HMN Book Group Inaugural Meeting

Thanks to Stephanie and Sandy for both sharing their reflections on the HMN Book Group’s first selection! It sounds like a winner. And thanks to Peggy for facilitating and hosting the group. Stay tuned for the next selection.

Books and bats enthusiasts gathered at the home of Peggy Plass on the afternoon of Sunday, February 26 for the inaugural meeting of a HMN book group. Host Peggy, Sandy Greene, and Stephanie Gardner discussed Merlin Tuttle’s 2015 book, The Secret Lives of Bats: My Adventures with the World’s Most Misunderstand Mammals.

We all gave positive reviews to this account. It is an autobiographical celebration of Dr. Merlin Tuttle’s nearly lifelong work in bat research and advocacy and consists of chapters on the major bat species that he studied and photographed worldwide over many years.

The book drew us in with Dr. Tuttle’s accounts of harrowing experiences with advanced caving, dangerous nature, poachers, brawlers, and bandits in the field. Sandy and Stephanie found it to be a page turner. And of course, the bats and their ecosystems are endlessly fascinating. 

The author has made a lifework of advocating for bats as charismatic and beneficial wild neighbors, not the fearsome pests as they are often imagined. He recounts his methods of engaging people worldwide in one-on-one conversations about the benefits of bats, the formation of Bat Conservation International, scientific study, hard-won bat photography, changing legislation, and habitat preservation.

We partook of snacks, Googled Bumblebee Bats (the world’s smallest mammals), talked about which of Dr. Tuttle’s adventures were the most hair-raising, checked out the book’s bibliography, and discussed bat work in this region. The book also raised larger questions, with Peggy especially contemplating appreciation of wildlife for its own sake and not how a certain species benefits humans.

It was an engaging discussion, and more nature reading is forecasted for the future. Stay tuned for other opportunities to join the HMN book group in learning about and discussing aspects of the natural world. While book reading does not count for VMN continuing education credit, discussion does, and the conversation (and snacks) were excellent.

– Stephanie Gardner, February 2023

After long months of anticipation and planning, the Headwaters Book Group was launched on Sunday afternoon, February 26th, at Peggy Plass’s house. Around a coffee table full of delicious snacks, and tea brewing in the kitchen, we talked about The Secret Lives of Bats, by Merlin Tuttle. Honestly, I wasn’t very excited to read this book – thinking I had already been exposed to a lot of bat facts. Stephanie was kind enough to loan me her copy, leaving it in a bag on her doorknob the week before. 

Was I ever surprised! This book is not just about bats, although I learned a lot about them. It is a gripping Indiana Jones movie, set in every dangerous and extreme location in the world. Why is Merlin Tuttle even alive?  Not just treacherous caves (where the  head lamps always go out), but tides and tugboats, lions, ammonia poisoning, poachers and moonshiners. All at night, and all at a time when researchers were still using real film and cassette tapes for National Geographic articles. I couldn’t put it down!

Even better, this book is about careful and respectful observation and documentation of whole natural systems, with carefully designed research projects, and dozens of questions remaining. Bottom line, we are only scratching the surface of complex ecology on earth.

One constant emerged: Longterm commitment of a lot of people. It takes tough and dedicated people to hold mist nets and climbing ropes, drive the boats and dig out of quicksand. It also takes committed funders and organizations. (Tuttle founded Bat Conservation International, and wrote many articles for National Geographic). 

Most important, Tuttle had to make friends with the individual bats, so they were trusting enough to tolerate all the intrusions, and give us a photographic glimpse of their secret lives. I can’t wait for the next book, and will definitely not judge it by its cover!

– Sandy Greene, March 2023