As we passed the tiny United Church on Friday night, we could here them yipping and howling in the near distance. I turned worriedly to my husband beside me and said, "I've never heard them that close."
Every evening we take the dogs for a walk just before bedtime. Usually, we take the same route up the hill through the village. Despite increased levels of commuter traffic and farm fields that are slowly giving way to house-lined streets, Huttonville in these quite hours of the late evening retains the atmosphere of a small rural community in the middle of the countryside.
Often on these late night walks, we have encountered small nocturnal creatures; most often rabbits and the occasional skunk, possum or fox. One evening, a raccoon hissed at us from his perch in a tree top. Another time, my son and I came across a beaver- at least we think it was a beaver for he slapped his wide tail on the ground to warn off the dogs.
Most of these small animals are harmless. It the coyotes who frighten me. Coyotes have been known to attack domestic animals, particularly dogs. Our neighbors can also tell you sad tales of cats lost to these nocturnal scavengers. Recently, in Nova Scotia there have even been several attacks on humans, resulting in at least one death.
Usually, we hear the coyotes calling from the surrounding hills or down by the Credit River, but on last Friday night, they were very close by. The coyotes had in fact worked themselves into frenzy of excitement, singing out to one another. Were they celebrating a prize already brought down or were they on the hunt?
"You head back with the dogs and I'll stand here for a minute to watch and make sure they don't come up from behind us.", Harold replied in urgent hushed tones.
I didn't like his plan of remaining behind. I opened my mouth to protest, when a dark shadow darted out of the brush just ahead of us.
I held my breath and watched the shadow cross to our side of the road. Was it a coyote? I squinted harder. No, it was too small and had a long bushy tail. It only a fox running to escape the coyotes, thank goodness!
Relieved, we turned quickly in the direction of home. As we walked back through the village, we passed the quaint United Church. Built in 1886 and is one of the community's oldest surviving structures.
Do you see the small belfry in this photograph? It is home to many small sized bats, the other nighttime creature that I want to tell you about in this Halloween post.
If you pass the church at dusk, you can hear the bird-like chirps of the bats in the church belfry as they wake and stretch their wings. And if you are brave enough to stand and watch, you can see them emerge one by one from the darkness of the belfry and take flight.
These dark little phantoms swoop low and then flutter their wings wildly to rise back up into the day's fading light. They fly so quickly that, as they whoosh past, they seem to be no more than a light breeze on a hot summer night.
Now, in the cold of late fall and later in freezing temperatures of winter they sleep quietly in the comfort of the belfry. Come summer however, the mosquitoes and bugs a plenty in our small riverside village bring them awake to feed each evening.
One night, a couple of summers ago, we headed up to the third floor attic, as we do every evening, to watch some television. It had been a blistering, hot afternoon and we had opened all the windows to cool the house.
When we switched on the light at the top of the attic staircase, much to our surprise, a frightened bat flew from its perch on the attic's barn-like beams and swooped low just over our heads. Startled, we both just barely ducked out of the way, as the terrified bat flew from one end of the room to the other.
"How the heck did a bat get in? " I asked turning my husband. Before he could answer, we again had to dive for cover as the frightened bat took flight again.
"Maybe there is a hole in one of the window screens.", Harold offered.
"Great", I replied "Now what do we do?"
Together, we hatched a plan to remove the screens and open the windows as wide as possible- that way the bat could hopefully find his own way out.
Bad plan! An hour or so later, the bat was still diving at us from his roost on the beams.
We had nor idea what to do next, so we knocked on a few of our a neighbors doors desperately looking for fresh ideas. "If you knock it to the ground, they can't take flight again", one neighbor suggested.
We headed back to the house and Harold mounted the attic stairs, corn broom in hand.
Even more frightened by the appearance of this unknown assailant, the bat took frantic runs back and forth across the length of the room. Fortunately for us, the broom caught one of his wings in mid-flight and he fell to the floor. The neighbor was right- the bat lay stunned on the ground unable to fly! Harold placed a wire wastebasket over him and then scooped him inside.
A few minutes later, we released the bat unharmed into the summer night. The following morning we checked all the window screens. No holes! How did the bat get in the house then? This is a mystery we have yet to solve and is not the only bat story I have to tell....
Have a spook-tacular Halloween evening everyone!