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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Notes’

Pooch’s Pool

25/08/2016

Tired Old Tales for Thursdays

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Pooch is wilting.

This despite the fact that for the first two years of his life he lived in a country where the summer temperatures overshot 40ºc on a regular basis.

Throughout the day he flops like a moribund fish from the sofa to the cool tiled floor under my bed and back again, with his tongue hanging limply round his ankles and a look of mournful dejection on his face.

I would feel more sorry for him if it wasn’t for the fact that he also periodically throws himself into his outside bed to roast his remaining brain cell in full sunlight.

The high point of both our days are our walks down to the river, where Pooch swims around in hot pursuit of water skaters and stones whilst  I sit on a rock watching the dragonflies…

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Another Sort of Twitter

14/06/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year when I have to try, but usually fail, to keep my cool as I ask people to please, please, please LEAVE BABY BIRDS WHERE YOU FIND THEM!

It’s the great irony of human nature that vast numbers of human beings plod through life utterly oblivious to the life cycles of the creatures with which they share their ecosystem; unable even to name the most common of the feathered songsters that provide the soundtrack to our daily lives; clueless as to the whys or wherefores of their frenetic springtime activities.

And yet, upon coming across a newly fledged emergent sitting around minding its own business waiting for mum or dad to bring it a worm or a seed or a wriggly insect or two, an ornithological expert is miraculously born.

So year after year I am forced to watch, as the undoubtedly well-meaning but indisputably ignorant, cart baby wrens, house martins, great tits, sparrows and the rest off to a future where their chances of survival have been slashed from already-fraught-but-at-least-mum-and-dad-have-got-my-back, to nil.

Sure enough, within a few days of being force-fed unnatural food in a highly stressful and unnatural environment, a small feathered corpse will be winging its way to a nearby dumpster.

Having verbally tussled with friends and neighbours on the subject – and got precisely nowhere – I was sad but resigned when some local girls brought me my very own little sparrow just a few days ago.

Beginning its numbered days...

Beginning its numbered days…

Two days of suet pellets, bits of dried mealworm and an assortment of seeds were not enough to appease the agitated mite, whose only goal was to get back to the place from which it had been “rescued” – an environment for which the basic rules of survival have been written into its DNA.

A stiff little body at the bottom of a poo-stained cardboard prison was the pitiful result.

Life is a bitch. Baby birds die – that’s why the adult birds tend to lay a clutch rather than a solitary egg – but their already slim chances of survival are vastly reduced by human interference, however well-intentioned.

So, at risk of making myself very unpopular, I shall continue to harp on to my friends and neighbours – urging them to by all means move exposed baby birds to the safety of a nearby bush or hidey-hole, but just not to take them home. Their parents will be looking out for them: they will run themselves ragged and tatty bringing food to their young until they are fully independent.

That’s what parents do, and nature should never be underestimated.

This is Status Viatoris, a soap box for every occasion and boy what a collection I have amassed over the years, in Italy.

Recently Spotted Critters

10/05/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

It seems fitting, seeing as this will be my last post from the UK for some time, that I use it to show off some of our fabulous local wildlife – all creatures that play, albeit unwittingly, a hugely important part in making my trips back home as special as they always are.

Being in such close proximity to a reasonably large reservoir gives endless opportunities for spotting critters – especially of the feathered variety. Mute swan, Canada Goose, Greylag, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Grey Heron… are just some names from a list of possibilities that becomes yet longer during the winter months, providing endless fodder for the exchange of wildlife notes amongst interested locals.

Mute swan gazing lovingly at its own reflection.

Canada Geese doing an unimpressive job of blending into their background.

But I am lucky enough not to have to venture from the garden for much of my critter-spotting. With parents (now just Mothership) having dedicated nearly 36 years to building up what is now considered to be a Local Wildlife Site (it will also be entered into the National Garden Scheme handbook from the 2013 season), I find myself plumb in the middle of a veritable critters’ paradise: fox, badger, otter, Chinese Barking Deer (Muntjac), Pipistrelle and Brown Long-eared bat, Short-tailed Field Vole, Wood Mouse, rabbit and the occasional hare joining a plethora of happy garden birds and water birds, birds of prey and corvids, in a habitat created especially for them.

