COOL NEWS ABOUT A PIPISTRELLE
THE unusually mild weather we have had, welcome as it has been to the Christmas shopper, lass had an unsettling effect on hibernating animals, among them the bats.
Although their dormant times are prompted more by the amount of fat they have been able to accumulate during the summer than the actual state of the weather, bats do as a rule hang themselves up in winter until the worst of the cold is over.
Bats, mostly seen out of doors and on the wing in this country, occasionally fly in through open windows, and it is a little disconcerting to find one in the middle of one's bed.
A friend of ours, versed in the ways of bats, received an SOS one evening recently to go and deal with one of these intruders, and having got the creature safely into a cardboard box he very kindly brought it round to me.
The bat was semi-torpid and didn't seem to mind what happened to it: it allowed itself to be carried into the light, examined under a magnifying glass and even stroked on the soft brown fur of its back.
It was difficult to believe that here was a creature very little different from those that had lived some 50,000,000 years ago; the only mammal that can fly; and one moreover that carries in its head an extraordinarily efficient system of radar transmission.
It was too good a prize to be kept to oneself. There is a prep. school in our near neighbourhoodand I rang up the headmaster to know if he would like a young pipistrelle in a cardboard box. He accepted with enthusiasm and his wife came to fetch it.
It spent a week in its new quarters and then, because it was leading rather too social a life, came "home" and was put into a dark corner of a toolshed.
Then the mild spell woke it. It left its box and presumably went in search of food, for when active, bats are voracious feeders and cat up to their own weight of food nightly.
When one considers that nearly all a bat's food is caught and eaten while it is flying, that it has no hands with which to manipulate it. and that its flight during this process is uninterrupted, one realises that there are other things beside the principle of radar that we can learn from them