Friday, December 16, 2011

The Bat in my Bathroom

Little Brown Bat (from www.mammalwatch.com)
 My first clue that I had a bat in my bathroom was bat-poop in the sink. I'd go upstairs at night to find lots of little black, mouse-like droppings in the sink, but no bat. Then one night, sick with a cold, I went to bed early and was just drifting off when a small shadow circled the room, illuminated by the light from the TV, and flew into the bathroom. (I should add that nothing about bats scares me. I adore them.) I waited a few moments before getting up and turning on the light. There he was, hanging on the wall above the sink--preening.

Mystery solved--sort of. If this was his nightly roost, why hadn't I seen him before now? Was he a he? Was he/she the first of a colony? Where did he go to sleep?

The ceiling in my bedroom and bathroom is beamed, and to my astonishment, when he'd finished cleaning up, leaving a litter of insect legs and wings, he wedged himself between the beam and the ceiling planks. It doesn't look like you could slip a sheet of paper between them, but he had no trouble at all.

That was six years ago. And Johnny, my bathroom bat, is still my summer guest. He disappears in late fall, but occasionally shows back up in mid-winter. Three years ago, he over-wintered in my bathroom and a friend of his found refuge behind a painting in my stairwell.

Johnny is a male. Males are, thankfully, more solitary. It's the females that form colonies. I've very fond of Johnny, but not nuts about the idea of an entire colony of bats in my bathroom. (For another story, keep reading.)


 This link is to a wonderful story about a baby bat.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/10/lil-drac-orphaned-bat_n_1141191.html

For more information than you might want to know.
From Wikipedia:


Habitat and roosting

The little brown bat lives in three different roosting sites: day roosts, night roost and hibernation roosts. Day and night roosts are used by active in spring, summer and fall while hibernacula are used in winter. Day roost sites are typically found in buildings, trees, under rocks, in wood piles and sometimes in caves. Nursery roosts are found in hollow trees and other natural crevices as well as around buildings. Night roosts tend to be in the same buildings as day roosts, however these roosts tend to be confined spaces with many bats packing themselves together to increase roost temperature. Bats congregate in night roosts after feeding in the evening. Thus night roosting could result in the accumulation of feces away from the day roosts which could make the latter less conspicuous to predators. Northern populations of bats enter hibernation in early September and end in mid-May while southern populations enter in November and ends in mid-March.

Diet

Little brown bats are insectivores, eating moths, wasps, beetles, gnats, mosquitoes, midges and mayflies, among others. Since many of their preferred meals are insects with an aquatic life stage, such as mosquitoes, they prefer to roost near water. Brown bats feed along the margins of lakes and streams, zig-zagging in and out of vegetation 2–5 cm above the ground. Later in the evening, they usually forage in groups over water staying within 1-2m above the surface. They echolocate to find their prey. They are very effective predators when the insect are in patches and at close range. As with other insectivorous bats, little brown bats catch prey by aerial hawking and gleaning tactics When taken in flight, the prey is taken by swooping or dipping maneuvers. When above water, prey is taken by the mouth. Brown bat do not claim feeding areas like a territory, however individuals frequently return to the same feeding sites. When hunting swarms, brown bats focus on one or two species to feed on. When insect are more scattered, they are less selective and will feed on multiple species. If they do not catch any food, they will enter a torpor similar to hibernation that day, awakening at night to hunt again. A bat will eat half of their body weight per night with lactating females eating more than their body weight per night.

If your curiosity about bats got you to read this far, I have a fun story to tell. I do a bit of wildlife rescue, mostly birds, but I did get a call one day to come fetch three bats. They'd been found in an attic, and the attic's owner wanted them gone. The only thing I had to transport them in was a birdhouse. Wearing gloves, I pressed each of the three bats to the inside wall of the birdhouse, replaced the wooden access bottom, and put one of my gloves in the entrance hole. The birdhouse was on the seat next to me as I drove home. See that gap in the front, right at the top?
The first I was aware that the bats were no longer in the birdhouse, was when one of them landed on the dash. That's when I noticed the gap. By that time, all three bats were flying around the inside of my car. The windows were up, so to an echo locating bat they were solid walls. At a four way stop near my house, I looked over at the person stopped to my right. She smiled then saw what was happening inside my car. The expression on her face made me start to laugh, looking maniacal, I'm sure since I was sealed in a Ford Explorer, laughing hysterically with three bats circling. But once I started laughing I couldn't stop. Tears were streaming down my face as I pulled away from the stop sign.

Once I got home, I simply lowered my windows and they all flew out into the woods. That's the same summer Johnny first showed up in my bathroom. Who knows, but I'm looking forward to year seven.






1 comment:

  1. I also love bats. We have a few that live under the eaves of our upstairs bedroom window. They fly around at night eating the mosquitos. They are the best mosquito control! This last summer, one came into our bedroom and was flying around. We gently got him back outside. I look for signs of them every spring. Luckily, they always come back!

    ReplyDelete