2009/09/04

Holy Chiropteran Batman!

I am constantly amazed at the new flora and fauna of this rural part of Kashima City. Recently I heard an insect I had not heard before. It sounded as if someone were hiding in the bush with a bicycle bell - "lriinggg...lrriingggg...". It turns out to be a "suzumushi" or "bell cricket", which is a tiny insect not 2 cm long. It has been long admired in Japan for its beautiful sound and is even featured in the world's first novel - The Tale of Genji, written in the early 11th century.


Click above to hear the song of the suzumushi.


Today, K arrived home and excitedly asked me to come see what she had just found. A bat! K grew up around here and had not seen one in this area before. I double checked to make sure it wasn't April 1st, then went with her to the garage where, trough the open window, we watched this bat sleeping on our wall.

Cute, yeah?


I don't know what kind it is. It is quite small at only about 6 cm in length (less than 2 1/2 inches). Perhaps it eats flying insects. I think it is too big to be one that eats nectar. Anyway, it's welcome to "hang out" here. Bats have an important place in the ecosystem. Fruit bats (which are usually quite large like the ones we've seen in Fiji and in Japan are only found in the far southern islands of Okinawa Prefecture) spread seeds. Insect eating bats control the population of plant eating insects, and nectar eaters are valuable for their pollination function. All of them help to preserve forests.

Since I moved here (almost five years ago) we've seen an increase in wildlife - birds, snakes, frogs, insects, and now bats! Very encouraging. I hope the area doesn't get overbuilt and enough wild patches remain to be a home for these creatures.

15 comments:

HappySurfer said...

Yes, a nice ringing sound. Interesting. So is the bat. That is a great picture, PandaB. It's got a lovely velvety fur coat. Thanks for the sharing.

K and S said...

when we lived in Takatsuki (part of Osaka), they had small bats there too. They would make nests in fan vents. I'm glad I didn't see any, I probably would have screamed!

Martin J Frid said...

I had a huge spider visit me the other day. Guess he/she didn't like the typhoon any better than I did.

Sweden doesn't have the loud chirping of the alien-looking cikadas that once made me wonder if the electric wires outside my apartment in Tokyo had accidentally gotten entangled. Where I live now, we get bird song that I also never heard before.

I'll have to liten to the ringing sound when I get a chance. And teh bat? Cute? You could make a stuffed animal that shape and make some money ;)

nzm said...

Cute bat! We also have very small bats (like yours) here in Barcelona. We also have the smallest of hummingbirds - they are about the size of a large bumblebee and very hard to photograph!

Pandabonium said...

HappySurfer - thanks for reading. The bat is gone. I suppose the wall felt like a cave to the bat.

K and S - I definitely would have discouraged it from nesting in a vent (or attic or garage). Most critters have an attitude of "no bother me, no bother you".

Martin - and the cuddly bat toy will squeak when you squeeze it.

NZM - hummingbirds are native to the Americas - primarily central. Yours must have been brought home by Spanish explorers centuries ago?
I enjoyed them when I lived in Southern California.

nzm said...

I'm not sure where these ones came from, but they are so tiny that we've often mistaken them for large wasps or bees.

Also meant to add - our bats circle the streetlights at night which must mean that they are catching the moths that are attracted to the light.

nzm said...

Just learned something new - the Barcelona ones are moths!

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

Pandabonium said...

NZM - that IS interesting. I was fooled by a hawkmoth three years ago (as you may recall). I haven't seen one since. Fascinating moth.

The Moody Minstrel said...

A bat like the one in the picture once flew into the teachers' room at Kamisu HS when I was working there. It just came in through the open window, planted itself on the wall near the clock, and stared at us open-mouthed and panting. It created quite a stir...and it was fun watching some of the teachers trying to get it to fly out again!

Pandabonium said...

Moody - that would cause quite a stir.

Mary had a little bat, it's wings were black as coal...

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hello Panda,
Why are we so scared of bats? The idea of them sitting on our heads, tangled in our hair! There are lots in Geelong in the Eastern Gardens but we don't see them up close. In Fiji some of our relatives eat them of course, but I never tried them. They demolish the fruit of course.
w.

nzm said...

Wendy: We had a big breadfruit tree in our Suva house in Duncan Road which the flying foxes used to invade when it was in fruit.

When I was small and used to crawl into my parents' bed sometime during the night, my mother used to tell me that if I didn't lie still and go to sleep, then the bats would come and get me! And you wonder how some people came to be scared of bats?!

Pandabonium said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pandabonium said...

Wendy - Never had a bat in my hair. Don't think I ever want to.

Though people complain of their crop being attacked by fruit bats, the bats actually do a service.

When bats have been killed in order to protect fruit, it has been discovered that the bats are actually eating a lot of insects which would also attack the fruit. Up to 25% of the fruit bat diet is the insects on the fruit. So the loss of fruit to the bats can be less than the loss that would occur from the insects. As with birds, netting can be used to protect the fruit.

Better still, as bats eat only ripe fruit, picking it a day or two early and letting it ripen indoors solves the problem.

Olivia said...

It's not often you hear of a return of wildlife, unless new development has taken place and it needs a few years for things to settle into new growth, etc.

I tried SO many times to listen to the suzumushi, until I realized my earphones were plugged in! I love the lush night harmonies of crickets/cicadas/frogs, so this was very pleasing.