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Waiting for the Bats

We were very happy to see the bats.

The last few years we have got used to seeing these lovely little creatures doing aerobatic displays over the garden or over the park, after the swifts, swallows and martins have finally given up on their shift and popped off to roost. Mostly the bats are pipestrelles, our commonest bat, a cute little pointy teethed mouse with wings (general point: if there is a choice between you sighting being something rare and exciting and normal and common the latter always wins – that big bird in the tree will turn out to be a pigeon. Inevitably, that peregrine falcon is actually a – still in my mind rather exciting – sparrow hawk).

But just because our little bats are common does not mean we cannot be excited sitting in the dusk of the evening on the decking at the back of the house and watch them sweep over, executing impossible looking turns in pursuit for a particularly juicy (and suddenly unlucky) bug.

But for most of this summer we have missed them. We thought that maybe we just were not being observant. But as time as gone on we have become fairly sure that the reality was there were actually not there, or at least that locally to us at least something bad has happened to the bat population.

I suspect it was the winter we have just had. It was so mild that many of the hibernating animals began to wake up. Unfortunately for the bats, who are insectivores and need to eat constantly when they are awake in order to get enough energy, there were just not enough bugs about; I suspect many of them starved. This may well explain why there seem to have been so few around this summer.

Hopefully, in some other areas it might be different, and I am hopeful that next year will be better for my furry friends. Certainly this fine summer has produced plenty of insects, so hopefully those that did make it through will have fed (and hopefully, bred) well. Now what we need is a proper winter. Well, we’ll see.

Actually it has been a slightly odd year for some other wildlife. Wasps, for instance, have been oddly absent from my life this year. They were all over the place last year – both the Lovely Wife and I were stung for the first time in over a decade by unprovoked wasps; they were strangely aggressive. This year I have had hardly seen one. They are around, as the nest in my dad’s loft shows; but mostly they seem to have kept themselves to themselves this year. Usually they get aggressive later in the year as they hunt for food having finished their communal breeding and have to fend for themselves and get, well a little desperate. I can only assume that the lack of aggressive attempts to steal food is down to abundance of fruit and other insects to prey on; another reason to enjoy what has been, on the whole, a good summer.

But it was good to see the bats were still around. As the smell of the summer jasmine fades and the leaves finally begin to change, there a few more moments of summer to savour before the weather finally changes.

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