Female blackbird attempting to feed disabled young. Father had a partially white head. This was his first pairing, and it was perhaps his lack of customary caution whilst searching for food for his nestlings that caused him to be nobbled by a predator of some sort. The mother was then forced to fledge her two youngsters earlier than normal. This particular baby appeared to have serious problems – almost certainly blind and possibly also deaf. It was dispatched by a hungry magpie the day after this photo was taken.

Greater Spotted Woodpecker on the sunflower seed feeder as Great Tit comes in to land.

Nuthatch on the sunflower seed feeder as rival Nuthatch stages a fly-past.

Not sure that even two swallows make a summer – am I the only one who misunderstood that saying for quite some time? Swallow numbers throughout the UK have sadly and noticeably declined due to hunting during migration,  modern agricultural practices – grazing land is less intensively drained and therefore attracts more insects but much has now been converted to arable, and farm buildings which make ideal nest sites being knocked down or converted into housing.

Brown Long-eared bat snoozing away the rain-filled days.

But it does not just provide homes for the cutesy-wootsey, there are also plenty of common lizards – reintroduced from an endangered site in the mid 1990’s – frogs, toads, grass snakes, common and great crested newts, and slow worms introduced from an endangered site in the early 1990’s.

Common Lizard enjoying the briefest of brief sunny spells.

Juvenile Common Lizards doing likewise…

Slow Worms a bit cheesed off after being discovered warming up under a sun-baked slate.

Common Newt eft rescued from damp, dark ice-house.

So Spring is Sprung, peeps, and critter-spotting can now begin in earnest. I would love to hear about your sightings, and for those of you who are fans of Status Viatoris blog Facebook page, please feel free to post your wildlife pix for our delectation!

This is Status Viatoris, looking forward to stalking Italian wildlife in similarly assiduous fashion with her new camera, still in Norfhamtonshite but soon to be in Italy.

Slash and Burn for Running Paw

23/01/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Time spent with Cyril the accident-prone sparrowhawk (written about here), reawakened my – admittedly never very dormant – desire to seek volunteer work with a local conservation outfit. But although potentially interesting wildlife-orientated contacts were made thanks to Petronella the pipistrelle (remember her?), repeated offers of an extra pair of hands came to nothing.

And then life, as it has a nasty habit of doing, got in the way anyway – there is nothing like renovations and Bastard French Notaries for obliterating all notions of free time and replacing selfless intentions with stress-induced narcissism.

So when my ex-landlady/friend/neighbour/lady mayoress mentioned that she was in talks to donate a piece of communal land to be used as a rehabilitation centre for injured wildlife, it seemed too fortuitous to be true.

Indeed, bureaucratic cogs in Italy move frustratingly slowly, especially when un-greased by wealthy interested parties – of which conservation attracts far too few. In fact almost a year elapsed before we were summoned to a dinner/talk given by the organisers of the initiative, in which it was at long last confirmed that it would be going ahead.

Which how I came to spend last Sunday in the company of Italian veterinarians and conservationists, up to my elbows in recalcitrant plant life; yanking, snipping, wrenching and sawing for all I was worth in order to reclaim the chosen site from Mother Nature’s tanglesome efforts to do the same.

Man vs Ivy – let the fight commence!

Even Pooch came along to join in the fun, although having expended enormous amounts of energy in digging a large hole, he was inadvertently bonked on the head by a stray branch and had to be whisked off home to the safety of the sofa for the purpose of recovering his spirits.

A blur of rather pointless activity…

A  stroke of good fortune provided us with the most glorious of sunny days to aid  in our endeavours, thus allowing for the incineration of the relentlessly defeated ivy which filled the air with atmospheric winter smells (and my lungs with ashy crud).

Après le slashing, le burning.

Following no less than 5 hour’s work – Ivy is to be admired for its tenacity…

It was time very enjoyably spent, and I find myself quite giddy with excitement at the prospect of putting to good use the years of helping my parents nurse bitterns, buzzards, bats and badgers back to health and subsequent freedom.

Not to be sniffed at either is the rare opportunity to rub shoulders with people who share the same interests and concerns as I do. Circumstance, location, sloth and shyness (yes really) have up until now made such a possibility distant at best, and to have it land so unexpectedly on my doorstep is nothing short of miraculous.

