Thursday, June 7, 2012
May 7 was a turning point for the batgirls. I had noticed that Stella was flying ever so much better since being delivered, as I'm sure I would. It was a wonderfully warm day, and a warm evening. Bill and I had been out all day doing a Washington County (Ohio) Big Day, seeing as many birds as we could, trying to break our record of 109. I think we got 105. I peeled out early to do some stuff and came home, and everyone else kept birding. They came back after dark to celebrate a record broken. I asked them if they'd like to see the bats fly, and Shila and Steve and Marcy stepped into the garage.
The girls were hawt. They were flying when I walked into the garage! I got the sneaky feeling that they were only just getting warmed up for the spring. They flew, they gained altitude, they stuck their landings, and it was so sweet to have Shila and the Whipple Bird Club there to witness it. Shila especially, since she'd seen me work them when they could barely flutter to the floor. "Wow!" she said. "They're flying SO much better!" I knew what she meant. They were better, but they weren't ready for prime time. Not yet.
Still, it was wonderful to see how spunky they were. Maybe I hadn't messed them up after all.
The kids smiled to see them flit around my head. I'm the only one who gets to handle the animals or go in the bat tent, as I'm the only one vaccinated against rabies. Truthfully, I had stopped worrying about rabies pretty early on. I had been vaccinated in 2010 and these bats had been in quarantine since the first week of February. They were perfectly healthy, if temporarily obese, and showing no symptoms of any disease. Still, no one in my family would come near them; they viewed them through the tent’s nylon walls. That was as it should be, for rabies is nothing to be trifled with, even if the risk of contracting it is vanishingly small.
That didn't mean I handled them bare handed. In the three months I kept them, the bats only bit twice, and since I always wore sturdy gardening gloves, no damage was done. Stella would gnaw a little at the gloved hand she rested on when, on the rare occasions that I hand fed her, I wasn’t dishing up the mealworms fast enough. Once when I went to get her out of her roost she chattered angrily and bit down hard on the thumb of my glove, which I’d thoughtlessly stuck right in her face. I felt the power of her jaws squeezing my thumb and thanked goodness I had always worn gloves when handling them. Figures that the impetuous blonde would be the nipper. Still, she was anything but aggressive--just protecting herself.
What an incredible privilege it was to be able to handle them, to see how their delicate finger bones ran through the cool smooth membranes of their wings, to see how their legs and wings and tail were all connected by crenulated skin that, when unfolded, would help bear them aloft.
All in good time, my pretties.
ZICK ALERT: Come see me and Bill and get your copy of The Bluebird Effect and Bill's brand-new The Young Birder's Guide to North America signed and personalized at Sugden Bookstore, 282 Front Street, Marietta, Ohio, Friday, June 8, from 4-9 pm as part of our beautiful town's fabulous Merchants and Artists Walk on summer Fridays. Free ice cream (and extraneous minutiae).