Ranelagh Gardens

This gentleman waits by the entrance to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, home to the Chelsea Pensioners….


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Flying Chihuahuas…

….and other strange creatures.

So, I am wandering in the Royal Botanical Park,

as I do on several afternoons a week, following no set path, when I see a sign about the flying foxes and their affect on the park. So I look up, and there, high above me, the tree is full of fruit bats.

I love bats, especially fruit bats. They look like Dracula Chihuahuas, hanging upside down, wrapped in their black cloaks, red and grey heads sticking out.

They are a cantankerous lot, loudly squabbling; the air was filled with their bickering, teeth bared, as they settled whatever bats argue about.  Some try to clamber passed one another on the branches, obviously disturbing their neighbor’s nap. A reason for an argument in any species, I’d say.  On one tree there were hundreds hanging in the hot mid afternoon sun, fanning themselves with their black wings. Once in a while one would float overhead and disappear into a tree.

I have never seen one effect a graceful landing. They seem to just bash into the leaves and somehow end up upside down, but my view was always obscured by the foliage. But I saw one little guy who had it sussed.

On the top of a particular tree was a bare branch which looked like an upside down, wide U.  Overhead, a bat glided towards it and caught it with his feet. Keeping his wings spread, he swung downwards, stopping at the exact bottom of his arc, no superfluous swinging, a perfect landing. He hung there for a few minutes, probably exalting in his skill and enjoying the sun on his face. He then inched his was down into the foliage, finding a cooler place to rest or tell his buddies about his acrobatic feat.

As I said, I love bats and these are things you should know about them:

They don’t fly into your hair.

Only one half of one percent of bats contract rabies, a rate the same as for any other wild animal. It is unlikely that they will attack you and pass it on. You might get something if you handle a dead bat, but then you are too stupid to live anyway.

If you like tequila, you should love bats. They are responsible for pollinating the agave plant from which tequila is made.

If you like bananas, cashews, figs or dates, you should love bats. They pollinate these plants or are responsible for seed dispersal.

If you hate mosquitoes you should love bats. They can eat about half their body weight of them in a single night.

They are the only mammal that flies.

So, go hug a bat. Well, actually, don’t.  Just love them from afar.

On another note about strange creatures…

These guys,

who I saw in Toronga Zoo and didn’t know what they were are binturongs or Bearcats. They live in South East Asia and apparently smell like hot buttered popcorn.  Now who wouldn’t want that around the house?