To new beginnings…

So let us raise our glasses to the brand new association Zampa che Corre, to the perseverance of the veterinarians and conservationists, to the generosity and string-pulling of a very special mayoress, all of whose combined efforts have managed to bring it from thought, to deed.

This is Status Viatoris, enjoying the aching muscles and the bleeding scratches that tell of a job well done and a lot more to look forward to besides, in Italy.

What a Porker!

05/12/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Although that might well seem like the sort of discrete comment one of my Italian neighbours would call out upon seeing my sizeable booty sashaying past, in this case it’s actually not. It refers instead to a rather bizarre incident that Pooch and I were involved in during our walk yesterday morning.

We had stopped (extremely fortunately as it turned out) for a brief natter with some neighbours at the bottom of the village, when I turned my head at just the right moment to see an enormous animal crashing six metres down a vertical wall to land nose-first onto the road no more than ten metres ahead of us.

It lay there, stunned (but perhaps not as stunned as I was), for a brief moment.

And a brief moment was all it took for my confused mind to identify an extremely large cinghiale (wild boar).

This one is a lot less cross-looking…

That flash of realisation coincided with the animal struggling to its feet, and whipping round to face us, at which point both Pooch and I had a flashback of the most panicky proportions to the dark and terrifying winter evening of 2006…

…when a curious shuffle through some undergrowth brought my poor hound nose to nose with a very unimpressed sanglier (practically identical beast but with garlickier breath and jaunty beret) whilst we were living in France.

The resulting carnage, and subsequent veterinary bills, subdued us both for quite some time.

And I didn’t intend to go through it again, so when the cinghiale (blood dripping rather menacingly from a tarmac-at-high-speed-induced nose bleed) started charging towards us, I dragged Pooch in behind me and sidestepped.

But the cinghiale simply altered its direction accordingly, and boy are those beasties nippy on their tootsies…

So with no other options available, I stepped back further, whilst turning my back on it – surely razor-sharp tusks would do less damage to an over-junked trunk than to a skinny little dog.

Luckily at that point, the creature noticed that we weren’t actually blocking its escape, and dodging past, it hared into the depths of somebody’s garden.

Where it was later found and dispatched – ONE HUNDRED KILOS OF PIGGY I’ll have you know.

That’s some serious bacon.

Thus Pooch and I continued on our walk: Pooch sporting an impressive puff of hackles à la Johnny Rotten whilst glaring suspiciously up at all high walls in anticipation of more airborne sausage meat, and me all over-excited and dying to tell everyone I met about our adventures.

It later transpired the story had actually begun in the woods at the top of the village, where some halfwit hunter-type took a pop at the poor creature, managing to graze it only slightly but piss it off quite considerably. At which point the cinghiale had taken off on a helter skelter dash of fear and fury down the village in the search of safe haven.

I know that there are huge numbers of wild boar in this area. I know that they are attracted to human habitation, to our bins and gardens. I know that they can be very dangerous, fatal even, for both domestic animals and humans if inadvertently cornered. I know that the boars hunted are never wasted – boar meat is a speciality in these regions. I know that the hunters would far rather end the boar’s life with one blast of their 12-bore, rather than causing it injury and suffering.

But despite knowing all this, a part of me really struggles to see a proud beast meeting such a terrified, undignified end, and can’t help but wonder at the mentality of those who take pleasure in hunting activities.

(Not to mention the idiocy of taking pot shots at wild boar in such close proximity to human habitation. Our little adventure could so easily have ended in a very different manner…)

This is Status Viatoris, off for another, hopefully less exciting amble, especially as today is DARLING POOCH’S 11TH BIRTHDAY!! in Italy.

Liberating Lolita

13/07/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I will no doubt catch another lot of disappointed porn surfers in my net with the title of this post… mwah ha ha!

But the Lola of my tale is no sultry, sexually-precocious teenage temptress. No no no. She is an infinitely more fascinating creature altogether, and with a story that boasts a far happier ending.

Lola is an example of one of my most favouritist things, as anyone who has read this post and subsequently this post, will be all too aware.

Lola is a pipistrelle bat. A teeny weeny baby pipistrelle bat, to be precise; rescued from the feline jaws of death and presented in a cardboard box to my neighbour’s granddaughter who named her, before sticking the box on a shelf and promptly forgetting all about it.

