I'm as big a fan of the animal kingdom as anybody, and our open-air existence facing the ocean gives us plenty of opportunity to enjoy it.
Squadrons of pelicans sail by regularly, when they're not collapsing their wings and plunging into the sea for snacks. Enormous fish which I think are dorado but might be marlin occasionally break completely free of the surface, who knows why, maybe just to test their hang time.
We see manta rays in great schools, sometimes in feeding or mating frenzies that roil the surface of the water. Swarms of smaller fish create their own patches of seething foam, puzzling behavior because it never fails to draw a matching crowd of predatory birds.
High overhead, frigate birds and turkey vultures wheel against a sky that sometimes includes a full daytime moon, or late in the day a gaudy sunset.
And of course in this season we're occasionally lucky enough to be looking when a humpback shows its flukes, or breaches and falls back in a blast of spray the size of a depth charge displacement.
Yes, we can all agree that wildlife is so awesome. But I like my place at the top of the food chain and my voyeur's eye view of nature red in tooth and claw. The lizards are welcome to stalk flies across my ceiling, but otherwise if I want a closer look that's why God made binoculars.
Thus we were not at all pleased several nights ago in pre-dawn darkness when a fluttering shadow passed across the moonlight streaming in through the folding glass doors to our bedroom balcony and disappeared into the hallway.
"What kind of bird was that," Pam asked. I said I thought it was a bat.
We went warily looking for it, but it seemed to have headed for the living room and then back outside. So we made coffee.
Then several hours later I was playing Candyland with Elizabeth on the coffee table when I happened to look up into the brick dome that makes up most of the living room ceiling. High up in the windowed cupola at the top a brown mass dangled.
I aimed a small pair of binoculars at it and saw two large eyes staring back at me. It was doing that Dracula's cape thing with its wings and seemed quite comfortable. We left it alone in hopes it would go out hunting again at sunset when we were planning to be away, and it did.
To keep it from coming back, we went out and bought some Christmas piñatas to hang in the center of each of our three open walls, and pulled the doors about halfway shut, believing this would look on sonar less like a cave.
My theory the following morning was that the piñatas on sonar resembled a greeting line of relatives. The bat came in again and startled us over our first cup of the day. I stood up to open the doors again, and the creature brushed by me as it took the hint.
Laurel is here for the holidays and briefed us frantically and chillingly on a PBS video she saw about bat-borne rabies.So the next night -- last night if you're reading this on Friday -- we closed the doors all the way.
This morning, we awoke at 5 a.m. to a thump that shook the balcony doors.
Is it sick? Is it drunk? Pam thinks it may have lived in the attic of the building just demolished a couple of blocks down the hill directly on the malecon, the seaside promenade. The top floors were all vacant, and there were big holes in the walls. So maybe it's just homeless.
There's no safe or reasonable way to find out. But I have done a little research and learned that the Spanish word for scarecrow is espantapajaros. Maybe they've got them at Costco.