Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blue Birds and Bat Habitats

 Blue Birds and Bat Habitats
              and Lollipops and Roses.

OK, so you probably gotta be pushing at least 60 to even remotely catch a whiff of a little sing song inference there.  Then you probably gotta have at least a little bit of a Jack Jones fetish, and maybe a moldy library of unabashed sentimental parental type pop tunes from the '60s.  Maybe then you might get it.  But then the way the trajectory of thought shoots through my cranium sometimes I don't even get it.

It's just that blue birds and bat boxes and bat boxes and blue birds has a sing song sort of rhythm, similar to lollipops and roses, or mustard and mayo.  Or lizards and mayhem.  

My son and I made the bat box (shown below) when we were on our walkabout up in Oregon.  We had a little time on our hands one non-sunny weekend and wallah, what we done:

By the way, that fancy rolling chair bottom it is sitting up against, shown in all it's shining glory below, has a story.  It's story began before we met, back when it had a back and was brand spanking new.

With ample foam cush and nice fabric covering, it was no doubt stationed underneath some executive's or assistant's nicely fashioned posterior when it first rolled out.  Witness the fancy wooden legs the wheels are on.  I'm sure it rolled out on reasonably plush carpet.

I came across it in it's second life, when it was in a back room satellite sales office.  It was sat upon by many, and most were not wearing fashionable apparel.  At that time it rolled on coffee stained indoor outdoor carpet.

When the back finally broke, I brought the rolling base home to utilize in the garage when working on projects.  A third life. 

When a house move came up in 1999 I was going to throw the it away.  But my son intervened, essentially saying I used the thing all the time.  Why toss it?  And he was right.  That base has been from here to Monterey to Portland and back.  It's a comfortable seat and the wheels work fine.  I still use it all the time, some 14 years later.  Now it rolls on asphalt and concrete.

The bat box is as solid as a sound, a loud sound for that matter.  It would take more than the sound of dynamite, Led Zeppelin or a clarinet to shake and shatter that bat box to it's seams.  And that's important for bats.  They like a good, solid, sound structure.

How did we get attached to bats?  Well, of course, their pest control prowess is legendary.  An adult bat will eat up to 1,000 mosquito sized insects per hour, and they usually feed from 3-6 hours every night.  Who wouldn't want some of that action flitting about their acreage at night?   

There is a ton of information out there on the internet regarding bats.  Most of it good.  One notable site is run by the OBC, or Organization for Bat Conservation.  You can buy ready made bat boxes, bat box kits and/or bat box plans from those guys.  If you have a mind to attract some bats.  You can definitely go bat shit crazy with all the information regarding these interesting little mammals.

Our bat box has been taking up a bit of room in the garage since 2008.  Now that we have finally arrived at home, it is finally time to see if we can attract some bats.  Hence, I have given the box a little face as well as linear lift.

Yes, that's a very thin opening.  There's also metal screen, like what you'd find on a window, tacked inside.  That way they have an easy way to attach their little bat claws as they sleep upside down during the day. 

We made the box to specific specs as per plans from Mother Earth News, and it needs to be hung at a minimum height of ten feet.  It has to face from Southwest to Southeast and receive a minimum of 7 hours of direct sun per day.  Those bats like it warm!  The box also should not be more than a quarter mile from a water source.

Well, we've got all these things going for us.  Plus, I see bats all the time around here at dusk.  Why not try to get some to move in?

Naturally, it is much more preferable for you to provide your bat habitat for them outdoors rather than indoors.  Generally speaking, having bats in your own belfry is not considered a pleasurable experience.  Unless you're a witch.  Or Batman.

Usually someone in the house panics, and instead of opening a window or door and try to usher the poor frightened critter out, some folks try to shoot it with a shotgun.  And that usually sprays the walls with holes and knocks down the chandelier instead.

Tennis rackets can be used, but if you hit the little guy square you're sure to have a bat souffle on the racket.  Or a real mess on some expensive lamp shade.  On the other hand, it might help dimensions if the bat smashed into the weird, abstract painting your Aunt Mabel did when she was on pain killers after breaking her hip.  You know, the one she gave you last Christmas.

