In Maine the other day I opened the door to my workshop. It’s a homemade barn-style door that hangs from galvanized rollers inside an eight-foot long galvanized track. As I slid the door aside something flew from behind it, past my head, and out over the door. “Weird place for a bird’s nest” I thought, with little room between the outside door and screen. As I looked for straw, twigs, or other signs of a nest something again flew close to my head and lit atop the sliding door. It paused momentarily, then tucked its leathery wings to its side and sinously crawled over the top of the door, its tiny muscles and bones flexing and reaching under its skin. No bird, this, but a bat. I angled the door away from the workshop for a better look. The bat was at the top, closest to the wall, so close that I feared squishing it if I let the door hang normally. I propped the door away from the house to give my new friend time to consider its options. Shortly the bat crawled into a narrow recess in the door, no doubt the same refuge from which I disturbed it. Years ago I mounted a bat house on a tree at the edge of the woods. I followed the directions to the letter as to the bat house’s location, orientation to the sun, height above the ground, and color. As far as I can tell it is still bat-free. Now without trying I’d provided a bat habitat that followed none of the rules and rolled back and forth, to boot. I decided I could try co-existing with my workshop bat but it settled the issue by moving on. A week later the bat has not returned.
Not to say I’ve been bat-less. That same day I took a twilight swim as the sun dropped below the horizon. The sunset was spectacular, the lake reflecting blood-red light that spanned the western sky. The lake was calm. I floated on my back in the deepening dark when I noticed winged shapes flitting and darting erratically above. Raising my head I saw a dozen or so bats hunting insects over the lake. I perched on a submerged rock to watch. The bats swooped, abruptly changed direction, flew low over the lake and spiraled 20 feet in the air. Watching any one bat in particular was impossible. I couldn’t keep track of their movements. Occasionally a bat would fly straight at my head, coming as close as a foot, only to veer aside when it realized I was not on the menu. Their mid-air agility is wondrous.
I’ve returned to this spot at twilight a number of times, watching the aeriel show from shore. The complex, zany flight patterns continue to fascinate, as does the bats’ utter silence. Their wings make no sound as they zig and zag.