Bats! Not actually in her belfry
June 2, 2011 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Fantasy writer Robin McKinley has a bat colony in her attic! (If you don't already love her try Sunshine or The Blue Sword.) It's the largest Pipistrelle nursery in Hampshire, and it's illegal to disturb them. Here's one on her chandelier! (Despite her claims to the contrary, the bats are not actually in her belfry: McKinley is, in fact, a bellringer, but pursues this activity offsite.) McKinley's bat-ventures have an antipodean analogue: the Botanic Garden in Sydney is still agonizing over what to do with its own adorable hell-fiend horde. (Previously on the blue.) Bats!
posted by rdc (36 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My immediate reaction -- Robin McKinley's bookcase has a bunch of Barbara Hambly and Patricia McKillip books on it! That's awesome and makes perfect sense!

Those bats have a lot of quality reading time in store.
posted by kyrademon at 4:09 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

You want cute bats? Is that it?

You got 'em.
posted by Trurl at 4:11 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is how you frame an FPP. Hall of Fame material right there.

Kudos, rdc.
posted by Chichibio at 4:14 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

The 22,000 grey-headed flying foxes in Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens have been "blamed for killing 27 trees and jeopardising another 300 since moving in two decades ago."

Meanwhile, of 5,000,000 Sydneysiders, not even one of them drives a Mercedes 4WD every single day from somewhere pretentious like Leichhardt to somewhere annoying like Circular Quay to work for companies with that might as well have names like CLEARFELL INCORPORATED, CHOP-U-FOREST, ENVIRO-FUCK, NSW WOODCHIPPING CONSORTIUM, THE PENGUIN STABBING LEAGUE, THE COMMONWEALTH BANK or BRITISH PETROLEUM.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:18 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens are really nice btw.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:19 PM on June 2, 2011

posted by tumid dahlia at 4:19 PM on June 2, 2011

Oh god
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:20 PM on June 2, 2011

Mmmmmm, nothing like some potential rabies vectors living in close proximity to keep you on your toes.
posted by meehawl at 4:22 PM on June 2, 2011

A good way to not get rabies is to never get into a biting contest with something that has it.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:33 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Makes me happy someone else besides me reads her blog...even if she abuses footnotes like no one I've ever seen.
posted by emjaybee at 4:39 PM on June 2, 2011

My dad and I rafted down the Grand Canyon back when I was 17. One of the coolest and most unexpected (but not surprising when you think about it) things about the trip was the view you got while dropping a deuce.

See, they had to put the bucket somewhere out of the way, and so they endeavored to give people something nice to look at while away from the group. These guides knew their territory and did a masterful job of this.

Anyway, one night towards the end of the trip I'm chilling on the bucket on an honest-to-god beach and thinking about the wild change of terrain I've seen when I notice some birds flying around. They're flying weirdly, but that just makes them more interesting to look at. As I'm trying to make sense of this weird flying pattern one of the birds smacks me in the head. My hand shoots up out of instinct and I brush a leathery wing.

Oh. Awesome. I'm being swarmed by bats. I am Batman. Also, I should probably head back to camp.

tl;dr Bats can stop you from hogging the can.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 4:54 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Eeep. I was none too amused by having a single bat winging around my living room some years back (I was alerted to its presence by the resident felines, who were watching, tennis-match style, something zipping about...); I'd definitely be wailing AUUUGH if I had hundreds of the critters.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:01 PM on June 2, 2011

Bats are wonderful so long as they present no imminent danger of AHHH, MY FACE! GET THE BAT OFF MY FACE!!! Despite bats' awesome abilities to -not- run into things, I am absolutely certain they they will, en masse, fuck this up and it'll be like the birds, except with bats. Love them above me, but in a cloud between me and the latrine light -- not so much. Except for the fact that they are about as chill as most rodents, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want one inside my house, not without separative netting, and even then...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 5:02 PM on June 2, 2011

I love The Blue Sword. About the bats, I have no opinion.
posted by OmieWise at 5:09 PM on June 2, 2011

I came in here to say FUCK YEAR BARBARA HAMBLY REPRESENT. (Take a close look at the chandelier shot.)
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:11 PM on June 2, 2011

A friend and I were in a cemetery one night, camped out, and the bats in the trees were sort of ... singing at one another. It was ridiculously cute. I mean, I wouldn't want them in my home, but otherwise what is not to like about them? Bats need some new PR. We'll call them ... wind-kittens.
posted by adipocere at 5:20 PM on June 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

There's a reason for the phrase "batshit insane". She should not reside in that house.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:27 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's a reason for the phrase "batshit insane". She should not reside in that house.

Probably, but hey, what you guano do?

I'll show myself out.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:30 PM on June 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

To get her out of the house, I think that Wildlife & Fisheries would need to present some sort of offecal notice.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:55 PM on June 2, 2011

I've got a very soft spot for Sydney's Botanic Garden bats. I live just across the harbour from the city, on the second floor of an old-style apartment building, right next to a giant Moreton Bay fig. Perhaps you can see where this is going.

During summer evenings, the constant squalling and squabbling of these leathery critters puts a smile on my face, though I know a few neighbours (and ex-neighbours) who don't enjoy it quite so much. But seriously, bats within reach from my window - how cool is that!? (Hint: extremely).

I guess I'd be less cheerful if they were spattering guano on my rug.
posted by not the fingers, not the fingers at 6:35 PM on June 2, 2011

I remember oh-so-vividly the scene in Rose Daughter in which the protagonist gives a bat shelter. Wild creatures KNOW when you write something like this. It's almost like she hung out a cosmic bat signal unintentionally with that book.

