Human affairs are obviously of paramount importance to we humans, but it is good to spend a little time and attention on the lives of other creatures that share our planet. Nature programmes on the television are a good start, but there is more joy to be had in observing wildlife at first hand, even little stuff. Thus, I make little effort to rid my garden of insect life, bar ants in the house walls and wasps in the shed, and it is surprising how much you can find by simply looking closely. An hour's bug-watching will show you a greater selection of interesting creatures than a day of chasing big cats on the African savannah, albeit smaller and less scary ones, and all for free.
Last night, though, our insect-friendly garden paid off in a big way, with one of the most spectacular displays we have ever seen, of any sort. I like to see bats hunting in the evening twilight, and often glance out of the window at sunset to see whether I can see one. This time I got an impression that there were two or three right in front of our house. My wife, elder daughter and I all fancied a closer look, so we went outside and took one. There turned out to be half-a-dozen bats, probably pipistrelles, zooming around a little patch centring on our garden. For about a quarter of an hour, we were enthralled by a wonderful aerobatic display as the bats swooped and swerved to gather invisibly tiny flies, dodging between each other with supreme skill, and at times just three feet in front of our faces. With their broad wings and tiny momentum, they can perform astonishingly tight manoeuvres. Sadly, they were too quick for my camera, and all I could take were a few brown blurs.
If you, too have the good fortune to live in a low enough density settlement to sustain bats, which is most places, then it is worth looking out for them at sunset on fine summer evenings. I can't promise a free air show like we have just had every time, but, in order to get one, you have to start by looking.
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