At this time of the year, when spring is firmly established, the day has been warm and lots of insects have been buzzing around the garden—as dusk falls, just before nine o’clock, there is still life in the garden.
If I’m still at my desk, working away on some crafting or one of my side projects, and the curtains are pulled back, then I start to see a flutter out of the corner of my eye. This is the time the bats come out.
When I mention the garden bats to some people, they’ll say “you’re so lucky! I’ve never seen a bat.” I think, though, it depends if you know what you’re looking for. They’re quick, faster than birds. They dart to and fro, changing direction apparently at random. It’s dusk, though, and unless you spot the outline of their wings you might mistake one for a small bird heading off to their roost. I’ve been stood outside a friend’s house and seen bats flying around us. I recall, years ago now, going on a camping holiday in Cornwall with H; walking back to the campsite after a lovely dinner in the nearest village, up a steep ancient lane lined with tall hedges, and with bats flying around above us constantly the whole way. I’m not sure that anything quite beats, though, the idea that bats are fluttering around my garden every spring and summer night. As the moon rises—as it is now, waxing and almost full—I stand at the window, and watch their silhouettes flicker.
I should be proud, really, that they choose my garden because my garden has enough insects for them to feast on. There must be three or four regular visitors at the moment: if you watch them, if you are quick, you can see more than one in your line of sight at the same time, or one disappear off to the left just as another swoops in from the right.
A few years ago I went on a bat walk with my friend W, for his birthday; the tour guide gave us all “bat detectors”, pitch-shifters that lowered ultrasound to audible frequencies. If you twisted the knob up and down the dial, you’d occasionally hear snatches of bat, a bit like trying to tune a shortwave radio to a Dutch or German station. Each species of bat has a slightly different voice, so if you leave the dial in one position you might miss something; equally, turning the dial makes you wonder if you’re going to be on the wrong frequency at the wrong time. For all the noises we heard, we didn’t really see very many bats. Here, though, I see them nearly every fine night. No need to listen for them when I can watch each wheel and turn. At this time of night, at this time of year, you’ll find me at the window, watching the bats.