a tiny tragedy

Above my attic studio at Ty Isaf, in the space between the ceiling and the roof, there is in the summer months, a colony of Pipistrelle bats. Most of them overwinter elsewhere, but in the summer the colony gather to give birth and rear the young. Sometimes a bat will find its way into the house, and then we turn the lights off and vacate whichever room it’s in, closing the door behind us to leave the creature in peace to escape through an open window. (They always find their ways out.) In the photograph above, an adult Pipistrelle that crash landed in our bath and became trapped there until morning, sits in the palm of my hand before I return it to where it will be safe. That’s a bit of cobweb wrapped around its wing.

This year the Pipistrelles have been very active, and for weeks the sound of the young, squeaking and scratching about out of sight in their nursery above the plaster, was a delight. One night they were so noisy that I was woken by the excitement, even though our bedroom is a floor down, and there are two ceilings and a couple of closed doors between us and the colony. I think they must have been warm up there, because there was the sound of the opening and fanning of leathery wings, like hundreds of tiny umbrellas.

However, where there are young, there will always be casualties. For a few days I’d noticed what I took to be a dead leaf on the roof just below our bathroom window. It seemed odd that it didn’t blow away, as the other leaves had, and eventually I investigated. Not a leaf at all, but a tiny infant bat. It must have ventured out of the roost much too soon, become chilled and disoriented, and died on its back, crucified to the roof by the cold and the rain.

I left it there for a few weeks, until it was dried out enough by the sun to prise free without damage. I put it in a tissue-lined perspex box for Johann, who had been astounded by its tiny size. Here are his photographs of it, the first with a 5p coin for scale.

6 thoughts on “a tiny tragedy

  1. ‘To hold infinity in the palms of your hands’, as the beautiful Mr Blake said….all of the glory and tragedy of creation summed up in that tiny little creature. The posture of crucifixion/submission gives an added dimension of sadness…..

  2. Beautiful memento mori image my friend , and a compassionate tribute to a short life.
    I’m wrestling with mice at the moment and hope to emulate your eqilibrium in coexisting . We have purchased compassionate traps and released one adorable little fellow this morn.

    Wishing you and your leather winged neighbors well.
    Lg

    • Easy to coexist with bats, Leonard, as they do no damage. But after having gone easy on the mice here for years, using humane traps from which we released them at suitable distances from the house, they turned their attentions to some temporary plastic water-pipes, and twice flooded our kitchen with disastrous consequences.

      Now the traps are of the killing variety, because we really had to discourage them from living here. Mice can gnaw through electric cable and cause fires, which we can’t risk. We’ve beaten the population down, and it’s a relief that they’re not any longer here in the numbers that resulted in damage when they went unchecked. I hate killing, I really hate it, but mice are hazardous in terms of where they urinate, and what they destroy.

  3. Sorry for the tiny bat. But:

    I was born just after our civil war, in one of those huge victorian houses in the North of Spain. And we had spiders (of the big furry kind, that could kill you with their poisonous bite), and we also had bats. Big bats that lived under the roof, and loved coming into the house with their shaky flight, and their screeches. My grandmother had us all put towels over our heads, to protect our hair, and all sorts of gloves and covers against their bites (apparently, many bats had rabies then), and we all made chase with tennis rackets or with pillows till we got them out of the house.

    So, you see, bats are not my favourite animals.

    The funny thing is that I love Vampire tales. I never miss a Glen Duncan novel. But one does not have to be purely rational, does one ?

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