Baby bat is bizarrely beautiful
The rest of my time at the Wildlife Rescue centre was spent feeding and cleaning, making friends with yet more hedgehogs and going on various rescues and releases. The deer was exceptional in its sadness and pain- others’ stories were more positive:
A young gull crash-landed on a hospital roof, appropriately enough outside the window of the intensive care ward. To retrieve it, myself and one other volunteer had to climb out of a window near various unconscious patients going ‘beep.. beep’. The bird had a bad wing but was otherwise OK. Walking back through the hospital with an injured wing protuding from under your arms feels odd.
A pigeon got stuck in a chimney. Apparently they have a hard time getting out as they are none to bright. Well, stick me in a chimney and I won’t get out either. Trevor put a light up there. The pigeon was sooty, trevor played sweep, and before long it was flying away.
But perhaps the strangest and most touching rescue was that of a young bat.
I, like you, have NO interest in bats (or do you?). They have seriously bad PR.They are scrawny un-charasmatic and associated in most people’s minds with rabies, vampires and the dark of night.
But this rescue shed some rather wonderful light on them.
Bats tend to follow the same flight path over and over again, looking for insects in the same places. Cats, in their wily ways, will sit on this flight path and swat the air.
This little one was found with an injured wing after the cat caught it and left it on a 5 year old boy’s bed in the morning (nice way to be woken up) Check out the claw hole on to the right of the picture. Apparently this will grow back in time.
When we collected the bat Trevor told me it had to go to a specialist home. He rang a few places but there was no answer.
‘We are going to have to call Jenny’ he said, and I sensed him lighting up just a little.
‘Who is Jenny?’ I asked, intrigued.
‘Oh, she’s one of the top bat specialists in the country’
A bat specialist. Really? What on earth would she be like?
What followed was like a scene from Harry Potter.
After driving through beautiful woodland we came to a small, cottage-like house. We walked down some stone steps and were greeted by a slight woman, probably in her sixties, with dark curly hair and a broad smile.
‘Nice to meet you’, she said in a confident, rather well-to-do accent.
Jenny took us into her kitchen which was entirely pleasant and cosy except for one thing: it was surrounded by bat paraphernalia. Not vampire stakes or bat costumes but rather books on bats, little cages with bats asleep in them, shoe boxes where young bats were being kept warm, microscopes and pots of bat food.
She spoke with such calm and confidence that I felt I was being taken under the wing of a wise school teacher about to read a story
‘Well then, what have we here’ she said and took the bat from Trevor and expertly turned it her hands. She stretched out a slender wing and looked at it under the microscope. By examining it closely she could see if it was dehrydrated, if its bones were damaged and what type of bat it was.
‘Time for some food little one’ she said and then held a pipette to its mouth.
‘Warm water and just a drop of fine honey’. The bat refused. So she spoke to it in a soft voice and then ever so slowly it started to drink. It was weirdly cute. She took out a dead worm and fed it to the baby. The bat was WELL up for it. Hmmm….this was strange…was I beginning to feel affection for a…BAT?
She measured the bat’s forearm to determine its age and put it in a small incubator-type box to keep it warm.
‘It shoudl recover well’ she said confidently.
‘And where do you keep all these bats when they get bigger?’ I asked.
‘We try to release as many as we can, and while they are waiting we keep them here’. She walked over to a bigger cage and lifted up a towel. Inside the cage were more towels hanging on the inside along with some aprons, oven gloves and t-shirts too. Underneath these were various tiny bats asleep. ‘We like to give them a choice of places to sleep’
I was caught in a spell, totally mesmerised by Jenny’s knowledge. If I was a bat I would want to come here for my bat holidays. I would probably fake an accident just to get fed some of that mead and spicy worm. It was a nice place to hang out, if you excuse the pun.