Pond Bats, Piusa Caves, Estonia

In Estonia, bats are the animal of the year for 2020, information which I think is provided as partial explanation for why someone has set up a webcam in record a small clutch of hibernating bats inside a cave in Eastern Europe. The bats—there are maybe 10-20 individuals, though it’s hard to tell as they’re huddled together in a tiny cluster no bigger than a penny in the middle of the screen—do little but enjoy one another’s warmth, though maybe they’re also telling stories. Soon, however, there’s the sound of featherless wings flapping like a baseball card in a wheel spoke , and it becomes clear that the cave made chalky white by the night vision camera is full of bats, and full of their strange bat sounds. A hissing sound happens occasionally, punctuated by high-pitched squeals and chirps like a radio being tuned, as if they’ve picked up on the ASMR craze and are looking to cash in. A few swoop back and forth across the screen, but not one bat dislodges from the clump in the middle on which our sights are trained. They stay immobile in a cleft in the rock that looks eroded by an ancient tributary, wave marks left behind in the sediment so it looks like the bats in the frame are their own furry life raft clinging to one another adrift on the current.