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June 18, 2010 in Urban wildlife | Tags: bat migration, bats, biodiversity, birds, Energy Australia, Flying Foxes, food for urban wildlife, Heat Island Effect, injured bats, Lorikeets, pollinators, rising temperatures, Spring flowers, tree pruning, urban wildlife | Leave a comment
I have long thought the birds in my area were hungry. Last Spring I watched with dismay Energy Australia remove at least ½ to 2/3s of the foliage from the trees in my street. They did this just when the native trees were in flower. The disputes amongst birds to gain access to the remaining food was sad to witness. After around 3 months they calmed down somewhat & seem to have organized a system of shifts. I guess this is their method of conflict management as they have learnt to share what has become a scarce resource. Perhaps also, other plants have since flowered lessening the crisis of availability.
The bird population hasn’t dropped. In fact it has increased. Initially I thought this was a good thing, but after reading that bird experts consider the Lorikeets to be starving, I lost some of my delight in the increase in birds. They are moving into other areas in search of food.
I know Energy Australia have a pruning schedule to adhere to & this post isn’t one of my usual ones where I question their practices. It was just unfortunate that it was the turn of our area & it was spring, when all the trees were in flower at a time when there had been a long period of drought.
In the last month nature conservation groups have noted that the flying foxes have left QLD & travelled as far as Victoria, Adelaide in South Australia & Tasmania. This unusual mass migration has occurred because of record floods in QLD. The continual rain has prevented many native flowers from opening & washed nectar from those flowers that had bloomed. This especially affected the bats’ favourite food, Eucalypt flowers.
Numbers of reported injured bats to June this year are almost as high as the total for the whole of 2009. The bats are flying longer distances & taking more risks in search of food. They are travelling to country areas where they have not been before & eating citrus fruit from orchards despite this not being a food they generally eat. They are even remaining on fruit trees rather than fly to another more suitable tree to roost. Experts are saying this is because they are weak from starvation & do not want to relinquish a supply of food even if it is food they don’t usually eat.
While I was writing this my husband called me out to the garden to watch a small bat eating from the Grevillea flowers that have just started to open. The bat quietly licked the nectar from the flowers for around 20 minutes. Neither of us have seen this before.
In my immediate neighbourhood a number of trees on private property were chopped down to get rid of the bats that lived & sourced food from them. As far as I can tell, the bats haven’t gone far, just a few gardens down which was perhaps an unwelcome surprise for those people. Hopefully they won’t decide to chop their trees down as well.
The flying foxes stay in this area because there is usually some food & importantly there is access to water. Sydney’s temperature is also getting warmer & it is thought the Heat Island Effect from so much concrete is making the air temperature more to a bat’s liking.
Prior to the 1930s flying foxes were only found in Rockhampton & further north. Now, they live & breed in Sydney with the colony in the Royal Botanic Gardens undergoing or about to undergo noise dispersal & sleep deprivation to encourage them to move. Conservation groups & scientists believe there is nowhere for the bats to move to, but it’s going to happen anyway.
Many people don’t like bats, but they are vitally important to the Australian landscape, as they are great pollinators. If they become extinct, this will have a dreadful impact on Australian rainforests.
Starving bats, starving birds, not much long grass to gather seeds, inedible gardens, lots of cement, fewer trees in back gardens & non-flowering street trees result in a general lack of biodiversity. I wish our community would undertake to do something to remedy this awful situation. All we need to do is plant 1 or 2 flowering trees or shrubs in our gardens. We also need Councils to plant more trees that provide food for urban wildlife.
There are many things one can do to create a friendly environment for birds, such as planting a variety of native plants & trees of different heights & include native grasses & a prickly shrub to provide refuge to the smaller birds like Wrens. I will address this in a later post.
Even just planting 1-2 shrubs or a small tree will alleviate the desperate situation of urban wildlife. If many of us did this, there would be a great improvement in food supply. The key is to plant native plants that flower as these provide food for wildlife. It is best to choose plants that flower at different times so that food is available for many months rather than just one season.