Thursday, June 25, 2015


We have bats! Not living in our attic, I hope; that would be bad. But living in the woods behind our house, in natural bat territory.

This morning I got up at 5:30 and went outside and sat on the patio with a cup of coffee and an oatmeal square. Within a couple of minutes I saw out of the corner of my eye a flitting motion, something flying a little less gracefully than the chimney swifts that dart across the sky this time of year (sorry bats, but birds are more ballet-like in their movements), and something not quite bird shaped.

The thing about seeing a bat fly that is different from seeing a bird fly is that--to me, at least--they don't look like effortless fliers. Unlike most birds, bats actually look like they are working really hard to stay aloft. Their wings appear to be flapping furiously, and the way they dart around gives the impression that they are always recovering from a near-fatal nosedive.

I know none of this is true, of course. Bats are expert fliers, fully the equal of birds. Their flight looks different, I imagine, in part because they don't have feathers, so the aerodynamics are different, but their wings are perfectly adapted to flight. (I say all this in case any bats are reading, and considering leaving nasty comments.) They dart about erratically because they are chasing tiny bugs that I can't see.

Anyway, I watched the bat for a few minutes, catching occasional glimpses of it as it flew twenty or thirty feet directly overhead or over near the swing set or above our neighbor's yard. After a while it occurred to me that I was seeing the bat appear in a part of the sky that was quite a bit away from the point at which I had last seen it, and I realized there were two bats. If I watched carefully, for a second or two I could have both of them in my field of vision at the same time. Shortly after that, a third became obvious, though I never managed to have all three in my sight at the same time.

I watched them for about fifteen minutes, and then I came in and got my camera, but of course that coincided perfectly with the end of their nocturnal day, because I didn't see them after that. It was almost 6:00 by then, and the sky was growing ever lighter in the east. Time for bats to go to bed.

Bats are welcome (by me, at least) in our neighborhood not only because bats are inherently cool, but because of all the spots in our backyard and behind our property--the drainage culvert especially--where there is often standing water; that leads to a mosquito problem. Bats eat mosquitoes. The more mosquitoes the bats munch on, the fewer mosquitoes there will be to munch on me!

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