Bats in the Belfry or Saving Bats One at a Time

Hello everyone! It’s been a dry summer for those of us in New England. I’ve been hanging out in the shade while James strategically places the sprinkler in sections of his flower garden. I do my best not to trample on the flowers, but a chipmunk or squirrel will release my inner animal, and, well, I have no choice but to run after them into the garden.

What does this have to do with bats in the belfry? Well, the other night, James told me that the expression meant someone was nuts, things chipmunks and squirrels eat and store for the winter. (Oh, James says it has another meaning.) Truth be told, that same night James was running from room to room hollering while flinging a towel around. To my way of thinking, he had gone batty. What he told me he had gone was fishing to catch a bat without hooking or harming it.

Yes, we had a bat in our house. It wasn’t the first one, either. The first one was alone in the house while I was in the kennel and James was in New York. The security company called to let him know there had been a “disturbance” in our house. James was worried that we had been robbed. He was thankful I wasn’t here alone. He’s such a good man. (Score – a treat for me!)

Well, James arrived home the next day and found this first bat sitting on top of the plant on the back of the toilet. When he saw this bat, well, I won’t say what he was doing or what he had in his hand, but he has given me permission to let you know that he yelled and ran out of the bathroom leaving a liquid trail behind him. (Oops! He didn’t want me to say anything about the liquid – my bad – treat forfeited.)

James figured he couldn’t simply leave the bat in the bathroom, so he stealthily entered to see if it was alive. It appeared to be sleeping. James removed the screen after opening the window, and he then got a t-shirt out of the dirty clothes hamper and put it over the bat. He reached to pick the bat up, and he screamed. This time because he felt a sharp needle pierce his finger. At this point the bat was on the floor, somehow attached to the t-shirt. James reached down to pick up the t-shirt from the furthest point away from the bat and flung the t-shirt and bat, hoopla, out the window, closing it quickly.

After looking at his finger and not seeing any teeth marks, James squeezed and, voila, a pinprick of blood appeared. Going to his computer, James asked Google what happens when bitten by a bat. The answer is – drum roll please: You die a slow and painful death. That is if the bat has rabies.

Now James has this thing for bats. Not a sexual thing, but a respect thing. He appreciates what they do – eat all types of insects including mosquitoes that carry multiple viruses like Zika. As such, James would never purposefully take the life of a bat. Besides, the white-nose syndrome has devastated the bat population in New England. He had checked before tossing the bat out the window that it didn’t have that disease, so he wanted to make sure it lived. However, he didn’t know that it would mean he had to have multiple rabies shots over the next several weeks.

James told me that he would still have gone through with having the shots in order to save the bat. He’s such a super guy! (Yes! Another treat for me.)

Which brings me back to the bat he was chasing the other night. James was hoping that the bat might get a claw stuck to the towel identical to the one that was stuck to the t-shirt. In that manner he could take the bat outside since he had also opened every door in the house, hoping that another bat, or bear, wouldn’t decide to take advantage of the opportunity and enter. Well, I must say that this behavior on James’ part was a little scary. Of course, I had no idea at the time that he was chasing a flying bat inside the house. Had I known, I would have been barking and jumping and running to try and catch the bat. (Good thing I didn’t know because I’m not sure what I would have done. You know, vampires are bats. Just sayin’.)

Without any success, James at least knew the bat wasn’t in our bedroom, so he closed the door, and we fell into a deep sleep. The following morning what should James find? The bat was sleeping within the folds of a curtain around the sliding glass doors out to the terrace. The only problem was that the bat was almost at the end of the curtains on the part of the window that doesn’t open. Also, the curtain was fixed to that end and only opened from the opposite end. If James could open the sliding glass door and unfix the curtain in order to slide it and the bat to the opening, the bat could be released, so to speak, back into nature and out of our house.

James was aware, and it’s a good thing too, after his first experience with a bat that when they are sleeping they are in what is known as a state of torpor or semi-hibernation. They are expending less energy that way, which is a good thing since this poor bat had been in our house for at least two nights and was most likely starving and weak. Secure with that knowledge, James opened the sliding-glass door, released the hook that held the curtain in place, and, using the same towel he’d been acting as if he had bats in the belfry, he gently wrapped the towel around the area where the bat was hanging, upside down.

