TRR photos by Kristin Barron

The night shift

A little brown bat (Myotislucifungus) has taken up residence on my front porch. It can be seen sleeping in the daytime, if you look for it. It hangs upside down, as bats do, up near the ceiling. It’s sheltered behind a block of wood that serves as a phoebe defense.

While phoebes (Sayomis phoebe) are certainly interesting birds; hosting them on a porch as busy as ours can be a messy situation. They will build their mud and grass nests atop porch posts and in the eaves of houses, if allowed. Just a simple block of wood will discourage a phoebe from nesting on your porch, which on our porch is also a good thing for the mother bird, who would be constantly driven off the nest by the continual opening of the screen door.

But while a strategically placed wood block prohibits a phoebe from building a nest in the porch eaves, it turns out that it creates a perfect boudoir for a bat.

My husband John has seen the little bat crawl back into its chamber at dawn, since he is up that early. But we have yet to notice his departure at dusk for its night nosh of insects. As is well known, bats are insect-eating machines. A little brown bat can eat between 300 and 4,500 insects (including pests like mosquitoes) in a night, according to estimates compiled by Penn State. It is enough to rival the phoebe, which is also a prodigious insect eater.

This summer, we have also found a number of little brown bats roosting in our shed. It is encouraging to see these bats, as white nose syndrome has decimated the population as well as other species of hibernating bats in recent years.

White nose syndrome is a fungal disease that affects the nose and wing membranes of bats, causing them to display irregular behaviors such as flying during the daytime hours of winter. It has critically imperiled bat populations, particularly in the Northeast, and there are no known treatments or means of preventing transmission. The disease was first discovered among hibernating bats in caves in Schoharie County, New York, in 2006. Most recent estimates from the Center for Biological Diversity say that 6.7 million bats have died nationally since the outbreak began. The disease is found in 28 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces.

So it is our pleasure to host this little bat on our porch. Of late, I have felt a certain kinship with the little brown bat. I have started a job at Delaware Valley Job Corps in Callicoon, working on the night shift. As my friend the bat swoops home to rest, I too will be coming home to sleep in the glittering morning.


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