Bats

The bats hang under the bridge like clusters of black mould. It’s hard to supress a shudder, as when you see a colony of rats crawling over each other or a snake slither through the water. Now in the gloaming they come alive, flit back and forth between the roost and just above the river to drink and feed on insects. The water ripples where one has grabbed a bug from just above the surface or taken a sip on the wing. They must be Daubenton’s, says S., they like water. The bat’s call starts as a question thrown into the void: ultrasonic pulses that bounce off the walls, water and trees back into its nervous system, which in turn recreates the world around it so intimately that it can select and catch tiny insects invisible to us as we watch from the bank. What to us is a murk of flapping wings to the bats is an orchestrated feast. Almost sightless, they’re nevertheless at home in their environment in ways we can only piece together from the outside: perfectly adapted.

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