Kaatscast: the Catskills' premier podcast!
June 23, 2020

The Quarry Fox: and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills

The Quarry Fox: and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills

In The Quarry Fox, Leslie T. Sharpe chronicles the seasons and the vibrant wildlife of a landscape she cherishes, offering her keen insights in an engaging narrative that celebrates the splendor of the natural world. From crafty foxes and hibernating bears to vulnerable monarch butterflies, The Quarry Fox explores the creatures of the Great Western Catskills in loving, lyrical detail.

Heir to John Burroughs, who tramped through these mountains more than a hundred years before her, Sharpe revisits the meadows, creeks, and bobcat dens, and invites us to come along for the trek.

The Quarry Fox is now an audiobook, published by Silver Hollow Audio and available wherever audiobooks are found. In this episode, we present chapter 4: "Natural Beauties." Enjoy!

Thanks to the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce for their support of this podcast. 

--- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/kaatscast/support

Transcript

Welcome to cats cast, a biweekly podcast delivering interviews, arts, culture and history from New York's Catskill Mountains. This week, a chapter from the new audio book edition of the quarry Fox and other critters have the wild cat skills Written and Narrated by Leslie t sharp from crafty foxes and hibernating bears to vulnerable monarch butterflies. The quarry Fox explores the creatures of the Great Western Catskills in loving, lyrical detail, heir to john Burrows, who tramped through these mountains more than 100 years before her sharp revisits the meadows, creeks and Bobcat, dens, and invites us to come along for the trek. Following is chapter four from the book titled natural beauties. You can hear the quarry Fox wherever audio books are sold, or requested from your local library. Thank you to our sponsor, the central Catskills, Chamber of Commerce, providing services to businesses, community organizations and local governments in the central Catskills region. Follow the central Catskills Chamber of Commerce on Facebook and sign up for a weekly email of local events at Central catskills.com. And now from the quarry Fox and other critters of the wild Catskills the chapter natural beauties narrated by the author Leslie t sharp. CHAPTER FOUR natural beauties for Lauren Isley. Finally, it was warm an evening in early June, the fireflies had begun to rise in the meadows, twinkling in the high grass, signaling their desire I could hear through the window opened at last after a chilly spring, the plunking of green frogs at the pond, and though their chorus had diminished as summer approached, the insistent whistling of spring peepers, stalwart suitors reluctant to cease their courtship song. The night air was redolent with the sweet, delicate fragrance of wild rose, my thorny adversary tough and recalcitrant suddenly turned to cereal. It's white blossoms covering the mountain like a spring snowstorm jetlag even the harsh stone and Catskills stepping outside shortly after midnight to answer the insistent calling of a barred owl I noticed how malls were circling the security light perched on a metal pole set several yards from the house. I had been advised when I first moved to the mountain to keep a light on at night to deter critters from climbing onto the back deck. The black bears had behaved but porcupines especially had not been deterred, routinely gnawing on the wooden decking, causing several boards to be replaced. Opening the back door One morning, I had discovered a young porcupine small enough to curl up on the core mat, where it had fallen asleep, which I gently rousted with a broom. I was mesmerized by the moths swirling in the Milky vaporous light. At the edges of the luminous Halo dark shadows appeared bats, nemesis of night flying insects hunting prey. Suddenly, they plunged into the light scattering the Maus with despite the onslaught would not abandon the glowing circle. The bats were also drawn to the porch lights. on summer mornings, I often found shards of moss, fragments of wings mostly on both decks. The bats I quickly learned would devour the moths succulent body but leave behind their pesky appendages. The porch lights have their own ecosystem. The lights attract more than in turn, they're predators, the spiders that spin their messy webs waiting for the moths to a light and the bats, which feast on the insects that assemble there. I felt no remorse for the Maus such drab insects small and flitting in barely distinguishable shades of brown and gray, many of them notorious pests, at least in their voracious larval form caterpillar's the night flying adults mostly go unnoticed, and those that settle on screens on a summer night seeking light are usually ignored except by cats, which know them as the fascinating creatures they are. Cats are the ideal naturalists, patient, persistent, ever watchful. their powers of observation are unsurpassed. My own cats, a tri colored Calico and a pearly grey alert me to the comings