When the 7YO was little, he constantly asked us things like "Who would win, a tiger or a great white shark?" "Who would win, an elephant or a grizzly bear?" He inevitably chose two animals that would never meet up in the wild, which left us pondering the fighting ability of the critters in question.
I never dreamed I would witness one of those crazy match-ups in real life (albeit on a smaller scale than the ones posed by my son).
A few days ago, the boys and I were sitting at the kitchen table, when flurry of commotion caught my eye. We always have birds in our yard--at least four species at any one time, with well over a dozen rotating through. Throw in a couple of squirrels and there's usually something going on outside our big kitchen window.
This time, it wasn't a grackle bullying a mourning dove, or a fledgling shivering its wings for food. A blue jay was rolling around on the ground, tussling with-- I had to look closely --a bat.
That's right, at 4:00 in the afternoon, the blue jay had found a bat, and was doing its best to pound it into submission. If you haven't witnessed a blue jay killing a small animal--usually a nestling--it's not a pretty sight. Lots of hard blows to the head, which a baby bird can't take.
The bat, on the other hand, was fighting back, whapping the jay with its wings (I was sure it would break one of its tiny bones), probably biting, and clearly wearing the jay out. It lay there, holding the bat close, one bat-wing wrapped around it in what closely resembled an embrace, panting. It would give the bat a hard peck, they'd tussle some more, and the jay would take a break. The bat wasn't going down easily.
The 7YO was completely distraught. He's always loved blue jays, but now he hates them. He wanted more than anything to go out and rescue the bat, but I wouldn't let him. When bats are out during the day, it's usually a sign that they're sick, and I wasn't letting my boys anywhere near it. That, and the bat fought less and less; I figured it was a goner.
The jay must have spotted us in the window, because it flew up into the tree. The bat just lay there, so I went out to check on it. This is what I found:
An eastern red bat. Her eyes are closed against the sun that's in her face, but her mouth is wide open and she's clicking at me. She kept her wings open (I thought they must have been injured and unable to close) and folded her tail membrane over ... two pups.
The eastern red bat has a whitish underbelly, so all that brown you see below her head is her two pups, cradled close beneath her wings. Two big pups. And if their mother died, so would they. I stationed the 7YO outside to keep the jay away, and called the local wildlife rehabilitator.
While we waited for further instruction, we learned a bit about eastern red bats. They're tree bats, which means that they roost in the branches of trees during the day, pretending to be a dead leaf. That's a good thing, because it means this bat and her babies were just roosting in our cottonwood, and had the misfortune of being discovered by the jay--the mother bat probably wasn't diseased, after all.
We got the call from the rehab lady (who is awesome), scooped the bat family into a towel-lined box (she told us exactly how to do it without touching them), and took them to her. We'll find out this week how they're doing, but after a quick initial inspection, she thought they looked pretty good.
So there you have it, a knock-down, drag-out jay vs. bat-fight. Don't mess with a mama bat.