“All night, in happiness, she hunts and flies …”

Sandra Neily here:

I know we’ve got lots more winter, but recently I read the opening of my novel Deadly Turn to a book group (the story opens with a bat) and realized I was thinking ahead to a spring without bats. I miss the great clouds of them winging over the cove at dusk, zig zagging over the water after smaller clouds of mosquitos. So much life in the sky just when the rest of the world is settling down for night.

Diseased bats, note the white fungus.

Maine’s bat population has declined by 97%. There’s a fungus killing thousands and thousands. We know about the fungus killing them.

“We don’t really know much about a newer source of mortality: wind power installations. How are bats affected by wind turbines? Dead bats are found beneath wind turbines all over the world. It’s estimated that tens to hundreds of thousands die at wind turbines each year in North America alone.

Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear why this is happening. It’s possible that wind turbines interfere with seasonal migration and mating patterns in some species of bats. More than three quarters of the bat fatalities at wind turbines are from species known as “tree bats,” which tend to migrate long distances and roost in trees. These bats migrate and mate primarily during late summer and early autumn, which is also when the vast majority of bat fatalities at wind turbines occur. It’s also possible that bats mistake slow or stopped turbine blades for trees.”

In other words, we bulldozed the roads and erected the turbines before there was a decent research and scientific process to understand wildlife mortality.

My novel Deadly Turn opens with narrator Patton holding a dying bat and then her boss explains what killed it.

Alone on Eagle Ridge, I clutched a dying bat. Against all rabies advice, I pulled off my gloves to find the animal’s heart and my bare thumb stroked a tiny throb. At the last limp spasm, the bat’s eyes filmed over. My eyes blurred, too. Then I bent and smelled her, hoping she was female and we had something in common.

I closed my eyes and saw her. Almost as dark as the night around her, she turned toward a flying moth, chirping as she closed in on her meal. Cupping her tail into a shovel shape, she scooped the moth from the air, bent herself over, and shoved it up into her mouth. Before she could land and eat, she bent double again and fell, panting for breath, feebly beating her wings against bushes that held her.

… Anita dropped her pack and felt around her pockets. I thought I could avoid another biology lecture by stepping up. “I don’t need a complete replay,” I said. “I get the echo thing—bats send sounds that echo off what they hunt so they can find dinner—but this makes no sense.”

“Echolocation’s not involved here.” Frowning at my naked hands, she pulled gloves from her pocket and snapped them over her fingers. Then she lifted a scalpel from a case tucked into her shirt pocket. The cut bat slurped open like over-ripe fruit, its innards a bright red blood bomb.

 “At two hundred miles an hour, rotating blades change air pressure,” Anita said. “The dropping pressure explodes blood vessels next to the bat’s lungs and the lungs fill with blood. Bats drown in their own blood. Kind of like scuba divers getting the bends when they don’t take time to equalize pressure as they surface. They say the pain is something else.” She pressed the bat’s chest back together, slipped it into a bag at her waist, sheathed her scalpel, and walked downhill.

More Info:

Read All about bats

“Bat Conservation: Helping Maine’s Bat Population in the Face of White Nose Disease and Other Threats.” Listen to a “Maine Calling” program.

If there’s a bat in your house.

Deterrence research and strategies: From Concept to Commercialization – Bat Deterrent for Wind Energy Goes Global | Department of Energy  “Since 2000, installed wind energy capacity in the United States has increased from slightly more than 2.5 gigawatts (GW) to more than 100 GW. As wind energy installation increases, so does the potential impact on various wildlife species, including bats.”

Bat Conservation International “Bat fatalities from collisions with wind energy turbines are now one of the leading causes of observed mortality of bats globally. Hundreds of thousands of bats are killed each year by wind turbines in the United States and Canada. Fatality rates from wind turbines are high enough to cause rapid declines in populations and increase risk of extinction for migratory species, such as the hoary bat” … BCI helps test innovative methods, such as smart curtailment systems and acoustic deterrents, to mitigate bat fatalities at wind farms.

Building bat houses Build a Bat House (nwf.org)

…. and Poetry


A bat is born
Naked and blind and pale.
His mother makes a pocket of her tail
And catches him. He clings to her long fur
By his thumbs and toes and teeth.
And then the mother dances through the night
Doubling and looping, soaring, somersaulting—
Her baby hangs on underneath.
All night, in happiness, she hunts and flies.
Her high sharp cries
Like shining needlepoints of sound
Go out into the night and, echoing back,
Tell her what they have touched.
She hears how far it is, how big it is,
Which way it’s going:
She lives by hearing.
The mother eats the moths and gnats she catches
In full flight; in full flight
The mother drinks the water of the pond
She skims across. Her baby hangs on tight.
Her baby drinks the milk she makes him
In moonlight or starlight, in mid-air.
Their single shadow, printed on the moon
Or fluttering across the stars,
Whirls on all night; at daybreak
The tired mother flaps home to her rafter.
The others all are there.
They hang themselves up by their toes,
They wrap themselves in their brown wings.
Bunched upside-down, they sleep in air.
Their sharp ears, their sharp teeth, their quick sharp faces
Are dull and slow and mild.
All the bright day, as the mother sleeps,
She folds her wings about her sleeping child.

Randall Jarrell

Sandy’s novel “Deadly Trespass, A Mystery in Maine,” was a finalist in the Maine Literary Awards, a recipient of a Mystery Writers of America national award and a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest.. Her second Mystery in Maine novel, “Deadly Turn” is now in Sherman’s Books and on Amazon in Kindle and paperback. She lives in the Maine woods and says she’d rather be “fly fishing, skiing remote trails, paddling near loons, or just generally out there.” Find more info on her website.

About Sandra Neily

Sandy’s novel “Deadly Trespass” received a Mystery Writers of America award, was named a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, a finalist in the Mslexia international novel competition, a runner- up in Maine’s Joy of the Pen competition, and recently, an international SPR fiction finalist. Sandy lives in the woods of Maine and says she’d rather be “fly fishing cold streams, skiing remote trails, paddling near loons, or just generally out there—unless I’m sharing vanishing worlds with my readers. "
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1 Response to “All night, in happiness, she hunts and flies …”

  1. I also miss bats. we used to admire them swooping through the twilight and knowing almost every swoop meant one less mosquito.

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