and goings of critters, especially birds the lighting on the deck rail gravy fly catcher twitching her tail. Young Robins newly fledged sitting in a row fuzzy and speckled solem after taking their first flight, the cat's chatter their staccato hunting call indignant and being ignored by their prey. There are other nosy visitors, grey squirrels, chipmunks, and white footed mice which tantalized the cats coming so close, peering at them through the windows. By little red squirrel with its devilish ear toughs brash and irreverent seems to enjoy mocking them, racing up and down the front deck, leading the housebound felines on a few tile Chase. If a moth manages to slip in, they pursue it recklessly leaping into the air clattering over tables, knocking everything off until I managed to corral the hapless insect and escorted outside the Calico who was also the clown, stubby and graceless, though very sweet, often finds herself in need of rescuing from her misadventures. It wasn't the first time I would find her hanging by her claws from the screen door. When I came in that night. After watching the Maus and bats dance, their skittering menuet usually she would cry, unable to extricate herself from the screen, a mournful keening the crescendos into a yow. But this time, when I went to rescue her, she was chattering, her eyes fixed upward and that intense, narrow concentration so characteristic of cats, pointing at her prey. When I saw what she was talking, I stepped back from the front door and gasped. The creature was huge, at least compared to the other moth clinging to the screen, Lord by the porch light. It had two long tails and wide, arcane wings that spanned over four inches. But what captivated me was its color, the tender green of the spring forest, newly leafed, a green that had an odd luminosity, as if it glowed from within, like an egg tempera painting. I reached out to touch the creature through the screen, it fluttered off, disappearing into the darkness. Tinkerbell was my silly, thoroughly unscientific assessment. It was the first time I had ever seen a Luna moth. There are some creatures that are so beautiful, they don't seem real. Their colors are so vibrant. They're marking so crisp, they look painted birds, especially including Catskill summer residents, such as the wood duck, cedar waxwing, and many wood warblers, with their variegated and often spectacular plumage, have captivated artists. From john James Audubon to Roger Tory Peterson to the contemporary master David Allen Sibley, whose finely etched watercolor illustrations convey the delicacy and subtlety as well as the boldness and brightness of their avian subjects. But just as striking, if less well known and certainly under appreciated, are nature's other beauties. insects. Butterflies, of course ever show a get most of the kudos. They are first eminently visible, flying by day, flashing their vivid colors revealing often intricate patterning as they are laid on flowers to suck nectar through their proboscis a long thin feeding tube that is coiled in flight. They're colorful wings catching the sun helps hide them from predators, making them difficult to see among the blooms camouflage that for us is eye catching. Their color may also enable them to identify and communicate with each other, helping butterflies to find a mate. In some species of butterflies color can signal danger. The monarch as regal as its name is colored orange and black colors whose resonance of danger we have inherited in Halloween. A signal for predators such as birds to stay away, they taste awful. The result of the monarch laying its eggs on the noxious milkweed and another species, the smaller viceroy mimics the monarchs coloration. And though not bitter tasting benefits from its bad reputation. The monarch also has romance. It's extraordinary cycle of migration, a fall journey of as much as 3000 miles as monarchs in North America travel from as far away as Canada to roost in sites in California and Mexico, where they overwinter and then returned to breed the following spring. Even butterflies names are Stirring and magical, the monarch and its vassal viceroy, Painted Ladies and red admirals. swallowtails Tigers spicebush and the elegant, formerly attired black swallowtail. Seders and clouded sulphurs question marks commas and the morning cloak, the great spangled for tillery and the diminutive pearl Crescent, which always seems to hatch after a Catskill thunderstorm to name a common few of North America's approximately 750 species, second only to the coleoptera, better known as beetles, the largest order in the animal kingdom 150,000 species of lepidoptera butterflies and mas have been described or formally identified worldwide. Of these only 20,000 are butterflies. The vast majority, some 130,000 species is largely ignored, at least until they plague us moths. To be sure many most deserve our opprobrium, we encounter them often as destructive insects, the larvae in Caterpillar form, feeding on wool sweaters and devouring grain miscreants known as close moss and pantry malls respectively. Their rural cousins, forest tent caterpillars