10/30/10 – Annual bat census to CarrollPassage

Trip date:  30 Oct 2010
Project manager:  Bill Gee
Trip purpose:  Bat census
Areas of Cave visited:  CarrollPassage
Trip participants:  Bill Gee, Andy Isbell, Ryan Frey, Lori Schultz, Beth Drury
Entry Time:  9:30am
Exit Time:  7:30pm
The trip report:  This is the annual bat census trip from the Ladder to the Mountain Room.  We have done this trip for about the last six years to see what creatures – especially bats – are in this section of the cave.  We also photograph the guano gauges to see how much activity they have received over the year.

Everyone was at the schoolhouse before 9:00 am.  We went up the hill in two trucks, geared up and were heading down the shaft by 9:30.  The trip to the Water Barrier went quickly, and by 10:15 we were through.  The first task was to stop at a riffle and count isopods.  We also placed a set of five tiles at this riffle.

The isopod count was very low, and I realized later we had counted the wrong riffle.  The correct riffle is another hundred feet downstream.  The water level at the correct riffle was too low to place tiles, so we made a decision to change our standard site to the new location.  Although the total count of isopods was low, we saw the largest isopod I have ever seen.  It was 20mm long.

After that we stopped at one of Andy’s favorite places.  The area around guano piles one, two and three has a surprising amount of life.  Piles one and two are pretty much inactive, but pile 3 which sits right in a bend in the stream gets some activity.  There is no guano gauge in pile three because it got washed away in a flood a few years ago.  We noticed evidence of fresh guano along the wall ledges right at the stream bend.

In the stream we found at least five cave fish within about a 30 foot stretch.  There were also several grotto salamnders.  One was a full-grown adult along with a juvenile and a young adult.  The fully grown salamander had completely lost its pigment while the others were dark to greyish.

Andy looked for and found several spiders.  He also found a dead beetle perhaps 3mm across.  We looked for planaria but did not find any positive specimens.  As usual, the stream surface at this location was covered in gnat wings.

From there we went on to the rest of the guano piles.  At guano pile 15 we found several hundred small brown mounds on the ground.  At first glance they appear to be dead bats.  We did not poke into them looking for bones.  The brown piles were around guano pile 15 which is the most active pile in this part of the cave.  They formed a ring perhaps 2 feet out from the edge of the guano pile.  We did not see any similar mounds around any other guano pile, nor did we see anything like them on the pile itself.

We reached the Lunch Room about 12:15 where we stopped for a candy bar break.  The ceiling waterfall was not flowing.  We saw one cavefish in the stream just as we came into the lunch room.

The bat count starts at the Lunch Room and goes to the Mountain Room.  We observe and note totals for bats, salamanders and anything else we happen to see.  At each reflector we note the totals and then start the count over.

Two unusual things were noted during this part of the trip.  First, from the Paradise Passage entrance downstream for hundreds of feet there was fresh sand in all the bootprints along the stream bank.  We saw fresh sand in many other places too.  Most of the sand was within about 16 or 20 vertical inches of the current stream level.

The second thing we noted was an almost complete lack of bat clusters.  In past years we have seen several small clusters of bats in the area between the 4500 and 3000 foot markers.  This year the only cluster we saw was just a few hundred feet upstream from the Mountain Room.

The stream bed in several places was black with guano.  The areas we saw were not large, typically less than five feet across.  We saw quite a few small guano piles (really just a layer covering the mud) under several dozen small ceiling domes.  These were typically a foot or two across.  We have not counted these in the past, but they are not new.

There is a formation area just downstream from the 6000 foot marker.  This is the area where Rick Hines took the photo which appeared on the cover of the NSS News.  We saw a moderately large column laying tilted in the stream.  The column is about 4 feet long and a foot or so diameter.  It was standing right side up and leaning against the wall on the far side of the stream.  I do not remember seeing this column in past trips.

Just upstream from the 1000 foot marker we found several large animal footprints.  They were 3 to 4 inches across, in the mud right at the edge of the stream.  Between the 3000 and 3500 foot markers we saw some claw marks in the mud which I photographed.  These appeared to be a possum or skunk size animal.

We reached the Mountain Room about 3pm and proceeded to have a hot meal.  After we ate I photographed the guano gauges in the Mountain Room.  We left for the trip back about 4:45 and were at the ladder shortly after 7:00pm.  Everyone geared up and climbed out.  We were out by 7:30 pm.

The original trip plan called for a possible excursion out to the natural entrance to check for bats in the water passage.  Andy was the only one who had a wet suit, so we did not carry out this task.

Tiles:  We placed tiles numbered 26 to 30 in the first riffle downstream of the Water Barrier.  Tile 26 is upstream.  Even number tiles are smooth side up and odd numbers are smooth side down.

Summary of data collected:

Isopod counts and sizes:

1mm – 1
2mm – 1
4mm = 3
5mm = 3
7mm = 2
8mm = 4
10mm – 3
15mm – 1
20mm = 1

Grotto Salamanders at guano pile three – 2 adult, 1 juvenile.  Not measured.
4 spiders
5 cavefish
Beetles on the same rock where spiders are often found.

These guano gauges are between the isopod riffle and the Lunch Room.

Guano gauge 1 = Completely covered, about 7mm depth
Guano gauge 2 = Thin layer of guano, about 50% coverage.
Guano gauge 3 = Lost.  Needs to be replaced.  The pile for this gauge shows some use on one side next to the stream.
Guano gauge 4a = Completely empty
Guano gauge 4b = Completely empty

Guano gauge 5 = Completely clean.
Guano gauge 6 = Two turds.
Guano gauge 7 = Completely clean.
Guano gauge 8 = Two turds.
Guano gauge 11 = Mostly covered, depth about 5mm.

Guano gauge 12a = About 95% covered, depth 5 mm.
Guano gauge 12b = Completely covered.  Depth about 5mm.
Guano gauge 13 = 5 turds.
Guano gauge 14a = 6 turds.
Guano gauge 14b = about 40% covered, thin layer.

Guano gauge 15a = Completely covered, depth over 1.5cm.
Guano gauge 15b = Completely covered, depth over 1.5cm

Guano gauge 16 = Clean.  This gauge is on the side of Carroll River downstream from the 2000 foot marker.

Mountain Room –
Guano Gauge 30 = Completely clean.
Guano gauge 31 = Completely clean.
Guano gauge 32 = Completely clean.
Guano Gauge 33 = Completely clean.

Bat count data:

Lunch room to 6000 feet = 12 bats, 2 salamanders in mud puddles.
6000 to 5000 foot = 42 bats, 1 salamander
5000 to 4500 foot = 31 bats
4500 to 4000 foot = 23 bats
4000 to 3500 foot = 42 bats, 2 salamanders 1 juvenile, 1 adult, 1 surface fish (bass or perch) about 4 inches.
3500 to 3000 foot = 17 bats, claw prints in the mud.
3000 to 2500 foot = 40 bats, 1 salamander, several isopods found at random.
2500 to 2000 foot = 21 bats.
2000 to 1500 foot = 20 bats, 1 adult salamander, lots of guano on the stream bed.
1500 to 1000 foot = 13 bats, 1 salamander
1000 to 500 foot = We did not stop at the 500 foot marker.
1000 to Mountain Room = between 70 and 100 individual bats, plus a cluster of several hundred individuals along a ceiling crack.  3 sculpins in the river.

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