The darling bats of May

With a name like mine, I feel it is only right that my favourite month by far is May. There are many reasons for this, including, off the top of my head:

  • The virginal froth of hawthorn blossom (also called May blossom, funnily enough)  covering hedgerows everywhere (admittedly it’s rather tardy this year, but it’s just about starting to burst into flower now). This heralds the beginning of the green and white summer uniform of British roadsides, as cow parsley lurks in the shadows, ready to take over with its nodding white umbels. (Botany is full of great words like ‘umbels’ – it must have the same root as umbrella, as it describes the umbrella-like shape of some flower-heads.)
  • Omnipresent greenness – especially the bright, verdant flush that sweeps through the trees as their new leaves start to unfurl. It’s a month full of vibrant hope, optimism and new beginnings.
  • The fact that urban pavements are festooned in the pink blossom of magnolia and cherry, as though preparing for the ultimate al fresco girl’s birthday party.
  • The sun’s warmth (apart from this rather miserable year) and the feeling of excitement that comes from banishing the woolly knitwear to the back of the cupboard and unleashing the summer wardrobe. (However, I caveat this one by saying I always get it wrong – I don my flip flops at the first hint of spring sunshine, and then stubbornly refuse to go back to proper shoes regardless of any subsequent inclemency, even when my feet turn alarmingly white with purple and orange splotches.)
  • Nature waking up and beginning to get jiggy, and I count humans amongst the rest of the native fauna in this – there are definitely more flirty looks and suggestively arched eyebrows abounding at this time of year.
  • Bank holidays – duh.

However, over the last few years, May has also come to symbolise something less light and fluffy and happy – the start of the bat survey season, NOOOOOOOooooooooo! (Ecologists everywhere will be nodding sympathetically and emphatically right now.) Yep, those little winged critters wake from their winter slumber round about now, meaning that I will spend far too many hours over the next five months staring at roofs in the freezing cold, with my geeky detector, recorder and clipboard, wearing enough layers to double my width yet still shivering uncontrollably, and trying not to think of my friends lolling around in beer gardens or chatting around barbecues in the remnant evening sunshine.

Still, it’s not that bad really. The plus side of bat surveys is it gets you out and about on beautiful summer evenings, often to peaceful rural areas. I love watching the sun’s dying colours fade to a muted dusk and listening to the birds shout their parting diatribes, whilst sensing the rising energy of the nocturnal shift rousing itself as darkness approaches with incremental stealth. Spending such a large proportion of my summer as a nocturnal creature over the last few years has improved my night-vision immensely, and given me a love of being encased in what feels like the safe blanket of darkness. Darkness is not to be feared when you are out with the creatures of the night – you begin to think like a bat, feeling protected by your invisibility and enriched by the life that explodes into action once the sun goes down. Plus, there’s no denying it, bats are AWESOME, with their freaky faces, aerial acrobatics and ingenious echolocation skills.

So yes, I feel my personal nomenclature dictates that I belong to the month of May and, on balance, despite the antisocial hours they keep, I include those pesky bats as one of the blessings that this time of year yields.

This entry was posted in Ecology, English countryside, Self-employment, wildflowers. Bookmark the permalink.

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