Monday, July 13, 2009

Waking with the...Bats?

So it develops that the clicking, scritching sound I had been hearing off and on as I dozed in the pre-alarm-clock darkness was not a beetle on the screen of the west window, nor a new sound that had developed in the ceiling fan. I had wondered about the cats' odd behavior: they seemed to be climbing up the side of the bed rather than making their usual mattress-bouncing leaps, and if the noises in question were being caused by an insect--on either side of the window screen--one would expect them to be in the window, investigating. Finally, as a gray light began to intrude into the room, I sat up, perched my glasses on my nose, and observed a bit of movement amongst the stacks of books along the wall by the bed. (You are perhaps surprised to learn that I have dozens of books stacked next the bed?)

And to my total lack of surprise, a tiny brown bat rounded the edge of a volume as, I assume, he looked for the exit.

This is not our first encounter with bats; thus my lack of surprise. You live in an old house in an old neighborhood, you probably meet up with bats from time to time. Some years ago we were aware of a sound up in the attic, and one of the cats was quite desperate for us to open the attic door and let her investigate, but we declined. Next day--next night, actually--there was no noise that we could hear, so we assumed that whoever had gotten in there had gotten out again and was on his merry little way.

Perhaps a year or so ago, one of the little dickenses had gotten downstairs and was crashing around in the living room and dining room. Well, for the most part it was
cats crashing around, hunting, while the poor bat tried to find an exit. We didn't help him much by turning on the lights (all of this happened, of course, after the family had settled down to bed--or so we had thought), but it couldn't be helped. He blundered his was into the kitchen and holed up under the edge of the cabinets (two cats intent on that corner helped with the detective work), where I was able to get a towel around him and take him out to the street. I'm afraid I inadvertently injured him, since there was a spot of blood on the towel when I got back into the house. Whether it was a serious injury, I know not. Come daylight, the bat was not where my daughter and I dropped him, so perhaps he made his way to safety.

This morning's exercise, by contrast, was straightforward. Having ascertained the situation, I grabbed a washcloth from the bathroom, scooped up the little guy, and--in my skivvies, mind--trooped out to the alley and let him go. I sort of flung open the washcloth and expected him to take off, but instead he dropped into a pile of branches next to the compost bin. I don't know why. Perhaps he was sick; perhaps he was scared and confused; perhaps it was already too bright out for him. Who knows? I assume he'll find some place to hole up for the day (he could even climb down into the branch pile and chill there till nightfall) and then go on about his business. Or not. I can do only so much.

What's striking about these guys is how tiny they are. Today's intruder was all bunched up, and as such only about the size of your palm (easily contained one-handedly in a washcloth); his predecessor, flitting back and forth from room to room, had a wingspan of probably no more than six inches. I assume that we're dealing here with
Myotis lucifugus, the little brown bat, which is the most common bat in North America. He's actually kind of cute, as evidenced by the photo below. But I think he's cuter outside the house.