HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP, N.J. — A new program of the “Naturally Friends” series will debut at Howell Living History Farm on Friday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. when Mercer County Naturalist Jenn Rogers and Wildlife Center Director Diane Nickerson present “New Jersey’s Bats,” an informational program about New Jersey’s bat species and their important ecological roles.
The evening presentation will be followed up on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 17, with a Bat Box Building Workshop led by MacKenzie Hall, private land biologist for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation, and Ms. Rogers. The Bat Box Workshop is free and open to the public from 1 to 3 p.m. on a walk-in basis, but interested parties are encouraged to call the farm office at 609-737-3299 to reserve a bat box to build. Participants should bring a screw gun to the workshop; there will be a limited number of them to borrow. The completed boxes will be donated to Conserve Wildlife Foundation, which installs them throughout New Jersey. Several will be kept at Howell Farm to encourage the growth of bat populations.
As farmers and other friends of bats know, the reputation that bats have earned is far from the truth. All of New Jersey’s bats are insect eaters and provide immeasurable benefits for our ecosystem. They consume beetles that destroy crops and gypsy moths that damage trees, not to mention terribly annoying mosquitoes. Some species have been found to eat stink bugs. Bats in other countries are important pollinators, and bat guano is considered an excellent fertilizer.
Unfortunately, our bat population is in decline, for many reasons. Bats have lost their roosting sites and habitat as forests disappear. Bat boxes can replace roost sites and have been used for years to supplement their needs. The newest threat to bat species is white nose syndrome (WNS), first found in 2006 near Albany, N.Y. It has since spread to 23 states and was confirmed in New Jersey in 2009. Many thousands of New Jersey’s bats have died from WNS. Governmental agencies, universities and private organizations are working hard to track and better understand WNS.
In addition to the upcoming presentations on bats, the “Naturally Friends” series offered by the Mercer County Park Commission features programs about the birds, insects and wildlife that farmers have relied upon for centuries to maintain essential balances in their barns, crop fields and pastures. The 2014 series will be highlighted by programs on barn owls, barn swallows, bees and beneficial insects.
The Friday, Nov. 15, presentation will take place inside the farm’s heated 19th century barn from 7:30 to 9 p.m. The Sunday, Nov. 17, program will take place in the farm’s Wagon House from 1 to 3 p.m. The programs are free but donations are accepted.
The farm is located on Valley Road, just off Route 29, two miles south of Lambertville.
The GPS destination for the visitor center and barn is 70 Woodens Lane, Lambertville, NJ 08530.
Howell Farm is a facility of the Mercer County Park Commission. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call the farm office at 609-737-3299 or visit www.howellfarm.org or www.mercercountyparks.org.