Luckily for Lola, I was invited round that very same evening for a barbecue and wasted no time in giving my Sainte Frances of Aseesaw cape an airing – no easy feat when dealing with an over-excited nine-year old who suddenly decides that what she wants most in all the world is a pet bat with which to force-feed Parma ham.

But for once, a youthfully short attention span proved to be a good thing, and I was soon able to whisk Lola unnoticed down to my apartment to inspect the damage.

(Not knowing from which roost she had tumbled, and not wanting to try and release her in an area heaving with bat-savvy cats, it was my only option.)

She (or he, bat-sexing not being my speciality) seemed to be unharmed and fighting fit, but unwilling to launch itself back into the dusky evening sky. I stood on my balcony for a while, the tiny creature clinging perilously to my outstretched finger, when I noticed an adult pipistrelle repeatedly flying up close. At each fly-by, the baby let out a squeak, until the adult grew brave enough to attempt a crash-landing on my shutters.

Curiosity well and truly piqued, I attached the baby to a towel and hung it from the shutters before creeping back inside to see what would happen next.

I didn’t have to wait long, as the squeaking from both adult and baby increased in volume until  a couple of thumps announced the landing of not one, but two adult pipistrelles on the towel. What extraordinary luck! Of all the bats to stage an appearance, there is very little doubt that the new arrivals were Lola’s mummy and daddy – pipistrelles only usually having one baby a year, all their instincts would be geared towards the nurturing of this solitary offspring.

Thrilled as I was to be thus relieved of all feeding responsibilities, I was still wondering how I was going to cope with an as yet flightless baby bat shacked up on my balcony, when another sneaky peep through the slats revealed a now totally bat-less towel.

Was a smidgen of parental guidance all Lola required in order to pluck up the courage to swoop off, or did Mum just follow the time-honoured pipistrelle tradition of attaching baby to her tummy and transporting it to safety?

I can only imagine, but what a heart-warming and immensely satisfying turn of events.

Evil puddy tats beware!

This is Status Viatoris, who HATES bat-savvy cats and wishes she could cover them in strawberry jam and peg them out to be licked into oblivion by some of those amazing (and enormous) fruit bats that so fascinated her in Sydney Botanical Gardens… 😉

Spring is most definitely Sprung…

11/04/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

…and I simply cannot get enough of it.

The start of another beautiful day…

Very budulate indeed…

The birds are deafening in their joie de vivre, and competing with them for the title of Noisiest Wee Beasties are about a million

Bloomin’ gorgeous!

randy frogs.

Even the trees are bursting into life, filling the air with gorgeous smells and clouds of scratchy stuff that is getting up everyone’s noses, tickling the backs of their throats and attractively puffing up their eyes…

Hey! It can’t all be fun and games, you know.

Pooch and I were recently invited to a friend’s campagna to help plant stuff and generally get in the way. Pooch was put to work turning the soil, which he did with admirable enthusiasm whilst I took pictures, ate panini and nattered – all of which, it must be said, I also did with admirable enthusiasm.

Diggy dog…

Diggy Dog – the story continues…

Diggy Dog digs on…

Diggy Dog’s all dug out…

All in all it’s utterly glorious and, as usually happens at this time of year, my mind has started to resemble the myriad of buzzy creatures that have suddenly appeared from nowhere to flit ceaselessly from one thing to another without ever managing to settle. Pooch is being dragged out for endless walks, I have picked up a dozen books only to put them back down again after a paragraph, I tidy the house only for chaos to re-establish itself again in a matter of hours, I keep forgetting what it was I was supposed to be doing and an article takes me an entire day to write…

However, I intend to make more of an effort to fulfil my Status Viatoris duties over the next weeks, spring or no spring, especially bearing in mind that I actually do have bits of interesting news to impart!

This is Status Viatoris, attempting to concentrate her flighty mind, in Italy…

Just Winging it

12/01/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I was lolling in bed, enjoying a trashy novel and a break from the arduous nature of single parenthood, when Pooch and his granny reappeared from their New Year’s Day walk, and with news…

Hopping miserably about in a nearby field, apparently unable to get airborne, was a sparrowhawk.

