia and then to Tennessee.

Come with me to Victoria, Australia, along Salisbury Road in Mt. Macedon. Notice, as we enter an open window, that Mr. Fred Silcock is sleeping in the easy chair by the fireplace. Now search for a thin brown book on the bookshelf. That’s the one; the spine says “The Min Min Light  F.F. Silcock”. Notice the drawing of a glowing barn owl on the cover.

Turn to page 12, under the heading “Min Min Intelligence,” and read the words of two observers of strange flying lights: “It definitely knows you’re there. I found it would not let us any closer than it wanted us . . . They are very playful, like a bunch of puppies chasing one another all over the place, going out and hopping up in another place. They can move pretty fast but most times move slowly, hovering and floating.”

Turn to page 45, under the heading “The Common Denominator,” and read the first paragraph. A Silcock Min Min (my own label, and not to be confused with other light-phenomena labeled “Min Min” in Australia) flies with ease, sometimes against the wind. It appears to fly with intelligence, sometimes interacting with one or more other Min Mins, and this interaction can appear playful. This paragraph makes it clear that these mysterious lights in Australia behave like birds. But what birds fly around at night, glowing?

Reading further we learn that there is nothing unscientific about the possibility of a self-luminous bird, although it’s a study not yet undertaken by universities, examining live or dead birds to test the Silcock hypothesis. But the book quotes many eyewitnesses who report finding the source for the Min Min glow: the “great owl” (called “barn owl” in the United States). It is Tyto Alba, found in many countries worldwide.

The book mentions an observation by William Wharton, of Queensland. One night he saw a bright light on the diving board of his swimming pool. As insects flew around the light, it began to fade until Wharton could see a glowing bird that was picking at insects that had landed on the board. The book mentions many eyewitness reports that make it obvious that some barn owls, sometimes, emit a glow, and that glow can help them catch insects. Of course that would explain why the underside feathers of barn owls are white: to allow light to pass through. Of course that would explain the bobbing, weaving motion of Min Mins; that is how barn owls fly at night while hunting. Mr. Silcock makes many points for a bioluminescent Tyto Alba.

Now let’s fly back to the United States, to Chapel Hill, Tennessee. Notice the railroad tracks, barely visible in the moonlight. Look down those tracks. A faint glow appears bobbing just to the left of the tracks; now it bobs over to the right. It looks like someone is approaching with a lantern, searching back and forth, but searching for what? Could this light be the lantern held by the man who was hit by a train long ago? According to the story, he was decapitated and his ghost still searches for the head.

But the ghost story of a headless man searching for his head sounds like the story of the Bingham Lights of South Carolina and the Maco Lights of North Carolina and the Gurdon Light of Arkansas and . . . well, headless ghosts searching endlessly for their heads, especially down railroad lines—those stories seem endless. But with a little knowledge of the bobbing, weaving Min Min of Australia, only a little brain power can enlighten us: Australians describe the same thing.

Why would a glowing barn owl fly down railroad tracks at night? If it hungered only for insects, it would sit and gobble them up. For a nocturnal rodent, how far is it exposed while crossing railroad tracks? Too far to be comfortable in daylight. But in the dark of night, why worry? Take your time. A midnight snack, for a rat, can be easy to find; humans throw trash near the tracks. Dine where you find it . . . until . . . oops.

Can a nocturnal rat out-think a human? To us, it seems stupid to sit on railroad tracks, eating garbage while a light approaches. But then no rat ever born has screamed and run away from a headless ghost. No, moving lights (in a world with so many humans) should not appear dangerous to a rat, for glowing barn owls appear to be rare, or they rarely glow. And it takes no genius of an owl, glowing or not, to fly down railroad tracks at night. I think that at least a few bioluminescent barn owls live in the United States (glowing for whatever reasons), and they account for many ghost lights. But what about the Marfa Lights?

The dance patterns of Marfa Lights resemble no flock of hunting barn owls. No, our old friend Tyto Alba cannot compete here and it dare not try. But it has illuminated part of the answer to the puzzle. The predators of Southern Texas show greater intelligence than most birds and some of them may be larger than any owl. This cryptid may be related to the ropen of Papua New Guinea (another nocturnal glowing flyer). If so, it will make a story more extraordinary than any headless ghost. Eyewitnesses describe the ropen like a giant long-tailed pterosaur.