I didn't need much time to think this week when i saw the Illustration Friday topic was 'night' . Right away i thought of nocturnal animals, who are busy with their lives at night and sleep most of the day. I have very severe insomnia and I often spend part of the day sleeping so i definitely feel an affinity with them.
I immediatedly sketched out a barn owl flying against the full moon since when we lived in York we lived in an area which had a large population of barn owls and they would often fly very close above our heads if we were cycling home in the dark.
They were often so close that it almost felt like their soft feathers touched the tops of our heads - it was just the breeze the made with their wings - but it felt almost like being blessed.
Anyway, I did some colour roughs of the barn owl and looked at some reference photos that we'd taken at a bird of prey sanctuary. This is one of me with a barn owl.
I'm not sure what made me go off the idea of a flying barn owl - sometimes I change my mind becuase the referennces aren't too good but in this case I had some excellent closeups of heads and feet and feathers.
While i was working on the barn owl and roughly adding in the feathers, I started thinking about bats flying overhead.
I am fond of bats - I first remember seeing them when we would come home from walking by the River Clyde. We had to trudge up a steep hill to get home and the trees made a kind of tunnel as their branches almost touched overhead. If it was dark enough, bats would flitter by above our heads but they were always too fast to really see what kind they were.
There are so many midgies [teeny biting flying insects] in the summer that bats must adore living in Scotland. I've never understood why so many people find bats scary when they eat so many pests - but i suppose its probably becuase they look something like mice and have naked wings of stretched skin. Horror movies and Victorian tales about bats getting tangled in hair probably don't help much.
I remembered seeing a news item on the BBC website the other day talking about vampire bat transmission of rabies to humans in Brazil. I quickly started sketching a vampire bat.
Vampire bats are really interesting creatures - they can fly , run in a simlar way to a gorrilla using their wings , walk and jump up to 4 feet in height using their modified thumbs like a spring.
They live in colonies and are very social - they look after each other's offspring in 'nurseries' and have complex grooming and food sharing behaviours.
Vampire bats only eat blood -haemophagy UK or hematophagy US - but despite horror films and popular ideas, they don't actually suck blood from the host [animal or man], they lap the blood with their grooved tongues.
When they find a suitable victim; they lick the skin which slightly anaethsetises the area, then shave the hair with their sharp teeth , then cut out a small piece of flesh and lap the blood as it forms a pool. Vampire bat saliva contains and anti-coagulant called Draculin which prevents the blood from clotting - and this is effective enough to allow the cut to bleed for half an hour or more. In fact, the cut will often continue to bleed long after the bat has flown away.
Vampire bats can drink more than their body weight in blood -and this can have a serious impact on animals and humans that have become victims- anaemia can have a big impact on health and of course rabies is a serious threat.
For some reason, certain animals and humans are continually sought out by the bats and others are ignored - its not known why this is the case. Its been suggested that hormones may play a part in the attractiveness of a victim.
There are three species of vampire bat- all of whome live in the Americas - central and South America, although fossilised vampire bats have been found as far north as Florida. Vampire bats are more numerous and more problematic now than in the past since there are more prey animals [domestic horses and cows] and people within their flying ranges.
The commonest is Desmodus rotundus and this bat is the one whith greatest impact on man and his animals as it prefers to prey on mammals [including humans] . Diaemus youngi seeks out birds.
When vampire bat attacks become too frequent or transmission of rabies becomes a danger, the bat colonies are killed- often by capturing a bat and covering its fur with a sticky poison - the social grooming by other bats means that up to 20 bats will be killed for each bat caught.
However , vampire bats are intelligent and are quick to learn about nets and traps and they can often manage to scurry or fly away after being shot.
This vampire bat has just started feeding and is lapping up the blood with its tongue. Its a Desmodus rotundus
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