Thursday 26 July 2012
After finding la petite ratapignata, I contacted Nice’s Maison de l’Environnement, which is not far from where I live. In the recent past, I’d seen them advertise information meetings about bats where they distributed bat houses, so I hoped they would be able to tell me how/where to find one for the bat(s) on my patio. They replied today, and although the information meetings were finished this spring, the woman there gave me contact information for another lady who works for the city of Nice and should be able to provide a bat house.
She also sent me a notice about bats in Nice. Miss Ella now has a very fine name: Ella la Pipistrelle de Kuhl, Ratapignata de Nissa. All bats are protected in France, as they’re threatened species. Indeed, while I gave Ella a name, it’s merely affectionate – wild animals, perhaps especially birds and bats, should never be domesticated; it’s best for them and for we humans that they be allowed to live as peacefully and independently as possible. This photo is from two days ago: Ella is now roosting elsewhere, I suspect ensconced in a nice narrow spot, which are favored by pipistrelles. I don’t want to disturb her by looking too closely.
While bats are often maligned in popular culture, in reality, they’re excellent pest hunters, their guano makes wonderful fertilizer, they fly silently, and the chirps of pipistrelles are frankly adorable. After learning Ella’s voice, I now recognize more than one pipistrelle chirping in the evenings, so there may well be others safely snuggled in my patio and elsewhere. A real boon in mosquito season: the furry little lady you see above can eat as many as three thousand insects in a single night.
I’m delighted that there are pipistrelles sharing my abode, and hope to update soon with a bat house – nichoir de chauve-souris in French – installed on the patio. As it is, I now know to keep an even closer eye on the cats when they’re outside, and to avoid pesticides and any chemical treatment of the wood on my patio. Bats are very sensitive to certain wood treatments, so it’s best for wood to be left natural, when at all possible, or to use non-nocive products. Wherever you are in France, your local Maison de l’Environnement can also be contacted if you ever come across an injured bat.