Sunday, May 23, 2010

Not Quite Twilight

Walking out onto the porch this afternoon, the sun had already moved across the sky to beat harshly against the west side of the house. The dog ran off in front of me half way down the front steps into the garden, then stopped dead in his tracks. His ears went up and he leaned forward carefully sniffing, taking in big breaths of something foreign there in front of him. He jolted back towards me, head tilting, as we both heard a sharp click. Something strange was in the wisteria bush winding along the front gate just a foot in front of us. The sad thing is, the dog, being more in tune with nature than his human counter-part, had the 411 long before I would've had I been left to my own devices.

Capturing the dog's keen awareness, I peered into the bush, then jumped back, startled that I may have disturbed it (which, in my imagination, led to its leaping out on me and chomping off my face). Luckily, once its small size registered in my small brain, I regained composure. There, a wayward bat hung upside down in the bush along the iron front fence, its tiny wings folded into its body, little feet holding onto a small branch swinging in the wind. The dog held his alert stance behind me, staring at me as if I'd lost my mind by moving in for such a close look.
Bats are often misunderstood. You know, what, with all the vampire associations and bad dracula movies out there, who knows what to think half the time. In reality, bats are GREAT for the environment! Who needs to spray toxic pesticides when a bat can eat up to 1,200 insects per hour? I look at it this way - I'd rather have bats in my belfry than roaches in my kitchen.

The only mammal able to fly, bats rid gardens of bugs, are generally clean (spending their days grooming), and most do not carry rabies as so often believed. The little, brown Eastern small-footed myotis (Myotis leibii) that hung suspended from its back feet in my garden is South Carolina’s smallest bat.

Throughout the afternoon the dog simply refused to go back outside. He seemed offended something unknown to him occupied "his" outdoor space. From time to time I checked on the little bat. Around dusk, it dropped out of the bush and disappeared in the undergrowth. As if knowing it was gone, the dog finally joined me later on the front porch. He patrolled with satisfied sniffs around the brick bottom step, then up into the air. Hopefully, the bat was off to eat the next roach it could find...thereby keeping that random roach, and its family from occupying my kitchen in their next hostile real estate takeover.