It was gloomy on the golf course but possibly the best time to take our dog hating dog out as the dog walkers had finally taken to their sofas and the only person we saw was a lone golfer, striking balls into the darkness. Oh, and of course, the gathering of kids by the football field in their aged Renault Clios and Ford Fiestas, playing loud music and liberally dispersing litter. We tut-tutted and walked on, relieved that they weren't in our back yard. Although sometimes they are. Middle aged, middle class suburbia here we come. Or here we are, more likely.
We decided to walk back to the house through the churchyard as, if we come down rather than go up the lane, it's easier for us to get sight of Dusty the Cat before our cat hating dog does. In the shadows, a middle aged lady in an anorak lurked, pointing what looked to be a remote control into the dusky night. Before we could quietly tiptoe into the ether, leaving her to her mad ramblings, she called over in a jovial manner to explain that she was bat hunting and that the gadget in her hand was a bat detector. Never one to miss a gadget, S was over like a shot. Interestingly, the detector didn't pick him up.
The educational bit (see http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/bat_detectors.html for more): bats emit high frequency calls that are beyond the range of human hearing and they use this noise to build up a 'sound picture' of their surroundings. Being of different sizes, bat species emit different calls. The bat detector can pick all of this up so that you can work out which bats are which from the sounds detected.
She'd had no luck so far that evening, although I helpfully mentioned that I'd just seen a small bat over by the golf course. She said that she often saw them in the vicinity of our garden. I've seen them there too but not often. She joined us on our walk back to the house and we picked up the sound of a common pipistrelle, although we couldn't see anything. These are the ones that emerge twenty minutes after sunset (how do they know?) and then flit past pursuing small insects, which they catch and eat while in flight. Apparently, they can munch their way through up to 3000 insects a night. They also like to hunt alone and don't like to share their food.
They may be roosting in the huge trees at the end of the garden or under their eaves. (Our walls, eaves and chimneys seem to be full of creatures - we've got jackdaws down the chimneys and swifts nesting in the eaves and walls. (Or are they house martins or swallows? I never know!)
On a more sinister note, something keeps eating our doves and pigeons. I saw it happen once. A buzzard caught one by the birdbath and despatched it down by the back garden gate. Not a pretty sight, although fantastic to see such a creature at such close quarters. Not sure that we can blame the buzzard for this current spate as it seems to happen over night. The dog has been freaked out in the garden at night times recently so maybe it is foxes. I expect he hates foxes too.
So now S wants a bat detector. Let's hope Apple do one. And the good news is that the dog doesn't appear to hate bats. Yet.