She's also written about ginormous cats stealing one's bed, giant raptors living in the ceiling joists... I'd be a little uneasy at this juncture if I were Robin McKinley.

I'm glad there are others of her blog-followers here on the blue!
posted by theplotchickens at 6:41 PM on June 2, 2011

Her love of animals is pretty obvious in her books.

I've recommended her books times out of number on MeFi. Sunshine for instance is Twilight done first and right.
posted by orange swan at 7:21 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Awwww. So cute. And I have all of those Vonda McIntyre books. But sadly, only a parrot. No bats. I'm so behind the curve it's ridiculous.
posted by Splunge at 9:07 PM on June 2, 2011


Y'all are my people. I totally wanna make out with all of you right now.
posted by rdc at 9:09 PM on June 2, 2011

Now I want a chandelier with little bats hanging upside down from every crystal.
posted by jamaro at 10:01 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

This struck a lot of chords with me. My parents share their house with one of the biggest colonies of lesser and greater horseshoe bats in the west of England (there are also some pipistrelles). There's been a colony of bats there for at least fifty years and the house is a site of special scientific interest.

Just as Robin has a Bat Lady, so my parents have a Batman who comes to count the bats periodically. At dusk he will gather by the entrance to the roost with a clicker and count them as they fly out to get food. I find it very hard to see them, as they are so small and go so fast. He's also allowed to climb up into the colony to check on the bats. He took a camera in last time and emerged with pictures of the cutest baby bats in the world.

The one problem about living with the bats is that my parents also have two cats. These fight an ongoing war against their flying enemies. One cat in particular found a way to climb up to a ledge outside the entrance to the roost, and for a few nights got into the habit of lying on her back, front paws stretched in the air, and clapping as bats flew over her. This prompted hasty work by my father to shore up the defences - in this case, making the ledge inaccessible through lots of chicken wire. The cats still sit in the garden and watch the bats wistfully, though. I'm sure they're planning their next attack.
posted by greycap at 11:42 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Except for the fact that they are about as chill as most rodents...

Bats are not rodents.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:44 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

My balcony is in a small inner courtyard where there clearly is a bat roost. In balmy summer nights, you can almost always see one or two bats flying round, round and round around the courtyard and through the balcony, each time missing the balcony's glass door by mere inches, and proving how much superior mammals are to dumb birds. It's pretty cool, although those bats must live quite stressful lives, since there's also a genuine Cat Lady with at least a dozen felines living next door.
posted by Skeptic at 4:27 AM on June 3, 2011

I wish we had cute little bats living in our house. I wonder if they eat stink bugs...
posted by JoanArkham at 6:28 AM on June 3, 2011

Mmmmmm, nothing like some potential rabies vectors living in close proximity to keep you on your toes.

Due to the quarantine programme we had here for years and years, rabies is very rare in the UK - at least in domestic animals. Native bats should be fine.
posted by mippy at 6:54 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Twenty or so years ago I helped to clean out an attic that had a colony of bats living in it. It was a bad scene and the mounds of guano were pretty toxic to work with, but completely counter-intuitively it gave me a great love for bats as a critter.

Seeing them up close took all the spookiness away and realizing how useful they are in killing the kinds of bugs I hate most of all made them even more valuable to my eyes.

I'd hate to have to deal with the waste issues in a house again, but I am such a fan of the little squeakers that I try my best to get them to live in bat-boxes around my property.
posted by quin at 7:39 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I really like bats. It is cool to see colonies with the mothers and babies together. Thanks for this post. The bat in the chandelier made my day.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:55 AM on June 3, 2011

So let me get this straight, Bat Country is literally in the attic of a fantasy writer?
posted by Relay at 11:55 AM on June 3, 2011

This post makes me happy.

I love Robin McKinley, and I love bats. It is like the happiest post of the day.
posted by winna at 6:41 PM on June 3, 2011

mippy: "Rabies is very rare in the UK - at least in domestic animals. Native bats should be fine"

Having been scared OUT OF MY MIND by The Mad Death at a young age, and then with by reading and seeing Cujo in the same damn year (1983 was a good year for rabies apocalypses, while 1984 was for nukes), I know it's just a matter of time before UKers are frantically locking themselves inside crap shopping centres to hide from flocks of rabid bats, and/or god-crazed neo-pagans under the flag of Toyah.
posted by meehawl at 8:39 PM on June 3, 2011

Mr.likeso and I checked into our hotel in Granada late one afternoon. We inspected the premises, approved the view of the Alhambra from our date-palm-shaded balcony and went out for dinner. We got back some time after sundown, just in time for moonrise and decided to sit out and watch from the balcony. We opened the sliding door and heard the oddest sound: a chittering/squeaking/whooshing... The date palms next to our balcony were alive with hundreds of bats, now joyously flitting out to hunt. Swarms were swooping across the balcony. I gently waded in and played Mistress of the Flyers, gracefully directing streams of bats to one or another side, ushering them up and down, slowly dancing around in circles in my own personal bat cloud. In the moonlight, in Spain, with the air smelling of woodfires and the far-off sound of guitars in the background. We also had red wine.

Yeah, romantic as expletive. True story.

(We left the sliding door open to listen to them throughout the night. Our trust in echolocation was rewarded.)
posted by likeso at 7:32 AM on June 4, 2011

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