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.