2015-08-20 / Nature

Adventure Campers Go Batty at Ballard Park

By Jack Kelly


Charles Ridolf and Colleen McGrath accept a bat box from Gio Putnam, Noemy DeSouza, and Gisselle Ramos. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Charles Ridolf and Colleen McGrath accept a bat box from Gio Putnam, Noemy DeSouza, and Gisselle Ramos. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Children from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center’s Summer Adventure Camp have been visiting Ballard Park for the past 10 years to explore the 13- acre preserve and learn about nature. This year one of the themes explored bats. As camp wrapped up, seven children, accompanied by camp counselors and staff, journeyed to Newport’s Ballard Park on Monday, Aug. 17 to present a bat house to the Friends of Ballard Park. Director Colleen McGrath kindly accepted their gift.

In addition to learning about bats, the children learned about philanthropy this summer and were moved to buy the bat house for the park. In letters written to Friends of Ballard Park, children explained they wanted to buy a bat house “because it would allow bats to eat thousands of mosquitos. We realize that Ballard Park has lots of mosquitos and we feel that the bat houses would help regulate the population.”


Newport Public Services employees Charles Ridolf and Mike O’Brien secure the bat box to the tree. Newport Public Services employees Charles Ridolf and Mike O’Brien secure the bat box to the tree. Up to 30 bats, which are nocturnal insectivores, can utilize the box during daylight hours for protection and a place to sleep.

The children advised Newport Public Services employees Charles Ridolf and Mike O’Brien of the optimum height and placement of the unit. A strong oak tree, one of the tallest trees in the meadow at the north end adjacent to the quarry wall, was chosen as the best site for the fixture. Ridolf and O’Brien thrilled the assembled group with their adroit climbing abilities as they raised themselves into the tree with a series of ropes and cinches. After clearing away a couple of small branches to give roosting bats a clear flight path, the box was secured to the tree at about 15 feet off the ground and declared open for habitation. But it is not unusual for bats to wait up to 18 months before occupying a new bat house.

The most common bat in the Aquidneck Island region is the little brown bat, with a wingspan of 8-11 inches and a body length of 2.5-4 inches. One bat is capable of eating 600-1,000 mosquitoes per hour. McGrath told the children that the park's outdoor moviegoers would be glad to hear that and she would be sure to give them credit in her introductiory remarks at the next two movie screenings.

Nursing females are capable of devouring over 4,500 insects a night. Cultures around the world welcome bats as a natural way to sweep pesky insects from the sky.

In addition to the bat house and letters, the children presented a collage on treated canvas entitled “Bats at Night.” McGrath said she would send the collage to Mrs. Ballard, who donated the land for the park to the City of Newport in 1990.



Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others.

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