My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Friday, December 13, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: Happy houses for "Flutter Mouses!" :-)

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).

Mystery solved!
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.

No trespassing!
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...


  1. It is nice that the bats have these homes. I would like to see them doing well. Great shots.

    1. I agree! I hope to see a lot of happy residents there this summer!

  2. Very cool, TW! Bats truly are a big part of the ecosystem and hats off to the VA center for getting all those houses set up. I'm a big bat fan......CG on the other hand ;-). It all goes back to our old house. Anyhoo, thanks for sharing these great photos.

    1. Right on, Spudly. While I can understand preferring that bats set up housekeeping in their own houses rather than in ours, bats should be welcome neighbors. I have been fond of them since I was a little girl and discovered several of them hiding behind the shutters on my grandparents' big old Maine farmhouse. I love going around every day and peeking behind the shutters to count them, they were very tiny bats - smaller than Val and Tino. Other than unlatching the shutter and moving it enough to peek behind, I tried not to disturb them and they didn't seem to mind me. :-)

  3. Love bats..we house a few in our attic each year.
    Jane x

    1. Yay! I'm not surprised, your place is such a safe and happy habitat for all sorts of critters! I love how you live in happy harmony with them.

  4. What a wonderful idea and outing. Another bat fan here.

    1. I think so too and it was! Wonderful (and not surprising) that you are another bat fan! :-)

  5. Love all those bat houses! We have one on a tree by the lake where I live. And that view is spectacular!

    1. Wonderful! Do you ever see any residents in the lake bat house? They would certainly enjoy a gorgeous view too!

  6. Two big thumbs up for your great batty post and the VAMC there!!

    1. Couldn't agree more, raf! (And one of my thumbs up is extra large, because I cut the tip of my thumb pad clean off slicing red cabbage yesterday and had to get it treated at Urgent Care, so now it's swaddled in a big bulky bandage. So I think that particular thumb should get extra credit in a thumbs up for bats. LOL)

  7. This is very interesting what you are telling about the Fledermouses-;) (bat). I am hearing the first time about bat houses. In Summer we can also see fledermouses, where I am living (in a town). In the evening when it is dark they fly like shadows in the air. But I don't know where they are living.
    Have a good week! And thank you for your visit to my blog.

    1. I'll bet your fledermauses are living in all kinds of places. Old attics and bellowers, under bridges, in caves (if you've got them in the area), in trees - they're clever that way! Now you could be the first person in your town to have a bat house if you want to! :-) There are plans for them all over the internet. I haven't seen any flying around here at night, probably because the town sprays for mosquitos :-( , but I can remember seeing LOTS of them when I lived in New Mexico, circling street lights at night because the insects would all be congregating there.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog too, Wasserfrau! Enjoy your weekend!

  8. Responding to your query, "(I'd love to pin it to my Lighthouses Pinterest board along w/your copyright info and a link to this post - would you be okay with that?)" Yes, that would be okay. I'm glad that the photo sparked something with you. It was a crapshoot. It takes me two and an half hours go get up there from Cape Ann. I left in the early afternoon not really knowing what would happen when I arrived. I hit the jackpot.

    And about the bats. I was really happy to see this posting. Bats are cool.

    1. Thank you so much for letting me pin your gorgeous picture of the Portland Headlight! You must have had good instincts to head up there so late in the day - your long drive was definitely worth it and I'm glad you were so richly rewarded with such a perfect photo op! (And very grateful to get to share in that reward!) :-)

      Bats are most decidedly cool, I agree! Glad you enjoyed this post!

  9. Hi Friend-Happy Christmas Season to you. Cool post. Me no like bats much, but I do know they are important. Last summer while painting, I took a shutter off the house and found one sleeping there. Freaked me out a bit-but hopefully he/she is responsible for keeping the mosquitos down to a dull roar.
    You have some gorgeous shots here. My eye is not so much drawn to the skies, but those lucious fence lines beside the bat houses and the long leading lines they create.
    Hope all is well with you and BW.

    1. Hey, Sue! Happy holidays to you, too! Are you buried to your 'pits in snow? I know how much you love it, so I won't tell you it's sunny and in the 50's here right now because that would be mean and I take Karma very seriously. :-)

      I'm glad you enjoyed the photos! I must say, the last one is my personal favorite. I didn't take them for the skies, but thought they ended up making for a nice SkyWatch post in case anyone was getting sick of gorgeous sunrises. :-) Your little bat friend sleeping behind the shutter sounds exactly like the ones who slept behind my grandparents' shutters in Waterboro. Guess shutters make for good bat motels! I'm sure s/he is helping you out with the bugs that bug you.

      Stay warm and cozy and enjoy a wonderful, peaceful holiday! Love, Tex

  10. It's so cool that they did this for bats! We have a house for them on one of the corners of our fence & have noticed in the last two years that there are bats around now. We always love watching them fly around.

    I adore that first graphic and the german word is much better! The last picture with the bats upside down is one I've seen on Pinterest several times. They're just so adorable. <3

    1. I know, I was amazed! Someone at the VA was pretty enlightened - you just don't find stuff like that around here. Fun that you have a "flutter mouse house" and that it seems to be attracting them!

      I found both bat graphics on Pinterest. That "sassy" one is so cute, some people are very clever.

  11. A very educational post, thank you! Never heard of a "bat house" before, so very interesting. Love the flutter mouse term... a perfect description! Took a family vacation to Carlsbad Caverns one year and saw all the bats leave the cave at sunset. It was amazing!!

    1. You're welcome! I used to live in Alamogordo, NM and we had a lot of bats there, but nothing compared to Carlsbad Caverns. I did get there once, but didn't get to see the amazing sight of the bats all leaving the cave - would have loved to have seen that!

  12. Sassy flutter mice are impossible to beat!! Great idea about flipping the pics.Thanks for this

    (the german word for butterfly has long been a favorite of mine too...schmetterling) :-).

    1. LOL - I agree! :-)

      And I thanks for teaching me the German word for butterfly - that's going to be fun to say at random times. :-)

  13. Thank goodness yesterday was just a fluke. I got in just fine today.

    That was a fun tidbit about the Fledermaus translation. I agree that a flutter mouse is prettier than bat!!

    Thanks for providing so many photos of the bat houses. The most useful to me was the one you labelled vacancy. Up until that photo, I wasn't really understanding the concept. Now it makes perfect sense.

    The "benefits of bats" link was very interesting. I'm especially interested in the insect control aspect. We have such a mosquito problem at our place and we doe have bats so I think we should encourage the bats. But Mr. Fraidy pants might be the limiting factor! I thought it was interesting in the link about installing a bat house that there was a color scheme for them depending on where you are in the country. Ours would be black which would make it hard to see if there was anyone home!!

    My favorite photo was rooms with a view and before reading what you said I actually thought to myself that the view was wasted on them so it was neat to learn that it wasn't at all!

    1. I'm glad your inability to view my blog was a one-day problem, and that you had time the next day to try again! I thought you would find this post interesting! I knew it would be hard to figure out how a bat house accommodates bats without being able to see the interior, which is exactly why I took that photo! Thanks for confirming my theory. :-)

      I'd definitely encourage you to encourage bats at Cranberry Lodge! Especially with all your trees on all your acreage there, you'd have lots of places to put them. Mr. Fraidy Pants needs to get informed and get past it, if indeed he would put up resistance (maybe he'd surprise you!) Given all the diseases mosquitos carry, they are more worthy of his fear than the bats are.

      Rooms with a View is my favorite photo too, by far! And I must say, I also learned that most bats can see just fine from putting this post together! I often learn something new from my own blogging. :-)


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  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • 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"