Oh, My Goth!

Bat camp!

Everything sounds better with the word bat before it, even the word camp, which is usually really kind of a bore—so why has hardly anyone signed up for the Orange County Natural History Museum's second annual Bat Camp? They did last year. Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods, people, the first session starts in less than a week!

It's bat camp: What's for your kid, aged 10 to 15 years, not to like? It's not like tarantula camp or cockroach camp, two other choices I'm sure museum officials weighed carefully before going with . . . batcamp. It trips lightly off the tongue like, well, a bat.

"People kind of get in routines where they go to soccer camp or Boy Scout camp," the museum's administrator, Dr. Debra Clarke, told me recently—apologizing for you, basically. She's too nice to say what we're all thinking, which is that bat moms are so much cooler than soccer moms and den mothers.

And bats are way cooler than grubby Cub Scouts. They're the art students of the wild kingdom: out all night, every night, wearing all that black (just like art students), which you know has to be really, really hot, busting their mouse-sized humps for you. They eat their body's weight in insects every day, Clarke says; they may even roost in the eaves of your house, and do you appreciate it?

If you did, clearly, you'd give them (the museum people) your kid for a series of five consecutive afternoons this summer. That's all you have to do.

Sign up your kid, and then drop him or her off for five afternoons and evenings of tramping through nature's half acre. Museum folk—specifically, bat biologist Stephanie Remington and her partner Bat Guano—whoops, sorry, that's just his specialty—will do the rest.

"I teach them three field techniques" for researching bats, Remington told me. For the camp, she focuses on Yuma bats, which are one of 16 known bat species in Orange County. (You'll find many of the others listed as potential developers for the Orange County Great Park. No, actually, you won't.)

"They learn acoustic surveying [recording bat calls], netting [bats], roost searches and outflying techniques," Remington said, lapsing into fancy biologist talk for figuring out where the bats live.

Duh—they live in the bat cave; I knew that—which is somewhere up in Bell Canyon on the Starr Ranch Sanctuary near Mission Viejo. The Weekly doesn't publish actual bat addresses; we're scared—make that respectful—of the bat lobby. If you want to know more, enroll your progeny and then ask them. They'll have all the answers.

The Orange County Natural History Museum's Bat Camp 2004, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, 28373 Alicia Pkwy., Laguna Niguel, (949) 831-3287; www.ocnhm.org. June 7-11, 19-23, and Aug. 16-20, 2-9 p.m. $100 per student. RSVP by June or July 15 to stremington@earthlink.net. Limit: 12 students.


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