Date: 7/28/20 7:07 am
From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...>
Subject: [VTBIRD] July 28, 2020: Coyote Hollow, Thetford Center
5:35 a.m. 69 degrees, wind S 2 mph. Sky: freckled and streaked; soft-hued
blue and pink and lavender; many clouds with silver rims if not linings.
Scattered veils of steam rise from several wetlands, some far off; cotton
balls, rawboned and wispy, on an otherwise green landscape. Permanent
streams: soft hum and slow flow; predacious water striders, skating on
creeping puddles, wait for breakfast to fall in. Wetlands: a gaunt and
partial bowl of mist. Pond: unaccompanied female hooded merganser, again
flushes, wings singing; launches herself into wetlands; welcomed by a
ribbon of open water; painter turtle sculls at the surface. Webworm tents
expanding in cherry trees; one in alder.

Late July; east-central Vermont, the long valley of the Connecticut River:
red-shouldered hawk slings its voice out of a nearby marsh, up and over the
western ridge; arrows of sound piercing the morning. A pewee whistles, sad
little darts of music; tanager in the oaks . . . I still can't see him,
blood-red and loud. Woods filling up with light if not birdsong. Raindrops
dripping off leaves louder than birds. Long stretches of leaf splat and
bird silence. Finally and surprisingly, *NO* red-eyed vireos. After
enduring three months of my constant teasing, they've left me to face
winter alone.

A pair of robins, dueting from opposite sides of the road, a pocket of
music. Draws me in. Quietest walk since late March. Two months ago, I
struggled to keep up with all the songsters, one linear serenade all the
way to the pond. Pileated drumbeat rolls in from across the marsh. From far
off, a hermit thrush and a veery, both ethereal as ever, voices as thin as
mist. A yellow-billed cuckoo calls from the hardwoods, a hollow, swallowed
*cu* like a modulated bittern, long pauses; here for fall webworms.

One bat behind the barn door, an archetype of sixty million years of
evolution. An ambassador from Deep Time, born in the evolutionary cleft
left by dinosaurs. A radical mammal that incorporated flight. An eater of
hundreds of mosquitos a night; also, as a group, the reservoir host of a
litany of zoonotic viruses, including SARS, MERS, Ebola, Nipah, and rabies.
We brought bats white-nosed syndrome. Bats brought us COVID-19.

Bats tolerate viruses, a biological corruption. The elevated body
temperature required for flight holds most germs at bay. According to one
recent investigation, the physiological strain of flying produced leaky
cells in bats that release scaps of free-floating DNA. Bats tolerate these
wafting bits of DNA without a severe immune response, thus avoiding
inflammation and possible grounding; hence, a hospitable environment
predisposed to invading viruses, which linger indefinitely or are delivered
to more susceptible mammals . . . pigs and civets. Or us. Which is why bats
should not be commodities. Let them hawk insects and pollinate flowers.

The moral of this tale: eating bats . . . barbaric; watching bats . . .
immense and purposeful pleasure.
 
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