We had been getting anxious for bats, not having seen any flitting above our patio this year. But we finally saw one—just one—on Tuesday evening. The bats are attracted to the house by insects, which are themselves attracted there by the residual day-warmth radiating from the stones of our south-west-facing house. The warmth was very noticeable. Jen and I could feel it from at least ten feet away. Our own little micro-climate!
Seeing the bat made my week.
Then, on Wednesday, we made a day-trip to Whitby to buy crab and to eat fish and chips. We took our farmer friend along for good measure. The fish and chips were excellent, as was the crab, which we ate in a sandwich for lunch on Thursday.
Around this time of year, we normally have three bats flying around our garden in the evening. Earlier in the year, there are two. I always take three bats as a sign of another successful year's breeding.
Tonight, however, there were at least five bats wheeling around the back garden. As ever, they flew remarkably close to me. I didn't bother to get my bat-detector out. I've come to the conclusion that the bat-detector destroys much of the magic of bats. I love the way they suddenly appear out of the gloaming, and flit silently around my head. The bat-detector might help me to enter the bats' world, but it also means I lose the magical silence.
But tonight it wasn't quite silent. I don't know whether it's because of my current head-cold, which is certainly affecting my hearing, but suddenly I realised that I could hear the bats' clicks as they flew towards me (but not as they flew away). The clicks were only just audible, but they were certainly there. Perhaps they've always been there, but I haven't noticed them before. It will be interesting to find out if I can still hear them once this cold has gone. But perhaps, as I suspect is the case, the bat-detector has given me a better idea about what to listen for: the frequency of the clicks (as opposed to the frequency of the sound carrying the clicks), and the fact that they are loudest as the bat travels towards you. So, not a complete waste of money, then!
I took delivery of a swanky, new bat detector today. It converts bats' inaudible ultrasonic clicks into something mere humans can hear. And it even let me record the results on my iPhone. Here's a recording I made this evening (the stills were taken in previous years' bat-watching):
The sun doesn't get round to the west-facing front of our house until late morning, so I sat on the steps at the side of our patio this morning, trying to catch some early morning warmth while reading a book. I had just finished a chapter, and glanced up to see the first swallow of the summer fly over my right shoulder, skim down to near grass-level above the lawn, then lope over the hedge and away.
The sighting made my day. I always become anxious at this time of year, wondering what on earth can be delaying the swallows. The earliest I have ever seen a swallow here is on my birthday (2nd April), so it's usually around then that my anxiety starts. Our first swallow this year was over a week late, as far as I'm concerned.
Later in the morning, I had a long phone chat with a friend in Scotland. She gets ospreys near her house. I pretended not to be at all jealous. While we were talking, she spotted a buzzard out of her window. I explained that, in the (nearly) ten years that we have lived here, I have only ever seen a single buzzard from our house. We live in sheep- and grouse-country, so I suspect that some of the local farmers and/or gamekeepers must persecute raptors.
Imagine my delight, therefore, when, later this afternoon, I spotted a buzzard circling lazily upwards on some thermals. I watched it for ten minutes until it disappeared into the now glaring sun. Wonderful.
Then, to cap it all, this evening, we spotted our first bats of the year.