Flycatchers


Late Summer is the high season for flycatchers.

In the level rays of the evening sun insects stand in high relief, and the swallows, and flycatchers swoop and pirouette over the river, each going after the next morsel in rapid-fire succession. I’ve never seen two birds go for one bug. Somehow they have worked out a system of courtesy and ‘playing through’ that humans seem to have lost.

The dull yellow flycatchers with black wing patches predominate. They hover, and swoop, rather like a raptor, unlike the swallows who make unwavering, long passes, sometimes inches above the river.

There are other flycatchers working the end of season. Dragonflies are among the rivers alpha predators of the insect world. With 360 degree vision, an ability to fly in any direction, even upside down, and a wingspan and sheer size out massing all but the largest wasp, they are a formidable predator. They are constantly on the hunt for other insects, any insects, which they then grab, and, so I am told, eat them while flying in search of their next meal.

The last of the big flycatchers of the season, are the bats, who are now bulking up for winter. Bats are very much viewed as a mixed blessing in our neighborhood. The statistics for their appetites are astounding. An average colony of 100 bats can consume a half ton of insects, or about 600 million, in one season. The average bat eats a third of its weight every night in insects.

The downside is that they like to live or nest in tight cracks and crevices, the most ideal of which are attics and behind siding of houses. The problem is that what goes into a bat, must come out. A half ton of insects can yield hundreds of pounds of feces. Very smelly feces.

Still, with bats enduring their equivalent to the Plague, I would rather see them fly, and live, then not.

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