In My Backyard – #12 – Oh, You’re Bats!

One of the first things that attracted my parents to the house we now have lived in for the last 16 years was the in-ground swimming pool out back. Many summers were spent enjoying it with friends and family but, as any pool owner knows, there were “others” who enjoyed it as well. Have you ever heard of a skimmer? This is the drain located a few feet from the pool where the water gets continually pumped through in order to reach the filter, initially clarifying it and returning it to the pool via jets. In the skimmer there is a basket to catch large debris and keep it from getting in the filter, and it must be periodically emptied in order to keep the water flowing. This is an exciting job because you never know what you might find. We’ve had a plethora of frogs, some toads even, many species of insects, large grass spiders carrying thousands of babies on their backs, and last, but not least, water snakes that sneak in from the ponds behind our house.

One time, we found an extremely long, black water snake curled up in the basket. In the process of trying to get it out we ended up chasing it back into the pool where we eventually scooped it out with our net and released it back into a pond.

Now before you cry, “I object, this story has no relevance”, I might add that we had other visitors, ones that come out at night. Today, we don’t use the pool like we used to and end up leaving the cover on it all year round. Its more of a net material so that water still gets through making it a bird bath, welcome to birds, dragonflies, and even squirrels. But at night, our visitors are bats. No, not bats as in crazy, but bats, the mammals. They come out when the sun has slipped below the horizon, and flit through the sky, feeding on insects and attracted by the water from the pool. I’ve sat outside watching them many times before as they zoom and swoop in the air, and one time I had one fly past only inches from my head. Close call.

Some say bats are cute, some say they are creepy. But most people, at one point or another, associate them with horror stories about vampires. If you’ve read any of my posts you’ll know where I stand.

One time, years ago, we were visiting some caves where there were many species of bats. I looked at the pictures of the bat species represented and simply exclaimed that they looked cute. An older woman looked surprised and said, “Do you really think they look cute?” I, who have never turned down a single animal, thought, “Is this lady for real?” But said instead, “Yes ma-am, I do.”

Despite peoples opinions on their physical appearance, there are a lot about bats that are unknown to the average person.

There are two suborders of bat species: the largely fruit-eating megabats, also referred to as flying foxes because they look like a fox with wings, and the echolocating microbats. Echolocation is the same idea as sonar and is used by many species of animal, but most heard of through the study of dolphins. It is the ability to send off sounds that will bounce back if coming in contact with something. This is how the microbats detect and catch prey.

Fruit Bats, Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

Another difference between microbats and megabats is not their size as you might suspect, since some microbats are larger than some megabats, but their diet. Megabats feed on fruit, pollen, and seeds, while microbats are majorly insectivores. We can thank bats for their usefulness in pollination and distributing seeds, among other things.

In many languages, the bat has a name relating it with the mouse. Names such as bald-mouse in French, blind mouse in Spanish, and flying mouse in Russian.

Newborn bat, Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

Bats are the only mammal that can fly. You might say, “But what about the flying squirrels and other similar species”? Notice, these species only glide while the bat can fly. Their flight is more involved than the birds up and down motion of the wings. Bats use their elastic-like wings and bones to give them a more delicate flying technique. Watching them fly you’ll quickly notice there is a difference in their flying and a birds. They flit and swoop and turn much faster, and more sporadic, than most, if not all, birds.

If what I have said so far hasn’t convinced you how cute bats really are, watch this video and THEN tell me what you think.

This post is a mile marker for me. I have been posting these monthly for a year now. Unfortunately, they don’t seem popular, as I noted already in my previous post: Some More Spice! – Post Ideas. So this will probably be my last. In its place, I am going to start a water oriented post. I’m not sure of the specifics, but it will cover man’s history on the water, under the water, and all the above. Very loosely, it will be about water. So come back next month to check out the new series.

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