 

Collins Birds of Britain and Europe states (in a nutshell) – differs from smaller falcons in its shortish, broad, blunt wings. Barred underparts also distinctive. Chief call a chatter. Characteristic flight patterns, dash through, up and over hedgerows; fast low flight through woods or open ground; soaring, often circular glide with intermittent three/four wing flaps; gannet-like plummet with closed wings. Found in wooded country, sometimes villages and town suburbs. Presence detected by feathers and bones beneath plucking posts.

Something to rescue! One of my most very favouritist things…

So Mother and I set off, armed with a bright orange towel and two pairs of very thick gardening gloves – luckily our family’s reputation in the village is firmly entrenched in foundations of eco-eccentricity, so there was little risk that our stake-out would raise any eyebrows.

Cyril, formally known as Cynthia

Inexplicably, the bird was unwilling to accept that we only had its best interests at heart, and trapping it proved to be an exercise in frustration as it beetled bad-temperedly about, niftily evading all attempts at capture.

Look into the eyes, not around the eyes…

Worth bearing in mind when ‘rescuing’ wildlife, is that they do not see it in quite the same terms at all. For them, capture and imprisonment, however gently done, and however obvious their fate otherwise, is simply a prelude to being eaten.

Gratitude is most definitely not going to be the defining point of the encounter. The privilege of getting close to an amazing creature, however, most certainly is.

So after a lot of creeping, lunging and badly-aimed towel chucking (I am becoming renowned for my duff throwing), the sparrowhawk played into our hands by diving head first into some tussock grass. Wonderful animal logic – “I can’t see you, so you definitely won’t be able to spot me! Ha ha h…bollocks”.

Not even enough room to swing a sparrow…

And we had him. Or her.

So what next?

With my father (a rather grumpy Dr Dolittle-type) no longer with us and all other experts incommunicado due to the festive season, we had to fend for ourselves.

Mother came up trumps by hastily constructing a mini-aviary in the spare room, and we began the task of trying to nurse Cyril (or Cynthia) back to health, or at least to keep him/her alive until more professional help could be sought.

The first issue was the feeding. Not knowing how long the bird had been without food, it was important to get nourishment into him as soon as possible in order to build up his strength. But sparrowhawks are hunters, they don’t eat carrion – except for their own kills that they may return to.

The unblinking stare…

Instead I had to catch him, wrap him in a towel and post morsel after tiny morsel of duck liver into the corner of his mouth with long-handled tweezers (without inadvertently blocking the breathe hole under the tongue) and stroke his throat to provoke his swallow-reflex.

All whilst avoiding a thoroughly pissed off and jabby beak, which although not capable of breaking the skin, was very much capable of bruising an unwise fingertip.

Much much worse than the beak were the talons. They only wriggled free from the towel once, but in a flash he had managed to staple both my hands together with just one of them. Very curved, these immensely strong and fearsome feet are rather like fish hooks, and once clenched, very hard to release. It took laying him down on the floor, and covering him with a towel, before I could finally unhook his talons and sort out all the bleeding holes they had left.

Instruments of torture

No wonder a plump wood-pigeon, or a feisty jackdaw are no match for such a predator, with weapons such as those!

After four days we were able to make contact with the wonderful Angela, at the Leicestershire Wildlife Hospital. Her twenty-plus years of experience were apparent as she plunged her hand fearlessly into his travelling box and hoisted him aloft. Testing his wing reflexes by plunging him upside down towards the floor, then clamping his legs and extending his wings while we looked on in humbled amazement.

The verdict? He (for it was a he, although a pretty large one, which had initially confused us) had probably collided with some power cables – sparrowhawks are notoriously careless flyers – and bruised a wing.

He was also in need of a bit of a diet, four days of calorie-rich duck liver and zero exercise had made our little rescuee in a bit of a tubby raptor!

Goodbye Cyril!

As soon as he has recovered, which may be a while as sadly he sustained quite serious nerve damage, we will be called to pick him up so he can be re-released where he was found. Sparrowhawks are solitary and territorial birds, so it is important that they be returned, when possible, to their own territory.

So as I may have hotfooted it back to my Italian village by that point, I would just like to say:

Goodbye Cyril, good luck and fly more carefully in future!

This is Status Viatoris, what an unexpected but wonderful experience – please donate (if you can!) to causes such as these, they need all the help they can get, in Northamptonshire – and indeed most everywhere!

The Story of Petronella the Pipistrelle – Part 2

11/09/2010

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.

