I love smelling the outdoors on the children whenever they come in from playing outside. It is a clean, fresh smell that permeates the air around them. (That is one thing I have always been able to do. When I moved to Connecticut, people often gave me strange looks when I told them I could smell the outdoors, but it is true!!!)
I love how the songs of the birds tickle my ears with delight every morning, as well as the chirps of the peepers in the trees at night. Yet, one of the final signs of spring, at least for me, is the return of our chimney tenants, the Myotis Lucifugous. Before I tell you what the name means, let me tell you how we discovered our visitors eight years ago.
It was a beautiful summer day and my four children were playing in the living room while I cleaned up from breakfast. When I was done, I put baby Susanna into the stroller and we all went outside to play in the warm sunshine. I sat down on the concrete steps in the front of our house and watched the children ride their bikes in the driveway. It was as I was sitting there that the little brown clump under the railing caught my eye.
"Ewww!" I thought. "There is a dead mouse on our step!"
I went to take a closer look and noticed the little sides of the creature were moving, as it took rapid breaths. Upon closer investigation, I realized it was not a mouse at all, but a little baby bat. I quickly called my children over to take a look at it and we all ooohed and aaaahed at the funny looking animal. I knew the baby was a mammal so he needed his mother or else he would die. Of course my motherly insticts kicked in and I had to find out how to save him. Where had he come from? Where was his family? I knew nothing else would get done until I solved the mystery of the baby bat and helped him somehow.
I found a box and some gloves and carefully picked up the bat, setting him into the box where he would be safe. He liked the feeling of the glove and moved enough so he could hang upside down on the side. I tried feeding him a little water, but he was not interested. I took out a phone book and began searching for CT wildlife numbers. I needed someone to tell me how to care for him. After a few calls, I was directed to the right people who told me exactly what I needed to do in order to help the little guy. Did I have a chimney? Yes, I did! Were there black droppings on the side and on the ground anywhere near the chimney? Yes, there were! Was there a crack in the side of the chimney anywhere? Yes, there was! That was his home, they informed me. His family lived behind our chimney and that was where he needed to go. From what the lady told me, baby bats cling to their mothers as they fly around at night and somehow this one had fallen off. He still needed his mother to nurse and sustain his life.
With hope in my heart, I went back outside to study the crack behind the chimney, which seemed extremely high up. How in the world was I going to put baby Myotis back into that hole? I tried standing on a chair but it did not give me enough height. I decided I would have to wait for my husband to get home. He had a nice long ladder on the top of his truck that would work beautifully in getting the baby back home.
It seemed like forever until Joe came home from work, but finally he pulled in and took the ladder off. I had already explained to him about our situation over the phone, and with that look in his eye, (I guess I have put myself into these heroic attempts quite often in our marriage) he set the ladder up and I brought the bat outside to him. It was then that we noticed strange squeaking sounds coming from the hole, a sound that is very hard to explain. It is a very high pitched sound that is different than any other animal I have heard. They did not like the fact that we were invading their area, which made me nervous that they would come flying out to attack us.
Joe put the glove on, with the bat still hanging off the side, and climbed up the ladder. He went as far as he dared, while still being in reach of the entrance to the side of the chimney. He held his hand up and waited. The squeaking grew louder from inside and the baby perked up. We watched in suspense as the baby inched sideways, attached itself to the rough brick of the chimney, and made his way into this home. The high pitched squeaking increased in excitement as baby bat was welcomed home to his family. I breathed a sigh of relief. Success once again!
I found it very interesting to have bats so close to us. We had often heard the sounds of scratching on our living room walls as night, but did not know what it was. Now we knew. Joe was concerned that they would ruin the chimney so after they left for the winter, he sealed up the hole and attached a bat box to the same spot so they would still have a home. The bats, which were all female, returned the next spring and moved into the box. It is their nusery roost, where they have their babies and raise them all summer long. We had no idea how many were in there until one night we sat on the grass at dusk and watched the bats swoop out, one by one, from the box and go off to eat their nightly meal. We counted over 80 bats, and they were still coming out when we went inside that night. Our bat box can hold 100 bats and it certainly it packed tight when I look up into it.
So, yes, seeing our bats return is definitely my last sign that spring is here to stay. We were outside the other night, sitting around a campfire, when I noticed the bats swooping out of their house and diving low, right above our heads, as they caught those nasty mosquitos I hate so much. I love how God has provided us natural pest control, something that is entertaining to watch, plus it is a witness to the children how God's creation is awesome. Bring on the spring weather!!!!