… CHARLOTTE GETS VISITED BY BATS THIS WEEK BUT IT WASN’T COUNT DRACULA BY THE LOOK OF IT
(Posted 21st August 2020)
In the ninth of a series, Charlotte Beauvoisin shares some of her #LockdownDiaries from Kibale Forest in Western Uganda. Scroll down to read the first stories.
Last night a visitor flew into my house. Diary of a Muzungu readers may remember a recent nocturnal invasion! Thankfully this visit was less scary…
I live in a thatched wooden house on stilts on the edge of Kibale Forest. It’s a simple local construction that lets in the air, the forest sounds and all kinds of creatures. That’s one of its attractions in fact (not that I thought that when I first slept here eight years ago!)
Some mornings I find remnants of insects – particularly butterfly or moth wings – strewn on my floor. Do they just float in on the breeze? I wondered.
I’ve become quite fond of the bats that flit in and out of my house at night. They usually appear when I have a small light on next to the bed, in search of the moths that congregate around the lamp. Sometimes I hear the thud thud thud of heavy wings at night too. I am alerted to the noise of their wing beats but rarely get to see the bat itself, until yesterday.
I was quietly reading when I heard the tell-tale batwing noises below the thatch. I slowly moved the torch in the direction of the ceiling where I spied the animal dangling upside down, right above me. Staring in my direction was a dark little face with small eyes and big long ears – like a rabbit!
It has usually flown away by this point but this time it stayed fixed in one spot where it seemed to fidget for a few minutes (or perhaps it was eating something?)
It barely seemed concerned about my presence or the big torch. I watched the bat for ten minutes before it flew off. Ten minutes later it was back.
This morning, I noticed more wings on the wooden floor. I can only interpret the bat’s ‘fidgetting’ as a sign that it was consuming moths as I was watching it.
A conversation with my housemate Julia, who once studied bats in Queen Elizabeth National Park, confirmed that this type of bat is an insect-eater. “You can tell that by the shape of its face and its small eyes. Fruit-eating bats – by contrast – are generally a lot bigger, with a snout like a dog.”
I should probably count myself lucky that I didn’t have a Hammer-headed Fruit Bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) in my house. The sounds of this unusual creature punctuated our sleep for several days while the fruits of the Ficus mucuso (fig) tree were filling the stomachs of Kibale’s chimpanzees and other primates.
According to Jonathan Kingdon “Male hammer-headed bats might also be described as flying loudspeakers. Males have been known to fly up to 10 km in search of concentrations of ripe fruits. The loud calls of adult males serve as acoustic beacons.”
Life on the edge of the National Park continues to fascinate me, even at night. Wildlife sightings come thick and fast, even when I’m in bed reading a book!
(The title “Bats in my belfry” is a nod to my childhood hero, Gerald Durrell).
If you enjoyed this story, look out for the next one in this series, exclusively here on ATCNews, written by Charlotte Beauvoisin.
The first stories in this series are;