can decimate the leaves of some of our most beautiful and economically important trees in the Catskills, notably, sugar maple, oak, Aspen, apple, alder, el cherry and birch. But far more grievous is the destruction of habitat for which nature has no remediation at human hands. Frequently it is the butterfly especially the monarch, which is the poster bug for this loss. Its host specifically for its larval stage the milkweed. an invasive though fragrant native species whose pinkish blooms are intoxicating and their sweetness is rapidly disappearing. In the dense stands the monarch needs to successfully rear succeeding generations. The monarchs beauty is an arguments for its preservation. It's bright orange wings boldly veins and bordered and black are iconic, as is the monarchs immense journey, a Marvel and mystery of nature, perhaps only equalled by the migration of their fragile Hummingbird wing less than an ounce, which also Braves a treacherous two way trip. traveling from the Catskills and points even further north in Fall two destinations as far south as Central America, then returning home to nest the following spring. Don't there seem to be fewer butterflies this year, is a refrain I often hear in the Catskills. Such anecdotal evidence may well be true, an indication of the impact of pesticides, as well as shrinking wildflower fields on insect populations. But the point is that the butterfly with its vivid colors, fluttering from flower to flower on a sunlit summer day is readily missed. Its loss lamented. Every school child learns that butterflies are not just pretty, but also useful pollinators. So is the moth which like the butterfly appeared on earth 10s of millions of years ago with the advent of flowering plants. Yet this fellow lepidoptera is mostly ignored and stigmatized for the sins of a relative few. And butterfly larvae, though not as notorious are just as gluttonous as their moth Brethren, such as the prejudice of beauty, how that biases us, which I am the first to admit I share. It wasn't until my encounter with actus Luna, the Luna moth, that I considered mods is anything more than pray. A favorite fare of bats and birds, spiders and praying mantises, amphibians, such as frogs, toads, and salamanders, and the terrestrial mammals too. I often watch with clinical detachment as skunks plucked moths off of the lower part of the light pole, where they had landed. The possum shy and slow would also visit braving the brightness of the security light to scrounge a snack, as well as the clever raccoons, which scooped up their quarry with agile hands. That most were so vulnerable didn't concern me until I glanced out the window later that night, and spotted the Luna clinging to the metal pole, keeping company with the smaller mods which surrounded at like quartiers. The Luna moth and native species is not considered rare in its North American range, though it is elusive flying after midnight its lifespan barely a week in the Catskills, I have observed only a single generation of Luna mas emerging from their cocoons to fly in June when it is finally warm. If a Luna moth lands on your hand that's good luck one Catskill old timer told me don't see him around too much here though. I watched for a while willing the lunar to fly off the pole as the bats shapeshifted ominously through the circle of light. It just made me that something so beautiful should be pray. Even though I knew how ridiculous how utterly irrelevant that notion was. nature's beauty if it acknowledged it, is in the adaptations that contrives for critters to survive and successfully reproduce. It plays no favorites. The daddy moth, as commonly seen as the loon is rarely cited, is just as useful as pollinator and prey, both from nature's perspective are far more utilitarian than I am a human, less ecologically significant than a moth. And far less important than an earthworm which admirably discharges its duties crucial to the survival of plants as well as animals, aerating soil, breaking down organic material, and feeding generations of birds, toads, turtles, snakes, insects, mice and other small mammals. And it's castings are waste even make a valuable fertilizer. Surely nature would regard the lowly earthworm unappetizing to our taste and icky in appearance and to the touch, as any child can attest as beautiful, even sublime in both its form and function. But I am swayed by beauty, seduced by its aesthetic, even though I realize how false how subjective a value that is. And as the Luna moth finally flew away, the green of its luminous pistachio wings flickering in the veil of the security light, safe for this night, at least from the bats course desires, I was relieved. I looked for the Luna moth The next night, and several nights after. But that was the only sighting that summer. But in searching for it on the screens, usurping the cat's, whose proper province this was, I gained entry, however, glancing into the secret world of moths, and really saw them for the first time. The mods supposedly predictable in their plainness are also creatures of surprise, the reward from my scrutiny. One night while examining