Friday, December 13, 2013
Last month, during our long stretch of balmy weather, we took the dogs to the Sheridan VA Medical Center a couple of times for fun romps. The VAMC has been on BW's UPS route for years, and he enjoys taking his lunch break there - it's a beautiful place of panoramic mountain views, lovely parade grounds and handsome old buildings (it began life as Fort MacKenzie in 1898, and the first troops stationed there, in 1901, were "Buffalo Soldiers"). Though BW knows the VAMC well, our off-road hiking led to some fun new discoveries - including a very impressive array of bat houses! We estimated that there were about 50 of them and they stretched for close to a mile. Some looked a bit aged and weathered, others brand new. We have no idea what their story is, but my theory is that they're made by some of the resident Veterans as a therapeutic project. I think that would be great - something that helps the vets and the bats!
By the way, I much prefer the German word for "bat" - Fledermaus, which translates to "flutter mouse!" :-)
On our first visit I didn't have my camera, so I insisted we return the following weekend - Thanksgiving weekend - so I could photograph them (and some other goodies, fodder for future blog posts). As you'll see, we enjoyed quite a variety in weather and skies during the hour or so we spent there...
Living in community
That large building in the background is the commanding officer's quarters. More staff residences follow the line of bat houses into the distance. Having bats as neighbors provides great benefits, as a single little brown bat can eat 1000 mosquito-sized insects per hour. And that's just one benefit bats provide to their eco-systems, and to humans. The vast majority of bats (2/3) are insect eaters, consuming many insects that are damaging to crops or that spread diseases. Most of the remaining 1/3 are fruit and nectar eaters, making them important pollinators and essential seed dispersers, playing an especially major role in rainforest regeneration. (Read more about the benefits of bats).
The actual houses face toward the mountains and away from the VA grounds, so when we first saw them from behind they just looked like a lot of very tall blank plywood signs! As we approached them to see what, if anything, was on the mountain side of them, we could start to see that they were three-dimensional and not just flat squares of plywood, but agreed they were awfully tall to be birdhouses. So I guessed they might be bat houses, and ta da! Indeed they were. I love the little bat image to help clarify it (for the humans rather than the bats, I'm sure!) :-)
It's definitely the off-season, as bats in temperate climates must hibernate or migrate to warmer places. But we look forward to seeing how many residents might show up with the insects this spring!
A well-planned community
Bat Conservation International provides great instructions and tips on building and/or installing bat houses, and it sure looks like the VAMC definitely did everything right.
The metal sleeve helps keep any predators from reaching the bat bedrooms!
And isn't the sunlight pretty on the distant dry hills? The views are lovely in every direction.
A vibrant, diverse neighborhood
That huge brush pile on the right, which extends well beyond the edge of this photo, is a popular habitat for many more critters, especially bunnies!
Rooms with a view
That bats are blind is one of the many myths surrounding these misunderstood critters. Though they use echolocation (sonar) to navigate in the dark, which allows them - through sound alone - to see everything but color in great detail, many also have excellent sight vision. So this spectacular view is not wasted on them! :-)
Learn more about the fascinating lives and myriad benefits of bats, install your own bat house(s), and/or help bat conservancy with a visit to Bat Conservation International!
And, as always, enjoy wonderful glimpses of skies around the world with a visit to...
Friday, December 6, 2013
Our sunrise on the last day of November made a fitting farewell for the month, as beautiful as the ones that came before it…
But so far December has been the opposite. Mostly leaden, snowy skies and frozen air. Just as well, since it's been too bitterly cold to take outdoor photos. Today the high is only supposed to reach MINUS 10ºF with -25º wind chills. Hasn't been above the single digits all week, and most of the time the wind's been blowing like stink.
From the icy weather blanketing most of the US and Canada and the fierce winter storms in northern Europe, I know that many of you in the northern climes can relate. So here's wishing everyone clearing skies and temps just cold enough to set a festive holiday mood, where appropriate. :-)
And please don't forget...
They may be furry, but they can also suffer and die when left out in the cold too long. Please bring your furbabies inside and enjoy some warm cuddles (and report neglect if you see it).
- INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
- MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
- MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
- ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
- QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
- THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
- THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
- THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
- THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.
~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"