Carefully moving the curtain towards the open door, James suddenly stopped. There was a ring that wouldn’t allow the curtain to move past a certain point. With his hands full, what was he going to do? He didn’t want to release the bat. Looking down at me with the most pitiful expression on his face – one of concern and confusion mixed with fear – he asked me if I could help him. I cocked my head to the side as if I didn’t understand and moved to leave the room. By this time I knew we were dealing with a bat similar to the one that had bit James. No way was I going to be bit.

I didn’t see what happened next, but when I heard the curtain moving again, I peeked around the corner and saw that James had gotten the curtain unhooked from the ring and was moving it, and the bat, towards the opening. With as tender a shove as he could, James pushed out on the curtain. Well, the bat was still clinging to the curtain’s fold. James knew he was going to have to push harder yet lightly enough so that the bat wouldn’t be harmed when it fell onto the stone terrace. Which is where it landed.

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Note: No white-nose syndrome

The poor thing simply lay there, but at least it was breathing. James quickly shut the sliding-glass doors and prayed that the bat wasn’t harmed. It would now need to find a safe place to sleep for the rest of the day and feast tonight.

I was so proud of James (Where’s my treat?) for not harming the little brown bat. After James fixed a cut of tea with me following him, we both tiptoed back to check on the little guy. He was gone. I smiled up at James and noticed he was also smiling. He cares about the wildlife here in Vermont. I’m honored to be his best friend. (Finally another treat – thank you.)

Later that evening while lying out on the terrace (James was in one of the chairs) we watched the full moon rise as the birds made their final calls. A hoot owl was heard calling a mate, and, yes, a mate replied. Then there came a quick succession of wosh, wosh, wosh, over our heads. It was the bat James had saved. It made a second pass and was off into the night to devour flying insects. Such is the way of nature.

Let us know if you’ve ever had a similar experience. Maybe a bat – perhaps a vampire bat – has bitten you. I’d certainly like to know if that’s the case.

I always enjoy hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.

Until next time,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated

 

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Welcome back! I hope you’re enjoying your summer. With the days arriving earlier, James and I have been going on longer walks (he walks while I run). Every morning it seems as if we see more and different types of birds. I have a feeling that James doesn’t like it when I try to catch them, but it’s fun to chase them. (No treat – I was right.)

Well, being an Old English Sheepdog, I enjoy the herding, if nothing else. I, for sure, wouldn’t know what to do with one of the winged creatures if I did catch one. James worries that I’d kill it – such is life in the wild. Okay, James says we don’t live in the wild, but I have to break it to him, he walks in the wild Vermont woods with me – just sayin’!

What types of birds, you ask? There are at least three families of ruffed grouse in the fifteen-acre field near the top of our hill. I keep stumbling upon them, and I do mean tripping over them as they don’t do a thing until I’m on top of them. Then they scare us as they flap, flap, flap and fly away. The little ones with almost no tail even fly over the hay that has yet to be cut and into the woods. They’re always on the edge of the field. There are around six little ones and one Mama. I should say eighteen little ones and three Mamas, but since we can’t be definitively sure there are three families, six and one will have to do.

James told me that the black bird with white on it’s back and a yellow crown is an endangered bobolink. They nest on the ground and feed on insects and seeds. Their young leave the nest before they can fly. We have at least four families of bobolinks – of that we are sure. The other day we saw something like twenty-four of them flying just above the tops of the hay in our larger field. They’re in all four of our hay fields. James is convinced that they will be fledged fully after this weekend.

There is a beautiful yellow bird James says is a goldfinch. It had been feeding in flocks until recently, because they are only now breeding. Since we’ll be haying in about two weeks, we hope they aren’t nesting in the fields, which they are sometimes known to do. We’re holding off haying until the other field nesting birds’ young are able to fly to the edge of the woods to safety.