a moth on the screen door, its wingspan some three inches I was startled when it flew off at my touch to see a flash of red, that moth. The sweetheart underwing has modeled tan gray for wings, but its hind wings feature a pinkish orange color. When the moth flies that reveals that reddish shoe, which is meant to disorient predators. Both butterflies and moths have two pairs of wings. But butterflies at rest hold their wings vertically over their body touching, while moths mostly fold their wings flat over each other, so that the four wings obscure part of the hind wings. This variation helps this sweetheart underwing surprise its enemies and escape, and became for me a sort of metaphor for the moth that its beauty is often hidden, especially the beauty of its adaptations. The Virgin Tiger Moth, also a nightly visitor, it's four wings black, feigned in yellow is striking. But it is the moth deep pink hind wings when exposed that act as a diversion. The most bright color is also a signal of its dis tastefulness. A reminder for birds not to come back for seconds. If I had met the Rosie Maple moth before the Luna, it might have been the one to attract me. Though not as imposing in size. The wingspan at most is about two inches. It is a startlingly pretty moth with its fluffy, vivid yellow body and pink for wings, which also feature a triangular yellow band across the middle. It's bright colors make them more visible and therefore vulnerable, as seemingly strange adaptation. The conventional wisdom is that these are warning colors, indicating that the moth is distasteful, though several birds including Blue Jays chickadees and tufted titmice are known to eat them. naturalist Jim McCormick sees an additional slice or purpose for what he calls this colorful camouflage. Rosy Maple caterpillar's primarily eat maple leaves and as an adult are often found in close proximity to these trees. This moth I noted, looked much as red Maple Leafs can look and fall with their variegated color palette. And indeed the red maple is a favorite host. McCormack observes that the moth when placed among red maple Samaras, the helicopter like fruits of the red maple tree, which are colored pink, green and yellow, a stage that reaches just as rosy Maple monster hatching is virtually invisible, providing safe roosts for the rosy Maple during the day. As brightly colored as the rosy Maple is the Pandora's Sphinx moth is cryptic, subdued. When I first saw a Pandora Sphinx, I thought it was a dead leaf that had blown onto the windows screen. It's patchy greenish gray coloration in hues ranging from olive drab to Hunter is persuasive camouflage, a moth wearing army fatigues and its elongated notched wings, which can span four inches reminded me of oak leaves in autumn curled and dry, which makes it easy for a predator to overlook mistaking it for litter. flying at night, many malls wear suits and shades of grey and brown, allowing them to melt into the darkness and evade their enemies. Such sombre hues can also help malls retain their body heat, keeping them warm. These discoveries were made at night, but as I would learn a good time to moth is during the day, I became aware of Maus clinging to door jams, hiding beneath deck rails, secreting themselves in small dark spaces sleeping away the day a universe of critters I had never noticed. They would only Rouse themselves if the sun found them, and then they would fly off to find a new shade shelter. Their muted colors I realized also serve them well in the daylight, helping them land not only into manmade surfaces, but also on tree bark and branches. But often the moss would hide in plain sight advantage out of the glare of the sun their only criterion for selecting a resting place. Even so, I was stunned when I saw it. a puddle of brown pooling and a corner of the back deck. The morning sun had not yet breached and I felt a free salt of fear. There is something so visceral in our immediate response to strange insects. Anyone who has ever chased a butterfly knows what a futile task that is. Just as you'd come close, it flutters off and the lights on a flower out of reach. Butterflies seem to have a sixth sense about humans, who was adversaries are far less nimble than birds and dragon flies among the swiftest most agile of insects. As we Bumble along in pursuit, butterflies ever vigilant surveyors with third to large compound eyes, which are composed of hundreds of lenses, each in itself a tiny eye, each seeing an image that when taken together, make some Mosaic, a virtual wide angle composite picture of its world. Butterfly eyes are adapted for color vision to see in bright light, so they can spot not only their own species, but also flowers whose nectar they covet. Whereas the compound dies of Maus, which are dark, to absorb as much light as possible, are better suited to see at night. Mas are ineffably drawn to light as well, as it is believed they fly by orienting themselves to the moon and stars, an infatuation that accounts for their passionate embrace of outdoor lighting. Whether confused by artificial light, or perhaps dozing off, deciding it is de mas are