Friday, June 17, 2011

Furry evening visitor

A few nights ago I met not a nemesis, but a furry face and naked wings when I was about to turn off the lights in the living room downstairs.  A bat was flying around unhappy and couldn't get out.  How it got in is a mystery, since all our doors and windows have screens.

Wise from past experiences with bats you should not try to catch them in the air, you just can't.  Better to turn off the lights on the room (and the rest of the house), and turn on outside lights, and leave the doors to the outside open (and hope not many night-flying insects come in).  LA and I did this, but the bat disappeared.  We turned on the lights again, and didn't see it, but we heard it.

A small high-pitch chirping sound from behind the uninstalled cast iron wood stove... We got thick leather gloves (bats can bite) and the old salad spinner bucket we use to get salad from the garden, and then looked for it.  It was hanging from one of our thick cotton curtains and was not that happy when I tried to remove it and put it in the bucket, but eventually it loosened up its grip on the curtain with its thumbs on the wings.

In the bucket it first acted dead, but suddenly came alive and started walking around in circles on its knuckles on the wings, which looks just like the vampire bats walking towards some unsuspecting cow that will be bitten in its leg (except ours was just crawling, not walking).  Camera out, to prove the presence of the bat, camera on, take picture, take picture 2 while bat is desperately trying to get out.  They can't get out of buckets, at least I don't think so.  We then let it onto the porch railing and it took off fast.

Big Brown Bat, Eptesicus fuscus

I e-mailed a bat research friend, DW, and asked him what species it was based on the photos.  Around here we have two common species with the most boring names you can imagine for bats: Little Brown Bat and Big Brown Bat (I am not making this up). Do bat researchers call these LBB and BBB?  I don't know, but I would if I was doing bat research. Except LBB is used for any Little Brown Bird by the birders too, so you have to keep track of night and day animals.

What we had in our living room turned out to be a Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus), but a small version of it, like a teenager.

Big Brown Bat, Eptesicus fuscus

As DW said: "See the really dark fur around the face? That is actually subadult pelage, and this little guy is just molting into adult pelage. He may not have been flying on his own for all that long, and got a little confused."

pelage:  the complete furcoat of a mammal

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