Dibble Avenue Waterhole -  a biodiversity hotspot & returned to being one of Marrickville's really beautiful historic places.  There is a microbat box on the pier on the left.

Dibble Avenue Waterhole – a biodiversity hotspot & thankfully, returned to being one of Marrickville’s really beautiful historic places. There is a microbat box on the pier on the left.

On the 18th September 2013 I went on a Microbat Walk organised by Marrickville Council.  Around 22 people met at AB Croft Playground next to the Dibble Avenue Waterhole.  Council’s Biodiversity Officer & Ecologist & bat specialist Narawan Williams from Newcastle were our guides.

Kudos to Marrickville Council for the work they have done on the AB Croft Playground.   There are new trees, new park benches, tastefully displayed sandstone boulders in amongst mulch in the areas that tend to become boggy & a very nice new set of playground equipment.

Microbat box at Dibble Avenue Waterhole

Microbat box at Dibble Avenue Waterhole

The fence that separates the park from the waterhole used to be topped with barbed wire.  That’s gone thank goodness & has been replaced with a high & stylish fence that is secure & unobtrusive, yet allows the public a great view of the waterhole.

I wish all the organizations & companies that are stringing up barbed & razor wire around Marrickville municipality used this kind of fencing.  If they saw the intense suffering barbed & razor wire cause wildlife, they might think differently, especially if they were the person assigned the job of removing the poor, still alive animal, bat or bird with horrific injuries.  It’s a cheap solution that makes our area ugly.  We do not live in a war zone.

Council removed the old rotted pier from the Dibble Avenue Waterhole, but left the pier stumps, so now the waterbirds have nice places to perch. One pier  has a microbat attached.  They also re-vegetated the banks, removing bamboo, weeds & unsuitable trees. The whole place looks remarkably different than it did 2-years ago.  Council’s work has improved the waterhole & surrounds immensely, which is great for both biodiversity & the community.

To my delight we were taken through a private housing complex to a gate on the far side of the AB Croft Playground, which gave us an entirely different view of the waterhole.  Here we saw four man-made microbat boxes that Council has installed in the trees.  We also learnt about which species of microbat has been monitored at the waterhole, as well as information about them.

People asked lots of interesting questions.  I can’t remember it all & unfortunately I didn’t think to take pen & paper to take notes.

The Eastern Bentwing bat, classified as vulnerable, has been spotted in Marrickville.  So have two other species of microbat.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember their names.  Sydney has about 20 species of microbats, about half of which are threatened.

Microbat monitor

Microbat monitor

Then we headed off to the Marrickville Golf Course & were shown two hand-held microbat monitors that record their ultrasonic calls & GPS location.  Microbats are mostly inaudible & the rest are hard for humans to hear.  These monitors pick up the sound pulses of microbats, identify the species by the different pulse & of course, identify whether they are in the area.

The monitors were handed to participants & then we went off for a walk in the dark across the golf course listening for the little microbats.    It was really lovely to be on the golf course at night with lights in the distance & a one-day-off full moon to light the way.  Waterbirds sang from the mangroves & the larger flying foxes from Wolli Creek flew overhead.  I’m not sure whether any microbats were detected, but it was so nice, it really didn’t matter – at least to me.

Another more natural microbat box at Dibble Avenue Waterhole

Another more natural microbat box at Dibble Avenue Waterhole

We then walked to the wooden bridge over the Cooks River located near the Marrickville Golf Club.  Underneath the bridge is another microbat box, as they like to sleep under bridges.  This bridge is about to be replaced as Council feels that it is at the end of its lifespan & costs more money to maintain than replace.  A new bridge will be built a few metres away.  The bulk of the old bridge will be removed, but Council will be leaving the poles for the waterbirds to sit on.  I am very happy about this, as waterbirds have almost nothing to sit on in the river.  These poles will allow the waterbirds to behave naturally.  Besides, the poles will be a visible link to our past.

The walk continued through the golf course to the second event, a talk on microbats by Narawan Williams the microbat specialist who came with us on the walk.  I did not attend the talk, as places were limited.  I am positive that it would have been very interesting.

I thoroughly enjoyed the walk & learning about Council’s work to improve habitat for microbats.  Marrickville Council says they are likely to do this event again soon, so I recommend grabbing a place next time this event is on.  I think you will enjoy yourself & come away with a better appreciation of these little creatures, plus have the lovely experience of walking alongside the river on grass at night.  It was a nature fix for me.   Thank you to Marrickville Council’s Biodiversity Officer & to Narawan.  The event was a total success in my eyes.

Some quick facts about microbats –

  • Microbats are mammals, warm blooded & feed their babies milk.
  • They can be as small as a moth or as big as a human hand.
  • They can make a home in almost any crevice.  They like tree hollows, under lifted bark, caves, under bridges & in the walls or roofs of buildings.
  • Microbats are insect eaters & as such, are extremely useful to humans, as are all bats.  A microbat can eat as 40% of their body weight every night.  Electric insect zappers not only kill useful insects, they kill the food microbats need to survive.
  • Microbats hibernate in winter.  Disturbing them during hibernation causes them to return to operating temperature.  This uses up precious fat reserves & results in their death.
  • Microbats can see, but use echolocation – the projection of sound at frequencies outside the human hearing range – to find food. They listen to their call bouncing off trees, rocks & buildings.
  • They fly fast & low, changing direction often when chasing their prey.
  • Babies are born in spring & summer.  By 8-weeks they are fully developed & can fly & feed with the adults.
The Dibble Avenue Waterhole from the other side, closed to the public.

The Dibble Avenue Waterhole from the other side, closed to the public.  You can see the AB Croft Playground & piers opposite.

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