Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bats in the bellfry

The old wooden church that I live in was built in 1870. I purchased it ten years ago in the summer. I'd had a tangle with the moving company and my furniture wasn't going to arrive until the day after I'd planned to move in so a friend brought over a camp cot for me. My younger son and his partner brought a panel truckload of things up with them and I had dogs, cats and goodness knows what else.

We left the doors open to air the house out. There was a screen door on the deck but not the front. Two uninvited guests showed up.

After everyone left I noticed the winged warriors flying around up near the ceiling. At the time I was too tired to worry about getting them outside. But I moved my cot which was downstairs, away from where I'd seen them last.

I got them out at some point before dawn. Leaving all the doors and windows open and turning off the lights - they flew out the deck door - probably glad to be out.

One evening shortly after that, I counted 20 leaving the roof and figured out where and how they were getting in. I hired a humane critter remover who sealed up all the holes, cracks and crannies - took him and his worker two days to do the job - then he put a little tube up next to where the entry had been. (He'd the entry too.) The bats could fall out of the little tube, but not get back up inside. Very clever I thought. So the bats moved over to the drive shed... where two of them go to spend their summers when them come back from the nearby caves each spring.

But of course sometimes one gets back in the house. This little guy, clutching the wall, spent a couple of days inside until I figured out just how to get him or her out. I left the lights on in the living room so it wouldn't fly around, and then one night just after dark, I turned all the lights out in the living room, left the front door wide open (I had a screen door added by that time) and put the lights on in the loft, studio and kitchen. The front porch was dark.

You can imagine my surprise and disappointment when two more bats flew into the living room.

But I was even more surprised when they circled the room, flew by the little guy that was just waking up and trying to figure out what how to get out, and then flew out the front door. My overnight guest quickly followed.

They had come to collect him. Or her. It was obviously a juvenile, much smaller than the two that came in together. The baby had no clue about much of anything.

These days I am always made aware of these two bats' return. They fly around and around the church until I go outside and say hello. They especially like my weeping birch tree - I guess lots of bugs collect under there - and spend their first hour or so swooping around it in the evening.

And the drive shed has a number of spots in the roof where many bats seem to like to spend their days. I'm glad to have them around to keep the bugs down. I don't have to worry much when I'm outside in the evening, my natural bug collectors are usually on the job.

I've never had them tangle in my hair as many people are afraid, but I have had them dive bomb me on occasion. I'm not sure that they have a sense of humour, but I certainly am careful to not go under the birch when they are out... no point in getting in the way of their dinner I figure.

Interesting little creatures, and ones that are having a hard time these days. There is a fungus that has spread rapidly among them in the caves where they winter. It gives them a white-looking nose. It disorients them and is killing them. I had one with a white nose arrive in early March last year, clinging in broad daylight to the screen door. While I caught it and put it in the drive shed (it was simple to catch, and I've certainly had to catch my share since I moved here) it flopped into a dark corner. I'm not sure it survived. I couldn't find  it later.

I hope the biologists find a cure for this fungus... we need all the creatures of this earth to maintain the balance of nature, and we've lost way too many of them already, so nature is getting out of kilter. Besides, I'd really miss my two little bat friends who return every year.

Thought you might find this an interesting story this March 1. Enjoy your day.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful piece of writing here, Barbara. I love bats. They are one of our most beneficial creatures.

    In our area we have lost about 85% of the myotis species of bats. So sad. We have found them dead, starved to death, in the middle of winter lying on top of the snow.

    This white nose syndrome is an incredible example of passing on a disease from another area that a local species has no tolerance for. It is thought to have been introduced by cavers (spielunkers) who used equipment in Europe where this fungus is native. There the bats are resistant to it. Here they perish.

    Sadly, there is no end in sight for this terrible blight. Tragic.