Community Columns

Life stirs with the cooling rain

It’s said that one little brown bat can catch between 500 and 1,000 flying insects in one night.

We finally got a break in the weather. It was the first chance we had to go out on the patio for the evening. A whole new world had moved in. The birds were feeding and bathing and even the sounds of insects were heard in the trees, but there was one creature missing that we have seen before when we sat out in the evening — those erratic flyers, the bats.

We’ve written about watching for bats recently, but so far this year we have been unsuccessful in seeing any. However, a few days later our son called to say he was headed up to see if he could remove a bat that had made an overnight visit in Fred and Roberta’s living room. We followed Peter up and were able to see the little brown bat high up near the ceiling, where he had found a spot to spend the day.

Since they didn’t feel they wanted him to stay any longer, Peter brought a long-handled net and was able to catch the bat while Peggy did some coaxing from the side with a long pole. Once in a container, the bat was taken outside, where it quickly took off for a tree to spend the rest of the day in until it was ready to begin its nightly search for mosquitoes and insects.

Bats are mammals. They are warm-blooded and suckle their young. We actually saw this years ago when a call came from a concerned reader in Mattituck who said they had a bat with babies in their driveway. This was something new for us so we drove over immediately to check on it.

Sure enough, there in the driveway was a little brown bat with her young attached. The mother had evidently tried to fly away with the young but the combined weight of the pups (young bats) brought her down. The pups are often nursed and left behind by their mother but as they grow older she may carry them with her when she goes on a flight. In this case, they evidently became too heavy and she was unable to fly with them.

Though we hadn’t been lucky enough to see any bats this year in our yard, we did get to see the one at Fred and Roberta’s house in Cutchogue, and we previously got one off an indoor fan at the Richmonds’ house. The Millers also called us when they had a bat in their home.

Few realize the good these marvels of the airways do in ridding us of mosquitoes and other flying insects. In fact, I’ve read that the little brown bat can catch and eat anywhere from 500 to 1,000 insects in a single night. This figure blows my mind, so let’s change to a less complicated subject.

We were lucky recently to get a call from Tom, who asked if we wanted to smoke some bluefish. “Sure, Tom. Drop them off,” I said. Now the ball was in our court. Out came the stainless steel buckets and the ingredients for the witches’ brew of salt, brown sugar, maple syrup and spices were waiting for the fish that would marinate in them for some hours before we set the fire.

While the fish were in the brine, we got the fire started in the smoker, which consisted of a cast iron bottom from an old furnace with a surplus stainless steel cabinet atop, all put together by a good friend of mine. We first sterilized the smoking box and racks with a good hot fire and then let the fire burn down. When the fish were ready we sprayed the racks to keep the fish from sticking and lay the fillets out on the racks. From then on we regulated the heat and smoke by trial and error and checked the fish and fire often through the process, making sure the smoke continued to flow out of the stack.

Then it’s a matter of checking and tasting until we feel the smoking job is done. This, of course, is the ideal time to taste the succulent warm fish as it comes from the smoker. That’s not to say it isn’t good eaten later, put in fish chowder or made into smoked bluefish pÃtà .

As we finish writing this, the rain is coming down and we are hoping, as many of you are, that it might rain enough so we can stop the constant watering of our lawns, plants, bushes and even trees for a while. It has been a dreadfully hot and humid summer — not only hot and unbearable for all of us, but stressful for the flora and fauna of the area as well.