The mango season in India is beginning and a huge variety are coming into the markets. In the same way that every French citizen is convinced that the cheese from their own town or village surpasses all others, so in India everyone knows that their local mangos are the best. On railway platforms and at airport check-in; on the tops of buses and tied onto scooters, boxes of mangos travel up and down the country as concerned family members take or send the fruit to their relatives in not so fortunate places.
We find ripe mangos from the tree, and green ones as chutney, absolutely delicious. But they are also extremely popular with the Giant Indian Fruit Bat. By the dam wall of our lake is a grove of old trees which host a colony of these mammals – also known as flying foxes. Whereas a small bat is truly like a flying mouse (hence Strauss’s operetta Die Fledermaus), these have golden fur and fox-like faces.
I tried to get some photos to share with you though it is not easy, as they wrap themselves in their wings when roosting with just their noses peeping out.
They squabble amongst themselves all day, sometimes changing trees, but the main exodus is just after dusk. We sit on the roof of the cottage and first a handful, then groups, then a constant stream of dark shapes flies over. They are leisurely fliers – the wingbeat is quite slow – in contrast to the smaller bats who are also active at that time, darting and jinking for insects.
At the top of the valley are mango orchards which we imagine is the main destination for the fruit bats, though further up the slopes of the mountain are other fruit trees. I hope the farmers continue to tolerate their depredations – they are becoming rarer in India, and we are lucky to have the colony so close by.