Brock Fenton discusses A Miscellany of Bats, co-authored by the late Jens Rydell, and shares some of his favourite images from the book.
What inspired you and Jens to write A Miscellany of Bats?
Early in 2021 Jens and I were collaborating on another research paper when we started talking about the opportunity to consolidate some of our images of, and stories about bats. We quickly agreed about what the book might cover and that to pool our collections of information about bats. We were not thinking of a ‘fact’ book, but rather one that would share with the reader our engagement with bats. Just before he passed away, he introduced me to Nigel Massen at Pelagic Publishing, and the rest is history.
Page 4 - Egyptian Fruit Bats
Sadly Jens is no longer with us but you collaborated on bat-related projects for over 25 years. What made your partnership work so well?
I think that the mainstay of the partnership was our common passion for bats and communicating about them, whether with colleagues or with the general public. I never felt that we were competing, rather enjoying and exploiting opportunities to work together. The output was research ideas and publications, photographs, and stories.
Lots of anecdotes are shared in the book. Which is your favourite memory and why?
My favourite memories are those when we worked together with students on different field projects in settings from eastern Ontario (Canada) to Costa Rica and Cuba. Central to these recollections are the joys of sharing information with students and drawing them into the web of bats. On one such trip, Jens patiently showed me how to photograph flying bats. On others we worked to find the ‘best’ way to get some photographs of bats (or situations).
Page 13 - Nathusias' Pipistrelle
What was the most surprising discovery made whilst working on the book?
After Jens passed away, one of his former students (Johan Ecklöf) arranged for me to receive a large collection of bat pictures that Jens had taken. It was lovely to see how often we had photographed the same species, the similarity and differences of our approaches. We often discussed the ‘best’ way to photograph something, often agreeing or not, but never arguing about what had to be done (other than getting the best photo possible). This meant trading ideas and suggestions – and agreeing, without rancour, to disagree.
Pages 36-7 showcasing colour
The book is packed with stunning photographs taken by Jens. Do any stand out as your favourites?
Well that would have to be the one I am looking at. I love the one on page 4, the eyeshine of the bats. The one on page 13 which shows a tiny bat in great detail. The spread on page 36 and 37 showing the colour of some bats. Or the one on page 85. But the diversity of his photos and what they reveal about bats is astonishing.
Page 85 - Lesser Moustached Bat
What advice would you give to someone looking to support bat conservation?
Never stop learning about bats. Never miss an opportunity to watch them as they flit about in twilight or as they emerge from their roosts. Never stop asking questions about bats or miss an opportunity to share your interest and enthusiasm with others. You could even use our book as a guide to getting started. Join an organization whose members are active in bat conservation.