At a place we stayed over the summer, some bats were roosting in an empty barn. There were six or seven of them dangling from the ceiling in a little cluster: little fluffy creatures, about the size of mice, in various shades of brown, with pointy ears, tiny faces, and alert little beady eyes.
I’ve always found bats fascinating. They are one of a number of miscellaneous phenomena that for some reason strike me as slightly implausible, so that I almost have to pinch myself to remind myself that they exist. (No really! Little furry mammals with ears, teeth – and wings!) I went into that barn many times just to stand and watch them.
They were not equally enchanted with me. As their fierce little faces glared down at me, they squirmed with agitation, and sooner or later one or more of them would drop into the air and zoom round and round the room until they found another roosting place further away.
I never managed to see how they did that trick of somehow getting hold with their feet of something above them while they were still flying, but I did see that when one bat came to rest too close to another, the offended party would wriggle, show its teeth and hiss, until the offender moved further away. I imagine this involved some squeaking also, but I’m past the age when people can hear the sounds of bats.
I believe they were pipistrelles. As I watched them, it struck me that this was a Romance word which probably originally meant something like ‘little pipers’. I found this thought curiously pleasing.
Fierce little pipers, with pipes so shrill that only youthful ears can even hear them!