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A bat in the hand…

Outdoor Living

HANGING OUT A Lesser horseshoe bat – so named for the flaps or folds of skin that lie around their nostrils, called a noseleaf, that form a horseshoe shape. Their range is mostly limited to Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick and Mayo.

Country Sights and Sounds
John Shelley

When I brought my shopping in from the car the last thing I expected to find hidden between cheese and rashers was a bat. Yet there he was, folded neatly into his chosen corner as if that was where he belonged.
I fished him out and held him in the palm of my hand. He didn’t seem to mind at first, but eyed me with interest while I studied him closely. After half a minute of mutual admiration, my little pipistrelle, for that’s what he was, began climbing my arm, using the hooked claws at the corner of his wings as a mountaineer would use axe and crampon.
He was heading for my armpit. “I wouldn’t go in there if I was you,” I told him as I took him gently with the other hand. He cursed then, showing his teeth and chattering angrily. To further express his displeasure he pooped on my fingers. What would I do with him? He would have to go back where he came from, so after further examination he went into a cloth bag and into the car.
An hour later I drove back to Ballinrobe where he must have his home and opened the bag to set him free. He wasn’t there. So where was he? Somewhere in the car, obviously. I searched from top to toe, under the seats, behind them, in the boot … no bats.
I did find a small hole that led behind the plastic trim in the passenger footwell, and guessed he might have found his way in there, where he will undoubtedly die and slowly decompose, meaning I shall have to drive with the window open for a month.
On returning home I was met by a bat swooping around the back kitchen at speed. So that’s where he was.
When he landed upside down and scurried into a fold in the curtain I was able to capture him. He could go outside and mix with the locals – there are plenty of bats here. When I looked him over I could see he certainly wasn’t the same beast, but was a Lesser Horseshoe bat, probably related to the family currently squatting in Moorehall.
Two bats in one day! Well he wouldn’t go free before I had examined him properly. He was quiet and obliging and didn’t mind while I opened one wing and admired the fine bones and the thin, semi-transparent membrane that joined one to the other, nor when I ran my fingers over his tiny feet with their minuscule nails. His dense fur was soft, his ears almost prehensile, his squat nose incredibly ugly.
I weighed my options. A quantity of bat skins would make a fine hat. The fur looked as though it would be waterproof; it would certainly be warm. The little claws could be utilised as ear scoops or toothpicks – they’d be a talking point at dinner parties. And surely there’d be enough meat on a bat to make cooking it worthwhile.
Perhaps my captive was able to read my mind, for he made a sudden burst for freedom and went to the ceiling, where he clung to the uppermost corner beside the roof light. I left him there and went to the internet to look for appropriate recipes.
It appears that bats are eaten as food through many African and Eastern lands, where people are a good deal less fussy than they are here. Large fruit bats are the preferred type; they apparently taste like chicken. Insectivorous bats such as my Lesser horseshoe and the Pipistrelle in my car are said to be less appetising, producing a smell like stale urine while being prepared, which can be overcome by the judicious use of garlic and chilli. All the same, it seems they are a something of a delicacy and often reserved for special occasions. I looked in the cupboard and found everything I might need then went back to look at my prospective meal.
Bat stared at me from his high seat while I wondered how to get him down. I could poke him with my fishing rod or catch him with my landing net. A few minutes in the deep fryer would crisp him up nicely. According to one website, skin and bones can be eaten with the meat. I tried to think of an upcoming special occasion befitting a feast of bat flesh, but there are none worthy, at least not in my life.
Rashers it is, then.