Gorrit!

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

The Story of Petronella the Pipistrelle – Part 1

10/09/2010

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Our tale begins one warm summer evening, about three and a half weeks ago, when Evil Kitty inadvertently alerted me that she had had a successful hunt.

I donned my cape, yanked a pair of tighty whities over my trousers, and in full Sainte Frances of Aseesaw mode, hotfooted it outside (yet again) to see what the little bugger tinker was torturing.

A rather small bat…

The creature I found was in a pitiful state, so I gathered it up and rushed it inside to check its vitals. It was still breathing, albeit shallowly, so I kept it warm until it started to show signs of recovery from the trauma.

After several hours of snoozing on my t-shirt, the Pipistrelle bat (interestingly the word for bat in Italian is pipistrello) perked up considerably, so, as I had done with the previous one, I took it out to the balcony to see if it was feeling up to tootling back off about its business.

Hanging from my finger, it thoughtfully sniffed the air before launching itself into the darkness and  promptly plummeting three storeys, landing with an audible thud on the concrete below.

Cue a rather panicky pyjama-clad dash down the stairs in search of a potentially dead bat, with only the light of a mobile phone to guide me. Luckily find it I did, and astonishingly still very much alive, although visibly wondering what it could possibly have done to deserve such a punishing evening.

So that, Ladies and Gents, is how I wound up sharing my bedroom with a bat in a

I are not related to Yoda, honest…

sheet-lined (apologies to my landlady, all bat-stained bedlinen will be replaced) box with breathe holes in the lid.

The next day, having tried unsuccessfully to tempt it with a catfood  and egg yolk concoction (it quite rightly turned its nose up at such foulness, and instead tramped stickily across the spoon, unwittingly transforming itself into an even more succulent morsel for any mog lucky enough to recapture it) I gave up and went down to the vet for some expert advice.

Enamoured vet immortalizing bat in photo…

The appointment stretched for a seemingly interminable hour and a half, as vets, vets’ assistants and indeed everyone else in the building came rushing in to coo over my ‘pipistrellina‘ (for it transpired that she was a indeed a Petronella, and not a Percival) and take her picture.

The verdict was that she had one very bruised wing, but without an obvious fracture. This was good news, providing that the wing in question healed satisfactorily.

Petronella soon tired of the limelight…

So with antibiotics in my bag, and the good wishes of all and sundry ringing in our ears, we set off to the nearest fishing shop for a bit of grub. Literally.

During my childhood bat rehabilitation experiences (having a couple of Dr Doolittles for parents leads to unimaginable excitements of that nature) we had always fed our guests mealworms – camole di farina. Unfortunately I was only able to get waxworms (plain old camole) which although apparently scrumptious, are full of fat and not much else.

Nothing like a waxworm to get your juices flowing. If you are a bat, that is…

Petronella, not being a bat of calorie-counting tendencies, did not raise a murmur of complaint at this. Instead she got straight into the serious business of building up her strength.

And for 10 days that is pretty much all she did.

Every evening at about 21h I would wake her up, give her a drink of water from the pipette, and then painstakingly cut up the revoltingly sticky waxworms, posting them section by section into her constantly gaping mouth.

I are always hungry… Feed meeeeeeeeee!

Gluing up my fingers, and staining every surface in the vicinity in the process, with the peculiar black substance they produced when butchered.

And when she proclaimed herself replete; ie stopped launching herself, jaws snapping, at my wormy fingers if I dared to tarry in filling the ever gaping cake hole, I settled her upside down on the curtain to stretch her wings and carry out her toilette.

Extending her uninjured wing…

We proceeded thus with our little routine, until I got fed up with cutting up the waxworms and instead made her hunt them whole; racing across the bedsheets, nose whiffling, emitting squeaks of bloodlust as she ran them to ground one by one.

But eventually we both had to face up to the fact that if she didn’t start flying again, her future would sadly be very uncertain.

Not extending her injured wing…

A little bit of grooming goes a long way…

She couldn’t rely on endless waxworms and a nice warm box forever, and I really had to get my life (or at least my evenings) back.

The time had come to up the anti, and seriously work on getting Petronella airborne once again and the onus was on me to make sure our goal was attained…

This Status Viatoris, puffed up with importance at her batular responsibilities, in Italy.


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