An interior bat attack happened to my lovely wife and I once.  We were living in a log cabin, and somehow the little guy crept in through a teeny little bat crevasse between logs.  I awoke to this whirring noise as the frightened little attack bat ran circles above our bed, no doubt scrutinizing the best place for a guano drop.  Or trying to figure a way out.

Rising in a panic, buck naked, I grabbed my bathrobe.  (I didn't have a shotgun or tennis racket handy.)  I then opened the sliding glass door, stood next to it and every time the little rascal made a whirring pass I attempted to alter his course out the slider by waving my cape, er bathrobe.   Being ever so mindful so as not to get bitten on the tip of the other thing that was flapping around in the still midnight air.  Toro!  Toro!

After several minutes of semi-frantic bath robe waving, looking much like a Spanish toreador, in my mind anyway, I finally managed to usher the winged phantom out the slider.  Another round of spray insulation began the following weekend.  By the way.
The bat box is now located on the lower 40, utilizing one of the posts from the Old Garden Fence.  (Those other posts will be removed once we get a little rain and the ground gets saturated.)  The location is perfect, on the edge of a meadow but also close to cover so that they can get in and out safely.  This spring I also plan on planting a row of Crape Myrtles down that fence line to start bringing in a little color.  That will also help provide some more cover from Owls and some hawks, which are the primary night time predators of our friendly little bat buddies.  Once those predators discover a bat nest, they'll hang out nearby and try to nab an eerie, hairy, tasty little morsel.  It's a bird eat bat world out there.
The 2x4 bat house post was attached to the treated round post with 2-6 inch lag bolts.  I also added some wire around the 2x4 to hopefully discourage any cats or weasels who may try to sneak in there and catch some napping bats.  Hopefully come spring we'll have some bat neighbors.  I'll keep you apprised.

This last spring some neighbors allowed me to take one of their blue bird boxes home so I could copy its design.  Blue Birds, in case you didn't know, are a species in decline.  Due to more and more encroachment into their native nesting type areas, they and other "cavity" nesting birds are having a heck of a time trying to find places to live.  Besides being a gorgeous bird, Bluebirds are also voracious insect eaters.  Who wouldn't want a family or two of them hanging around the old homestead?  Form AND function!

It is with these thoughts in mind that I wanted to build and deploy a blue bird house.  Plus, blue bird is really fun to say. 

I took measurements of our neighbor's box and built a template.  Once again, it is quite specific as to dimensions.  Then, since I have plenty of scrap wood around and nothing but time on my hands, I simply had to cut and put together two blue bird house kits for the grand kits.

With the wood all cut to fit and holes drilled in appropriate places away we went on a crafty day.  I did help Sophia quite a bit with hers, but our Grandson is getting pretty good with a hammer.  I started the nails for him, but he hit them all home.

Once they were put together, then it was time for the paint job.  And here is where our young mind's creativity flourished with some brightly colored avant garde bird abodes.  I call it "Disco Camo."

My darling Sophia.

After the paint job, I was really reluctant to deploy them without a little extra effort on the roof.  Without this intervention, they might have lasted a year in the elements.  Now they can last a decade or more.

Both boxes are now up and installed per expert's instructions.  I can only hope there are a couple blue bird families out there that like a lively colored home.

The Disco Camo Bluebird houses deployed.
These are both deployed about 5 feet high on single trees, facing SSE.  One is on the lower 40, the other the upper, thus allowing the minimum 100 yard spacing required between the houses.

Animal Update

Our hens and Goldie, the rooster, are all fine.  They seem to be enjoying our warm, mild autumn weather this year.  Our old man cat Joe is doing fine too, he actually seems to be accepting of our new kittens.  He has actually behaved like a cat recently, joining us on the sofa for a little pet time instead of running furtively from shadow to shadow.  I welcome the possibility that he becomes a bit more affectionate in his old age.  We'll see.

The two newcomers, Daisy and Lily, pretty much own the house.  Lily is a bit more adventurous than Daisy, and Daisy seems to be a little more social with humans than Lily.  They are both a delight and have already added a tremendous amount of joy to the house.  Happy Thanksgiving!

 Tubbin it!