easier to approach, fleeing only the rude curiosity of cats. during daylight hours, they're even more amenable, falling into a deep slumber, which is why a clever hiding place is key to their survival. This particular moth though hiding in plain sight, was in deep shade, its wings and body which partly under two deck posts, which made it a difficult target. It's chocolate wings, which spanned over six inches could have been a splash of mud on the decks. Deep Russet stain, I knew instinctively that it was special and probably rare. And while the Luna would become the anticipated companion of warm June nights, it's loping flight and green iridescence. Summer's finest gift. This sighting would be the first and only time I would a glimpse The cecropia the largest moth in North America, majestic regal even are the words that come to mind when gazing at the cecropia so it is fitting that it's named arise from see crops, the legendary king of ancient Athens. On closer inspection of the sleeping cecropia I saw that it's rich brown wings had a grayish cast flecked and white, which gave the moth a frosted appearance. The cecropia lying in the shadows on the dark deck was well disguised. But the moth tension in gray, but also blend into rocky surfaces disappearing into the brackish colors of a Catskills bluestone Boulder, the wings, both for wings and hind wings, for bisected by a rusty red stripe edged in white. The body I saw was also red with white bands, and the areas adjacent to the abdomen were read as well read a warning color in nature would serve to startle an adversary when the cecropia took flight. These colors, brown and gray and flashing red, I had observed in other moths strategies to help them hide and evade their enemies. But the cecropia also featured prominent dark spots at the tip of each lavender hewed for wing eye spots are rosselli, an ingenious device of some butterflies and Mars to divert a predators attention away from its body, and that may also aid in mate identification. This explains why we often see lepidoptera with ragged wings, which at least in part can be sacrificed while the body cannot. There were also several smaller dark spots hemming the forewings more discreet, but still diversionary targets. The cecropia is a big handsome, brawny moth, without the delicacy and lightness of the Luna inform as well as color, but they do share a striking characteristic. Each has on both pair of wings, other small eye spots, which are almost transparent. The cecropia is especially our crescent shaped windows of red with a whitish center. The cheli of the Lunas four wings are also crescents, while on the hind wing circles contain what appear to be quarter moons. For both these eyespot serve a familiar purpose to startle predators as the moth makes its escape. But this particular markings also indicate that both malls belong to the same family, the sad turbidity, which gets its name from the fact that several of its members, including the Luna, and the cecropia feature I spots that contain concentric rings that are reminiscent of the planet Saturn. The giant silk mods, which the US Attorney's include are the largest malls in North America, as well as some of the most brightly colored though some members of the family are relatively small, such as the Rosie Maple moth, despite their impressive size, and that in itself may be a deterrent to predators. The cecropia and the Luna are not dreaded pests, they simply are not abundant enough as caterpillar's to defoliate the trees that hosts them. As is true of all Saturn IDs, the adults do not eat, drawing sustenance from food stored when the mosses were in their larval stage, and they have only vestigial mouthparts, which accounts for their lifespan of only a week or two spent seeking a mate. That is their sole reason for being the reproduction of species. Their extraordinary beauty from our perspective, is a byproduct of nature's adaptive purposes. Even the delicate feathery feelers that distinguish many moles from butterflies are used to help locate a mate. The female releases pheromones that her suitors flying in the dark can catch using their antennae, even several miles away. The Saturn is lack temprana they do not hear, which is not characteristic of all moss, many of which use their hearing as a defense, a warning of a predators approach, which explains why in succeeding years, I would often spot Lunas at night flying close to the ground, or even resting in the grass. My first response was to rush outside with my flashlight to see if the moth was injured, which it didn't seem to be stubbornly refusing my well meaning but misguided urgings for it to fly. The Luna was contend to stay there and I couldn't figure out why. This made the moth to my conventional on lepidoptera and way of thinking more defenseless. But as I would learn this was also a strategy to counter predators. Especially its nemesis, the bat. The Luna can't hear the bat, which squeaks is at hunts using echolocation, a kind of natural sonar in which bats emit cries then listen to their echoes, which enabled them to locate flying insects. If the loon isn't flying the