We also have barn swallows and stunning eastern bluebirds nesting in birdhouses James has put all around our grounds. Their young have hatched (I found a swallow egg below one of the boxes three weeks ago – I was overjoyed) and the parents have been busily feeing their babies. Then suddenly, on 1-July, the swallows were gone, and so were their babies. The bluebirds then left the birdhouse nests on 7-July. James took me out on leach for a few days while this was taking place.

Some bufflehead and mallard ducks were in our pond during the early part of spring, but we haven’t seen any recently. We do, however, have five baby wood ducks speed boating around the pond when they are not dunking themselves for food. Every time I start to go play in the pond, James calls me back for a treat. If there wasn’t a treat involved, I’d be hitting that pond on a regular basis.

The downy woodpecker irritates me (James is looking at me as if I’m the cat who ate the canary). Well, it seems that all it does is knock, knock, knock, knock, knock – get my drift? – all the time. This bird is interesting in that it can be upside down on a tree limb – no thank you. It does have a sweet red cap it wears on its crown. I’m not sure where it nests, but they could do their tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tapping somewhere else.

A red-eyed vireo nest that survived last winter was nestled compactly on a striped maple tree limb about five feet off the ground at the edge of our back field. These birds typically have white-wine goblet shaped nests along the edges of the fields and our yard. James noticed this one while I was sniffing at the ground below it. He thought it was some kind of Christmas ornament that had mysteriously materialized. Check out the picture he took.

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Then there is the abundance of robin red-breasts that have nested around the house. One baby fell out of its nest before it could fly. It was hurt and, well, I never saw it, but James told me about it after it had disappeared. James said that was nature taking its course. My course is to run around every which way until I’m exhausted. (Score – a treat!) I did find its brother or sister, the very next day, in a lilac bush. James pulled me away once he saw it too. (Treats galore!!!)

Of course, there is our ruby-throated hummingbird that guards his territory around our house and flower gardens. James wrote a poem (it’s included in his book of poetry, Pleasures & Seasons of Vermont), reproduced here for your reading pleasure. [Note: Trek was my much older brother who I miss terribly.)

HUMMINGBIRDS*

May
is the
month
poppies bloom;
and when a recurring whirl
causes my dog, Trek’s, ears to twitch, and my
head to twist towards the trill. Floating fixed, staring
sideways, saluting us throughout this temperate term – we
smile a warm welcome – our hummers have returned.

Distinguished
by golden
emerald temples
and jade
crowns with dark notched tails,
our resident male sports a distinctive
crimson throat tipped by an ebony chin.
Accurate angels of sunbeams polishing his
neck radiate radiant rubies.

The flora’s scarlet color attracts his attention,
yet the minuscule quantity of sugary nectar is what he
requires, hovering at 70 wing whisks a second:
A tremendous force
by a tiny frame
for such trivial fare.

Our solitary hummer vigorously defends the
blossoms within his boundary. Trek’s head swings left,
right, left, while our hummer hounds intruders. A
valiant Knight of the Roundtable, his chase chatter
saturates the air as he jousts with his
extended bill, his clashes like the crash of javelins.

Akin to our heroic hummers, Vermonters always
answer the call to protect our homeland. We are
proud of those who respond, and pay tribute to the
ones who never return, unlike the
poppies – and hummers – each May.

Such are the honorable
pleasures of our
hummers’ return to Vermont.

We have tons of other birds that frequent our grounds. We have warblers, thrushes, sparrows and hawks. You name it we’ve got it if it’s an inland bird. If you’d like, feel free to come and walk around with us (while I run) to see how many different birds you can spot. Of course, it would be nice of you to let us know you’re coming before you do so we can prepare a treat for you (and me).

I always like hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.

Until next time,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com 
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated

[When James and I began this post, we didn’t think I’d ever get one of the baby birds, but I did. So I brought it to him and dropped it. (That is after a prolonged effort on James’ part, first using the command, then treats and finally forcing my mouth open. I haven’t decided if I’ll bring the next one to him.) Now I’ve been told we’re not walking anywhere near the fields until after they are hayed, meaning the baby birds have flown away. Well, in my defense, it’s only nature taking its course. James says he still loves me, and I still love him – score a treat! Enough said.]

*Formating is different in the book, as WordPress will not allow the correct formatting (or else I’m too old to figure it out).