Saturday, June 8, 2013
Last October, when we went up to the birding tower for the Big Sit, Bill went to flip on the light in the tower room below. He lifted the swinging lid on the switchbox and jumped. It was inhabited. October 4, 2012:
Inhabited by a bat. When Bill lifted the lid and sort of shrieked, it huddled closer into itself but didn't fly. He left it be and called me. I don't know why this photo is squishy. It just is.
We took to going up to the tower to wait for it to emerge in the evening. Here's a video of that event. I go kind of nuts when I manage to capture the exodus on video. Geekin' out like most people do over movie stars.
As most of my stories do, it just gets better. Because that bat stayed with us for much of the fall, went to parts unknown for the winter, and then another appeared this spring!! I'm twirling with delight. I mean, that bats can find this tiny switchbox and decide to roost in it...it just seems too good to be true.
I was pretty sure the autumn animal was a big brown bat. It looked just like the bats I'd been tending.This photo was taken October 4, 2012. See how he almost fills up the switchbox? His foot is hanging on to a little Phillips head screw.
compare now to the spring 2013 bat in the same box. See how you can see the switch and how much shorter he is? Teeny. This photo taken 5/09/13. So I'm pretty sure we had two different bats. But were they two different species?
Science Chimp had to know. I did not want to handle this trusting little animal, and possibly frighten it away from its chosen roost.
Because this is how I feel about this bat:
Itty bitty Battafitty
hangin' on a switch
Makes my day with sweetness
His ears rotate and twitch
I think he knows I love him
He made his way to me
Someone who is thrilled to find
A switchbox full of pee.
May 15. Hmm. Short muzzle, and the muzzlepuffs aren't very puffy. Big brown bats have inflated-looking muzzlepuffs.
Fur's kind of mussed up--maybe an old injury? Dunno.
Wow. Really short muzzle. I'm trying so hard to get a shot of the tragus inside his ear, to see if it's narrow and pointed, but I can't do it without scaring him. (Big brown bats have a blunt-tipped tragus).
Wait. This one looks good. Yep, end of tragus looks pointed, all right. One more character to check.
I shoot his foot and blow it up. Look. Little hairs that extend beyond the ends of his toes! Believe it or not, a distinguishing characteristic between little and big brown bats. I know. Ridiculous, but true. Who ever noticed that??
He's a little brown bat. And I have learned something. Thankful for Fiona Reid's marvelous Field Guide to Mammals of North America (4th Edition), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the Peterson Field Guide series. Illustrated with her clear paintings, it pointed me in the right direction to identify our scruffy little treasure.
He's moved on to his summer roost, wherever it may be. I hope his big cousin comes back in fall. And of course I hope Little Brown is back in spring 2014. Bats are creatures of habit.
And now, some more bat poetry. Batterel. Not doggerel.
You cannot tell a big brown bat
from a little brown, you know
Unless you see his tragus and the hairs upon his toes
So I peeked inside the switchbox, Battafitty hanging there
Examined tiny earparts and aforesaid hindtoe hair
He checks out to little brown and I am filled with joy
To have another bat to love, be he girl or boy.
Tonight my dear friend Mimi Hart is smiling just like me
For Bobby has returned to her window. Finally!**
Women who love bats are rare enough today
That we must stick together, ever striving to convey
The perfection in a shell-pink ear, dense silken fur, a wing
Of bats and night and magic, forever let us sing.
**Bobby is a big brown bat who's been roosting all spring and into fall in one of the windows in Mimi's farmhouse. For 15 years he has returned in May, and he was late this year, but he came back, sending both me and Mimi into transports and tears of joy.
Most of the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone, because I can tell it what to focus on at very close range. Another amazement.