Friday, September 18, 2009

Long Ears

In the morning, there was a small brown scrap on our lawn where none had been before. Turning over, as I thought, the corpse of a headless bat, I was startled by squeaks of fear or rage. The mouse-sized animal had curled its wings in tight around its body, and tucked its head into its chest; even its ears had curled up, looking something like a ram's horns. The face was relatively pretty, as bats go, without the weird pressed-up nose that some species have; the massive ears are the feature you'll remember, though.

Brown long-eared bat

According to the excellent "Exploring Irish Mammals", Plecotus auritus, described by Linaeus in 1758, is found across most of Europe north of the Pyreness, and also in the far east, in regions within Russia, China, and Japan. This bat likes to "foliage glean", plucking its prey from leaves or even the ground as it flys.


My tiny specimen was soaked in dew, and motionless - this last must be what saved it from our cat, who loves to chase, but tires of prey which can no longer flee. I tucked my patient away for the day in an empty toolbox, with a few crumbs of cat food for sustenance.


After sunset, I took my patient for a walk, to a wooded and cat-free place. Out of the toolbox, the ears inflated and the head looked up; then, the tiny creatures crawled from my gloved hand onto the rough bark of a large tree, hooking on tight with claws on the leading edge of the wing, while black and hand-like hind paws sought purchase.

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