bat, which does not depend on its eyesight to hunt, cannot locate it is readily. Contrary to myth. Bats aren't blind, but their sonar gives them an edge in total darkness. My assumptions had been countered once again by nature's common sense, its elegant strategies for survival, seeking balance between predator and prey. Another mystery of ponder is the Lunas coloration. Its singular green, certainly unusual in the fashion world of Maus, which mostly dress conservatively, depending on bold accents to add color in its larval stage, this green makes sense as a caterpillar. The Loon is the same pale green is its parent, the color serving as camouflage as a diamonds on the tender new leaves of red maple, beech and birch and black walnut. Some of the local trees it favors as it prepares to pupate, and in the Catskills chilly climate over winner. After a single generation in June, at least that I have observed, the caterpillar turns brown falls to the ground, where it wraps itself in a cocoon of its own silk, incorporating a leaf in his disguise, then hides in the litter of the forest floor, where it will emerge as a moth when the weather warms. But what purpose could the adult Lunas shimmering green serve when it exposed the moth to danger? flying at night and especially during the day? The answer to the latter question was answered during a June walk. When I almost stepped on a lunar moth which flooded up at my approaching footfall. The Sleeping Luna choosing the lush spring grass to nappin was virtually invisible. The answer to the former question, how does this color serve the Luna at night is perhaps that it isn't meant to. As I would discover, my sighting of the Luna was an accident caused by my intrusion into the moss world. The bright glaring lights the Lord away from the enveloping darkness and the relative safety of its Vantage, resting or flying low to the ground. The Lunas and the Saturn is especially our bit dazzled by light. It is a romance that distracts the lunar from mating and in the case of the female from laying eggs. The fact that it is so short lived, surviving about a week as an adult, assuming it evades predation makes it startling, even more dangerous, mad in pursuit of light Lunas lose time from their test and can even injure themselves, beating their wings against a light source. ferreting The Loon out of the shadows light can also make it more vulnerable, especially to the attention of its most faithful admirer, the bat. I turned the security light off once June arrives, leaving only the front door light on my antidote to the darkness that descends on the mountain, dense with the unknown, full of strange rustling sounds, and even those that I can identify the yuping of coyotes seem to close. There is still a risk in this at least for the Lunas, opening the front door an early morning I have found more often that I would like to pale green tales lying on the deck as well as the shattered remnants of green wings. Sometimes that is how I know the Lunas have arrived. By finding one sacrificed in this way. I assume the lights on the screen door and transfixed is an easy target for an enterprising bat, which devours the Lunas luscious body. Its tails, which the bat rejects are key to the Lunas inflight defense, a crafty piece of its adaptive puzzle. A long held belief is that the Lunas long streaming tales divert attention away from its body much as eyespots to though in the case of the bat, which is not primarily a visual Hunter, this would not deter it. biologist Jesse R. Barbara and his colleagues at Boise State University have conducted experiments explaining exactly how this works. The Lunas tails are in fact auditory deflectors that confuse the bat sonar. The spinning hind wing tails of Luna Moore's Law eco locating bat attacks to these non essential appendages in over half a bat moth interactions. In essence, the tails provide an anti bad strategy Designed to divert bat attacks, Barbara posits, though I am disquieted when I find the remnants of my favorite moth aluna. These days I'm also comforted, even reassured, it means I have a bat, at least one still living on the mountain. When I first came to the Catskills in 2002, bats were among the most vibrant constituents of the ecosystem. I would see them at dusk as the weather warmed, pursuing insects overhead their flight jagad skittering my evenings were filled with bats. If I ventured outside at night, they would swoop down flying low enough for me to hear the rasp of their leathery wings. New York is home to at least nine bat species six, including the most common are cave bats, which overwinter here the other three tree bats are migratory. of the cave bats. The most populous and familiar is the little brown, whose body length is a mere two inches with a wingspan of eight to nine inches. It was this bat that popped up behind the shutter as I was powerwashing the house one warm afternoon. First, a hook like thumb appeared than another, followed by a dark brown Gremlins face featuring funnel shaped ears appointed snout and tiny sharp teeth. The Bat looked at me blinked a tuft of soapsuds topping it's fuzzy head. I