Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Author’s note: This story was inspired by The Bat Bar and Carlsbad Caverns’ National Park’s Bat Flight Program. It is not endorsed by either. Because I do so love chocolate, especially the chocolate made by Endangered Species Chocolate,  I am holding a DRAWING. To enter, share the link to this story, then leave a comment indicating you have done so. Next Wednesday (June 8th, 2011) I will run all the entries through one of those nifty online random pickers. The WINNER of the drawing will receive one luscious BAT BAR (dark chocolate with cocoa nibs) courtesy of myself.             

           Duane yawned widely and stretched his leathery wings. The oldest member of the colony, Vaughn, and his groupies fluttered here and there, waking everybody up. Outside, the sun still peeked a little further over the horizon than Duane liked; the sky looked too purplish-pink and not quite orangey enough.  Nevertheless, Duane began his warm-up without complaining. After all, not everyone had such a great gig, and Duane knew enough to be thankful for it. He once mated with a female whose first three litters were killed by ignorant humans before she fled to Carlsbad. “Besides,” he thought, “Vaughn’ll loosen up when we get to Mexico, and migration is only another couple of weeks away.” He caught the sound of mosquitos buzzing outside the cave, which helped him to wake up a bit more. He let out a few calls, warming up his voice and gauging the locations of his more distant fellows.

            Outside, an audience of twenty to fifty humans sat, eagerly awaiting Duane’s entrance, or rather, his exit from the cave. Several of them emitted confusing sound waves. Vaughn flew over, upset, as usual. “Do you hear that? They’ve got those dumb cell phones with them. How is it they’re not bothered by them?”

            Duane shrugged mildly. “I don’t think they can hear them. Humans have notoriously weak senses, you know. Anyway, I think they’re more bothered than they realize.”

            Vaughn shook his head regretfully. “Back in our grandfathers’ day, there weren’t so many of those things. Fifteen years ago, a fellow could think straight before going out on a hunt.”

            “Yeah, but I’m told they used flash cameras more often. Those are nearly as bad. Pretty soon one of them will get the others to turn off those noisy things, at least most of them, and that helps.”

            Vaughn conceded reluctantly and fluttered off to find another old-timer to commiserate with him. The buzzing of mosquitos and other nocturnal insects grew louder. Duane’s mouth watered and his stomach growled. Everyone was awake and calling to each other now. Duane joined in.

            Finally the sky turned deep tangerine orange and Vaughn gave the signal. At his mark, the whole colony of bats rushed out into the open, greeted by cheers and shrieks from the delighted crowd of humans. Duane wasted no time in listening for supper. He ignored the area close to the cave, where the young ones, just big enough to hunt for themselves, gave him inconvenient competition. Instead, keeping a sharp ear out for owls and hawks, he flew about 100 feet into the air and about ten miles away from the colony, grabbing whatever insects came within easy reach along the way. Several others went in the same direction and before long they came to an ideal foraging area, where Duane snatched up bugs, sometimes as often as every two seconds, until the moon began to set. Duane and his companions flew back home, catching more insects as they went.

            Back at the cave, a smaller crowd of humans ate their morning meal and watched while Duane and the other members of his colony flew toward the welcoming dark of their home. Duane made an impressive sweep around the humans, drawing delighted squeals, before diving into the cave and making his way to his roost. With a skillful twist, he flipped himself upside-down and grabbed his perch with his feet. He wrapped himself in his wings and shut his eyes. Another day of entertaining and hunting awaited him in the evening.

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