It all started with a duck tumbling out of the sky. Otherwise it was just the usual incredibly breezy evening dog walk with the cat in tow.
As the duck disappeared from view into a drainage ditch ahead, I began frantically wondering what I would do with an injured duck. Who would I call? How would I catch it?
With some trepidation, I peered into the ditch to see the mallard calmly floating and staring back at me as if to ask what all the fuss was about.
For the rest of the windy walk home I was preoccupied with the possibility of duck concussion and hidden injuries, so when the cat and dog homed in on something by the front door, I lunged forward and grabbed it without much thought.
It was a tiny bat. Almost as soon as I picked it up, I remembered that rabies is a thing in France. Not a big thing, but getting bitten probably wasn’t a good plan. So I put the bat down on a bench and summoned reinforcements.
Picking it up in an old towel, we carefully carried out into the garage, away from cats and dogs and left it there while we wondered what on earth to do.
The bat had a ring, so was clearly being monitored. I did what anyone would do and asked on Facebook. There’s a local group for our town and before long I had numerous suggestions. One of the first was to ring the vet, so I did so. I was surprised that the vet we usually see with our pets answered the phone at 8pm but he willingly gave me some advice.
Following his instructions, I found a cardboard box and some water but quickly realised the small bat could drown in the smallest container I’d found, so I held the water to its mouth and it drank as though it had been in a desert for weeks (rather than the very damp marsh that we inhabit.) As instructed, I closed the box ready to seek further help the following morning.
Consulting Facebook again, I discovered that someone had listed the phone number for the Northern France mammal society.
Again, I was surprised to get through to someone. She was incredibly helpful, even switching to English when I quickly exhausted my bat-based French vocabulary.
There followed a lively exchange of photos and advice and, when she realised the bat was ringed, the woman asked me to try to get the number.
By this time it was dark, so three of us trooped out to the garage armed with torches and, in my case, thick gloves for handling the bat.
I gingerly opened the box and lifted the towel. The bat had gone. The holes through which it could have climbed were tiny, but I’d been very concerned that it may have been injured. I guess this was proof that it wasn’t.
Luckily, the partial number I could make out from my photos was enough for the mammal society to tell me that this was a Geoffroy’s bat (Myotis Emarginatus). It was a four year old male, ringed at the age of one in nearby Montreuil-sur-Mer.
As a result of this encounter, I now have plenty of contacts should I encounter more injured wildlife and I’ve realised just how much support there is locally for protecting it.
And in the excitement I forgot all about the mallard, so the following morning I headed out to the drainage ditch, half expecting to see the poor thing had succumbed to a head injury or that something had grabbed it leaving only feathers behind.
There was no sign of it. No malaise or duckward-facing violence was in evidence, so I can only assume that this particular mallard had developed a new landing technique. But if it all goes wrong on its next attempt, I’ll certainly know where to turn for help.