had awakened this critter washing it out of it's afternoon roost. The Bat flew off into the woods, leaving a haven that had been carefully chosen for its western exposure facing the afternoon sun to keep it warm. I would as penance erect a bed bakbox on a nearby tree, painted black to retain heat and facing west as a summer roost for the little browns, which winter in caves and mines where they hibernate, but seek out the crevices of trees, rocks and houses too and summer. It was soon tenanted by a small colony of about 10 bats, and I would be spellbound, watching them fly out of it at dusk to hunt, then return to dawn to sleep away the day. That's a warm blooded, the only mammals to truly fly, featuring a thumb and four fingers on each wing, with a bone structure recalling the human hand, which they use to cling to trees and walls. Still, there is something so primordial about them as much myth and legend as reality, living shadows of the night. But the bad house has been empty for years now. Starting in 2006, the number of bats in the Catskills began to decline. A mysterious disease known as white nose syndrome, which has been identified as a fungus revealing itself as a white residue on the muzzle and wings of afflicted bats has devastated hibernating bat populations. Nearly 6 million bats have perished since white nose was discovered in an upstate New York cave, perhaps the result of a foreign organism tracked in by cavers. But it is the little browns, my tenants and neighbors that have suffered the most, losing by some estimates 80% of their population. this epidemic affecting numerous k bat species, according to the Center for Biological Diversity is the worst wildlife disease outbreak in North American history. And despite ongoing efforts to find a definitive cause and cure shows no sign of slowing down. Bats are crucial insect divorce easily the most overlooked for their economic value to humans wild critters. It is estimated that one little brown bat can eat up to 600 mosquitoes in an hour. This is a boon to humans, especially in an era of deadly mosquito borne illnesses, including the West Nile virus, and Eastern equine encephalitis. Bats also act as a critical control by gobbling up insects that eat or damaged crops. Researchers estimate the value of pest control services provided by bats in the US alone range from a low of $3.7 billion to a high of $53 billion a year. Their loss if white nose continues to spread will doubtless have severe and lasting impacts on ecological systems as well as agriculture. That's also as insect eaters save the environment further degradation by lessening the application of pesticides for exactly this purpose. extinction as a concept seems, theory radical and remote until you realize with a jolt that the creatures around you are disappearing. The little brown bat is on the verge of extinction in the Catskills and the entire northeast. The loss of the bats would be like the loss of the night itself. The theatres, I'd forgotten to bring them in. The thistle seed feeders were the only ones I hung in summer for the gold finches, which regurgitate this seed to feed their young. Most other critters, even birds as tooth this will seed as distasteful. But there was one black bear a young female that had taken a liking to it. And having lost too many feeders to her bear brethren, I decided to fetch them, even though it was well after midnight on the mountain. The back porch light was bright lighting my way. I hadn't found bits of loon is left by the bats by this light, which was why I had started leaving it on. But heading up the deck steps, I was startled to see a Luna moth caught in a spiderweb woven by a clever arachnid to trap insects attracted to the light. I put down the feeders seeing that the moth was still alive. delicately I removed it from the web. Holding the loon in my hand, I saw strands of the web were stuck to its wings, which I had to remove, so that the moth could fly. Drawing a deep breath anxious that I might tear the delicate wings. I painstakingly peeled off the remnants of the sticky web. The operation was a success, and I opened my fingers so that it could fly. But the Lunas stayed in my hand, and I could see every intricate marking so clearly, including the purplish border that edge it's four wings, a stunning complement to its iridescent green. The moth seemed content in the glow of the porch light, which spilled over the steps where I was sitting, perhaps to it was comforted by the warmth of my hand. I knew I should shoo it away. Go back inside, turn off the light and let the Luna do its urgent work this warm June evening, but for just a few minutes more. I want her to sit there with the moth to feel the lightness of the Lunas being its weight no more than a breath to hold beauty in my hand. That was chapter four from the quarry Fox and other critters of the wild Catskills available now at silver hollow audio.com. And wherever audio books are found. Cats cast is a production of silver Hello audio. Please don't forget to subscribe, and we'll see you again in two weeks. I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai