Sunday, March 4, 2012
Thanks to Phoebe Thompson, videographer, for her camera work and for loving bats, too.
It has been a blessed winter. After all the stuff I went through two years ago with Darryl and Dee Dee, and getting my rabies vaccinations so I could help bats, I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get any more to rehabilitate. I shouldn't have worried. Marietta is a batty little city.
And this is a tough winter for bats, because the mild weather finds them out and active when there are very few moths and flying insects for them to eat.
So it was that this little bat found herself clinging to a brick pillar in a shopping center breezeway in the middle of Marietta. Which wouldn't have been bad, since people said they'd seen other bats clinging to the pillars before, but this bat was only a foot off the ground, and she hadn't moved in over a week. I got a Facebook message from our friend Kimy, a former employee of Bird Watcher's Digest, who now works at a business in the shopping center. She was worried about the bat.
I guessed from her location that the bat had gotten grounded, perhaps too weak to fly, and had crawled to the nearest vertical pillar to hang herself up. If she'd burned her fat reserves on a mild night fruitlessly looking for food, her prospects for living through the winter in such a cold place were pretty bad. She was in torpor, but without fuel.
Mirabel, safe at home in her tank.
So I worked her into my schedule that afternoon, and went to pick her up. I took mealworms and water and my gloves and a critter carrier.
It was amazing to see the awareness spread through the businesses in the shopping center that a bat rescue was in progress. Five women came out on the sidewalk to watch. And there wasn't a "ewww" or an "eek" coming from any of them. They were solicitous and concerned, and I thought to myself, well, the times they are a-changin' for bats. Maybe all the news about white nose syndrome, which is killing bats by the millions, makes people a little more sympathetic toward the little animals than they might otherwise be. But maybe I was just seeing the best in these women, and it's always there, whether we see it or not. Maybe seeing someone who was so thrilled to come pick up a bat in peril had something to do with it. Say what you will about wildlife rehab (some argue that because it makes no difference on a population level it's pointless) seeing it in action has a powerful effect on people, and that can only be good.
I stopped to wonder, too, about The Natural View, a tabloid nature supplement that my mother-in-law, Elsa Thompson; Marilyn Ortt, our hometown natural history hero; and designer Claire Mullen of Bird Watcher's Digest put together once a year. Marilyn always asks me to write and paint something for the cover story, and two years ago, my piece was about Darryl and Dee Dee, the bat story. And several of those women remembered that. I'm a little bemused that the majority of people in my town know my work only from that once-a-year newspaper article. That's OK. Over time, Marilyn and I have made it our plan to feature creatures who suffer from bad press. Bats. Snakes. Coming up, chimney swifts. Creatures who desperately need our help but are helpless to ask for it, who often see the worst in us.
This day, I saw the best. And I got to take a bat home and nurse her back to good weight and good health. A privilege and an honor. Thanks, Kimy.
That's what you want to see. Processed mealworms.
Mimi Hart, chanteuse extraordinaire, this one's for you, kid. And for Bobby.