Realising I was falsely accused of being blind as a bat from wildlife facts

I got a lovely pass from our Killesher midfielder, Paul Corrigan, a lifetime ago, when I was a teenage forward on a Sunday game in March, against neighbours Kinawley.
Realising I was falsely accused of being blind as a bat from wildlife facts

A local derby game.

A big one.

Flying at a hundred miles an hour through the Kinawley defence in my black and amber jersey, I jinked beautifully around the last defender and, suddenly, I am right in front of the goal, and only about 15 or 20 yards out.

I nevertheless blazed the ball woefully wide, when it would have been easier to score at least a vital point.

I will never forget that moment of total shame, nor what a loyal Killesher supporter shouted at me after the miss: “MacConnell, you useless little hoor. You are as blind as a bat!”.

That rural knowledge that bats are blind and navigate by some kind of sonar system, stayed in my country head all the decades afterwards, in the four provinces far away from Killesher and that dreadful missed chance.

It is fair to say though that every time I saw a bat in the evening, jinking through the rising darkness, I often heard in the back of my mind the anguished shout from the Killesher man.

I tried to blot it out when it came, but it was always present somewhere.

Blind as a bat, a useless little hoor to any team anywhere.

That is why I was shocked to the core a couple of months ago, when I perused my favourite page of all in any daily newspaper.

It is the Outdoors page on a Monday in this very newspaper, and I always discover something stimulating there from Messrs Donal Hickey, Damien Enright, and Dick Warner.

You can be country born and bred, maybe even a farmer, and still frequently be surprised by something you trip over there, on your way up and down the page.

And that is what happened me one Monday recently.

And that is the pure truth, yet again.

I think it was Donal Hickey who wrote about bats that week and revealed, incredibly, that bats are not blind at all!

According to him, the most of the species are equipped with quite good eyesight.

(Any of them would have scored that goal I missed!).

It seems that their radar system, apparently called echo-location, is even better than their eyesight, and that is why they deploy that at night, when devouring tons of insects, and negotiating their way in and out through caves and dark places.

I have revised my opinion of my neighbouring bats ever since, am now recovered from the Killesher disaster, and never miss the Outdoors page in this paper every Monday.

You always pick up a few gems.

Last Monday, for example, having returned from the shores of Lough Derg outside Killaloe, and having spotted a lone crane there, close to the shore, standing as always on one leg, and scanning the Derglands from atop a smooth stone, I came home and read the paper.

And there, in Damien Enright’s article, realised that what I have always called a crane (you too?) is properly a heron, and Damien and his family are in loose proprietorship of a heron called Ron, which they rescued as a flightless fledgling, after he fell from his nest.

Ron was lucky, because the Enrights look after him very well and are fattening him up with salmon bits donated by their fishmonger friends in the English Market, for the mating season, due to begin quite shortly.

And it was towards the end of that article that I stumbled across the kind of gem that makes Outdoors reading very special indeed.

Damian wrote, and I quote: “Herons’ eyesight can overcome refraction in the water when the wind stipples the surface, or ripples it in small waves.

“And, of course, their feet exude an oil which attracts small fish, while their legs have a heat-exchange system from naked toes to feathered thighs.

“Altogether they are much better equipped to withstand the rigours of weather and the Poor Mouth than us naked apes...”

Now, where else would you glean that kind of wildlife gem on a January Monday?

Cranes or herons use their bare feet as lures to attract their lunch and, overhead, when evening arrives, the bats are not blind at all.

You learn something new every Monday...

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