status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage
Petronella hunting an adventurous waxworm
Getting Petronella to fly was not going to be an easy task.
I knew her wing was on the mend, because one evening she had fluttered from the curtain to the bed, not once, but twice.
She’d also taken to jumping up and down and flapping with frustration if she couldn’t immediately find her next waxworm.
Nearly got the little blighter…
But she was still getting the majority of her exercise haring around battling her supper, rather than taking to the air and putting her wasted flying muscles through their paces.
However her behaviour was slowly changing in a way that made me think she was getting ready to regain her freedom. She was more wary of my presence and a lot more active both when she was out of her box, and throughout the night WHEN I WAS TRYING TO SLEEP. Grrrrr.
I began by attempting to fly her round the bedroom, but the space was limiting, and I could not really get an idea of her abilities, so the dog was banished to the office, and Petronella and I took our aerobatic show out into the more spacious sitting/dining room.
It was a slow old process, hampered mainly by her reluctance to let go of my finger – although taking into account her previous experience of me dangling her over an abyss, I was not entirely surprised.
Are you mad? I’m not chucking myself from this great height!
Even when she did take off, she tended to remain in flight for a matter of seconds, before colliding noisily with either a wall, a door or a piece of furniture.
Now this did not fill me with confidence as to the state of her echo-location, but she may just have been easily tired and a little disoriented, so we battled on.
At least forty minutes each evening were spent shaking a reluctant bat off my fingers, then clutching my head in horror as she ricocheted around the place; bellowing in bemusement, frustration and hunger because to add insult to collision-inflicted injury, she had to go through all of this on an empty stomach.
Zzzzzzzzzz I can’t hear youuuuuu!
Sometimes she would just hang there and simply drift comfortably back off to sleep, others she wrapped her wings determinedly round my finger and glared in defiance.
It was without doubt a battle of wills, and like so many beings of incy wincy stature, Petronella was not lacking in the balls of steel department.
I repeatedly called the local bat expert in desperation to find out what I was doing wrong, apparently Petronella should be airborne for five minutes or more at a time. She was averaging five seconds, and then finishing it off with a crash-landing.
Bloody hell, woman, just give me a break (oh! and a waxworm)
Just persevere, was the advice. She has to be released within the next few days or the other bats will have moved off. The roost from which she had originally come had already been deserted the previous week, but whilst there were still bats whistling past my balcony every evening, it was not too late for a happy ending.
By this time, both Petronella and I were the talk of the village. That anyone would rescue something which gets tangled in your hair, or bites your jugular vein whilst you sleep and gives you rabies (yes, some bats carry rabies, but most bats are far too small to break the skin even if they should take it into their heads to bite you, so the risk is extremely slight) was inconceivable to a lot of people.
Her bald chin is, I think, caused by her trying to clean the sticky waxworm goo off
Luckily for me (and hopefully also for Petronella and her ilk) it presented me with the perfect opportunity to dispel a few of those old wives’ tales, as well as being able to point out that bats, in most countries, are a protected species. Disturbing their roosts, or letting your pets hunt them willy nilly is an offence punishable by law. And so it should be.
Some of the local children (and adults) came round to watch her feed, and were I hope touched by the experience. Thanks to my rather unusual upbringing, I have often been in the privileged position of being able to get close to wild animals – bats, birds, raptors, a bittern (type of heron), slow-worms (type of legless lizard), badgers and more. It is, without doubt, a humbling experience.
Bruised wing still visible, but much improved
So after a week of stress; poking Petronella out from the radiator behind which she became wedged, hunting high and low when she scuttled under the furniture and fighting my feelings of guilt as I hurled her into reluctant flight, she was soon circling the room like a pro and I knew the time had come.
So I fed her the very last waxworm, and stroked her plump little body one final time, before settling her on one of my balcony shutters.
She sat there for a while, sniffing the night air, ears flicking backwards and forwards as she picked up the familiar sounds. Then another bat sped past, and with a stretch of her healed wings, Petronella launched herself off back into her natural habitat.
I watched her swoop off over the carpark, and I would be lying if I said it was easy to let her go.
Mixed with the feelings of terror that I had not rehabilitated her to the extent where she would have a chance of survival, was simply the fact that I would miss her presence. What distinctly human silliness!
I have posted more pictures of Petronella on the Status Viatoris blog page over on Facebook. For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation and would like advice, here is a UK website, a French website, an Italian website, a Spanish website and a US website on rescuing injured bats.
And let us raise our glasses to Petronella! Long may you roam the night skies, ridding us of pesky mosquitoes and other naughty nibblers, whilst making sure to stay well away from cats…
And it’s goodbye from me…
This is Status Viatoris, wiping a not unhappy tear from her eye, and looking forward to the return of her social life! In Italy, of course