a bathroom visitor

Because the evenings are warm and our windows are often open long after dark, the Pipistrelle bats that are more usually heard (tiny scratchings and wing rustlings) though unseen in the space between my attic studio ceiling and the roof tiles, are these days frequent visitors to our rooms. If we spot one flitting about we close the door, turn out the light and leave it to find its own way out of the window. But sometimes we close a window before retiring, not knowing that a bat (or bats) has been trapped inside for the night.

Above: the bathroom bat. That’s a bit of balled-up cobweb caught on its wing. Click to enlarge to see its tiny, pin-prick-sized eye looking at me.

Jack can be relied upon to find bats roosting where we would rather they didn’t. He once wouldn’t rest until I’d unfolded a window-shutter in the drawing-room from the wall-recess where it snugly fits, because he knew, when I did not, that a bat slept between the folded panels in a gap that I would have thought too snug for even a moth to slide into. And because in such matters he simply won’t give up, when he persistently has his nose pressed somewhere and won’t be distracted from it, I always investigate.

Last week I found a bat asleep , clinging to the edge of the bathroom door as I went to close it before my shower. I gently prised it free and took it outside… because Ty Isaf is built into a high bank, we have a first-floor back-door that opens onto the upper orchard just outside the bathroom… and I set it onto a climbing hydrangea to wake itself properly and warm up. It hissed at me a bit, but was otherwise compliant, and after it had roused itself sufficiently, flew back to its colony under the roof.

Above: the bathroom bat, rudely woken and set to warm in the early-morning sun so that it could gather the energy to fly back under the roof to its colony.

I like these little creatures a lot, and they are most welcome here. The colony roost has a slightly bitter, almost hoppy odour that comes from their droppings, and it’s apparent in the studio in the summer because the bats are just above the ceiling in fairly large numbers. (About three hundred of them at last count, which number produces significant quantities of guano.) The animals themselves have a different scent, rather musty and more apparent when you touch one. These days I’ve become quite sensitive to it, and I can usually fleetingly smell a bat in the air of a room it’s just flown through.

Click HERE to read another of Jack’s wildlife encounters, this time with a toad!

16 thoughts on “a bathroom visitor

  1. My elderly neighbor Bideth used to march up to her attic and shovel out the guano, not worrying a bit about anything–though we were worried about her! A mask is a very good idea. Also hiring somebody who knows what he/she is doing! We have had a bat in the house, but were super-careful because rabid bites from wild animals have happened within a block of our house. The village appears to be overrun with foxes, deer, river bank denizens of various sorts, raccoons (amazing how they can run along the tops of narrow fences), etc.

    • We don’t have rabies in the UK, though caution should always be exercised. Being bitten or scratched by any wild animal is to be avoided, as who knows what lesser horror than rabies may be passed on through a wound.

      Only last week I had to release a sparrowhawk I discovered trapped in the loose-box that serves as a tack-room. There’s a transom window that hinges open, and from the evidence the sparrowhawk had got in through it but then couldn’t find its way out again. It was desperately trying to get through the glass of the closed casement window when I grasped it firmly from behind, closing the wings against the body to get a firm grip. Despite its small size, it was incredibly strong, and by the time I’d moved outside it had struggled free, drawing blood on my hands in the process. In a moment it was up and away and in the top of the huge Norway spruce, glaring at me from a very safe distance. I wondered how long it had been trapped in the tack-room, and went back in to look. It had clearly been in there long enough to eat a pigeon, the last few feathers of which were all that remained, together with a minute fragment of something meaty! I think the pigeon, pursued by the sparrowhawk, had blundered through the transom and the hunter had followed. I don’t like to think about what happened thereafter, with the pigeon trapped with the hawk, but clearly the corpse of the former had kept the latter alive and in good health. But did the hawk really consume every bit of its victim, including bones, legs and indeed most of its feathers? All the evidence pointed to that. Luckily the swallows nesting in their mud nest in the eaves of the tack-room had escaped the hawk’s attention. They use a high ventilation grill to come and go as they please when the tack-room door is closed, and I think they must have stayed away while the sparrowhawk was resident! But they were back in minutes after I’d released it. What a drama! Anyway, I carefully washed my hands with disinfectant, and so far no signs of anything awful!

      But that guano in the space above the studio, yes, I should investigate how to deal with it safely.

  2. I’m particularly fond of these creatures so loved seeing your pics of them and I’m rather envious that you have so much proximity to the wonderful little critters!

  3. Yes they are the dearest creatures. We have them here in the attic, too. But be warned, they can bite! I heard one screaming one morning, he had missed the attic somehow and attached himself to the neighbours wall for the day, but the sun had moved round and the brightness and heat had woken him. He was making such a noise I called Marie-Lise who gently prised him from the wall, he then swiftly locked his jaws in her thumb, whereupon I had to gently prise him off her thumb(with gloves)! We parked him safely in the shade, story over. However, without wishing to sound alarmist, they can carry rabies , so we have to be careful when handling them. xL

    • I used to look after the young Pipistrelles at Tretower that I’d find stranded and cold on the flagstones when I opened up the building in the mornings. Sometimes they weren’t proficient enough fliers to get back to their colony, and would crash-land and get chilled. I’d call the ‘bat man’ for help, and he would arrive after work to help me get them back up where they belonged. But until then I’d put them inside my shirt where it was warm, and they’d cling to the hairs on my chest and chitter until they fell asleep. I occasionally had up to three down there for the day. But I was never bitten until we moved to Ty Isaf, where an outraged Pipistrelle nipped me when I tried to pick it up and set it outside. Just the once, and it was a tiny bite.

      But yes, I’m aware of the rabies issue, and so I’m always very careful these days, and try to avoid picking them up if they’re really angry!

  4. Amazing, and that you can smell them! I think you and Jack have melded.

    What happens to all the guano? Do you have to go in and clean it out?

    • God knows what happens to the guano. I stay out of there. Some of it finds its way around the edges of the ceiling hatch in my studio that gives access to the space, and I find piles of it on the studio floor. I guess we should get up there in the winters when the colony is inactive, but I don’t quite fancy the implications of cleaning the roost. I’d certainly wear a protective mask.

  5. Funny, I almost heard Sir Attenborough reading your story to me. Very nice. Love bats and again you amaze me Clive. So many different things you like and know something about. You easily could have lived in the Renaissance.

    • Ha ha. Well I greatly admire Richard Attenenborough and his work, and so that’s quite a compliment to treasure. Thank you.

      Good to hear from you again, Mathijs. I always love it when you drop by.

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