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And the flying foxes put on a wonderful show

The flying foxes put on a wonderful show

March is ‘Australasian Bat Month’ & the Wolli Creek Preservation Society will be having their annual Bat Watch Picnic in Turrella Reserve.

Bring a picnic dinner, rug or chair & insect repellent (for the mosquitoes) & watch thousands of grey-headed flying foxes stream out of their Turrella camp.  To me this has been one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

We are so lucky to have such nature close to us.  Flying foxes are extremely beneficial to the environment & without them, our forests would be in real trouble.

WHERE: Turrella Reserve beside Wolli creek.  Enter via Henderson Street Turrella or Finlays Avenue Earlwood.  Please note that there are no toilets at Turrella Reserve.

WHEN: Friday 11th March 2016.

TIME: 6.30pm. Last year’s event was finished by 8.30pm.

This is a free event.  I will post a reminder & more details closer to the date.

 

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I was fortunate to see two mums with pups.

I was fortunate to see two mums with pups.

A bat huddle.

A bat huddle.

I recently visited the flying fox camp in Wolli Creek for the first time & what a delightful experience that was.  We have such a treasure on our doorstep.

The trees that the bats roost in are visible from Turrella Reserve. The walk to get there is quite easy.  You enter the bush of Wolli Creek at the National Parks & Wildlife sign & follow your nose taking the paths that travel downhill. Within 10-15 minutes, depending on how often you stop to look around, you come to a massive sandstone boulder locally known as ‘Dragon Rock.’   Look over the boulder & there across Wolli Creek are the bats – in all their splendor.

I really liked that the camp is separated from people because it keeps the bats safe.   The view from Dragon Rock is excellent & you will want to take your camera because the sight is amazing.

Wolli Creek is quite wild in this area. There is no concrete & no mown lawns. The bats hang from a group of tall Eucalypts & to a group of Poplar trees further along the creek. If you return to the main path & head west following the creek, you will see the bats hanging in the Poplar trees. These trees are much nearer to the path allowing a closer view of the bats roosting here.  Quiet though, as they are sleeping.

There are around 12,000 flying foxes, including endangered grey-headed flying foxes in the Wolli Creek camp.  This is an extremely important piece of bushland close to the city.  It provides much benefit for people & also offers a safe place for wildlife. Despite the weeds, there is much biodiversity here & there were many plants in flower.  I’ve seen birds in Wolli Creek that I haven’t seen in Marrickville LGA.  The bush is particularly useful for little birds.

It is worthwhile taking a trip up Nannygoat Hill. I did not know that there is an easy way to the top from the back of the hill, so we took the harder route. It is not too hard, but there are some sandstone boulders taller than people that require you to climb & scramble over.

Part of the walking track

Part of the walking track

Wolli Creek is a popular place for people to exercise. While we were there a number of people were running the tracks & one man had done the circle up & down Nannygoat Hill around fifteen times & had not finished yet. I mention this because how hard the trek to the top of the hill really depends on your fitness level.  The view from the top of Nannygoat Hill made any struggle worth it.

If you want to take the easy route, you can access ‘The Walk’ via Albert Park on Hocking Avenue. This path travels over flatter sandstone, but the track is not suitable for wheelchairs or people unsteady on their feet.

Every month volunteers for the Wolli Creek Preservation Society count the bats from Turrella Reserve as they fly out for the night. The Society welcomes volunteer counters. It is not hard to count the bats & training is provided.

Bring mosquito repellant, as the mossies are hungry in this area. Bring water to drink as well. The count takes between 45-minutes to an hour. It’s a peaceful experience & surprisingly to me, the bats are quiet as they fly overhead.   Any questions & to let the Society know you are coming email – info@wollicreek.org.au

Bats galore!  It's a wonderful sight.

Bats galore! It’s a wonderful sight.

Wolli Creek looking west. The colony is on the left.

Wolli Creek looking west. The colony is on the left.

Wolli Creek looking east.

Wolli Creek looking east.

 

And the flying foxes put on a wonderful show

And the flying foxes put on a wonderful show

I have just come back from a wonderful ‘Social Bat Watch’ event in Turrella Reserve put on by the Wolli Creek Preservation Society as part of Australasian Bat Month.

It was hard to estimate because of the happy children running everywhere, but about 200 people came to watch around 9,500 flying foxes leave their camp to hunt for food during the night.

It was a BYO picnic & that is what most people did.   The Wolli Creek Preservation Society had an information stall, plus games & face painting for the kids.  By the end of the night, most children were wearing painted bat faces & carrying paper bats on sticks & other hand-made bat toys.  Sparklers ended the night when the bats had finished flying overhead.

People relaxed, drank & ate & as dusk fell, out came the bats – a dribble at first & then the sky was full of these beautiful creatures. For some reason, perhaps curiosity, a greater number than usual took the route directly over the crowd & it was spectacular to watch.

I am biased, as the sight of bats flying overhead in large numbers is one of my favourite sights, but friends who had not experienced this before were really delighted. If you haven’t done it, you are missing something incredibly beautiful – and it is free, every night at Turrella Reserve.

The start of the flyover.

The start of the flyover.  As it gets darker more flying foxes fill the sky.

Flying foxes start to flyout from their camp in Wolli Creek.

Flying foxes start to flyout from their camp in Wolli Creek.

March is ‘Australasian Bat Month’ & there is a ‘Social Bat Watch’ event on the evening of Friday 6th March 2015 in Turrella Reserve. The event is supported by the Wolli Creek Preservation Society, City of Canterbury Council, Rockdale City Council, Transport Sydney Trains & the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage.

Bring a picnic dinner, rug or chair & insect repellent (for the mosquitoes) & watch thousands of grey-headed flying foxes stream out of their Turrella camp.

I have done this a few times & it is a glorious experience. A few bats start flying & within minutes, the camp starts to leave to go hunting for food.  Bats fly in a few directions & thousands fly over Turrella Reserve. You get a good view of them.

It’s wonderful to watch. I really was awestruck the first time I witnessed this & wondered why I had this on my ‘to-do’ list for so long without actually doing it.

We are so lucky to have such nature close to us. Flying foxes are extremely beneficial to the environment & without them, our forests would be in real trouble.

There will be ‘Batty Craft’ for young & old & the opportunity to learn about flying foxes.

WHERE: Turrella Reserve beside Wolli creek.  Enter via Henderson Street Turrella or Finlays Avenue Earlwood.  Please note that there are no toilets at Turrella Reserve.

WHEN: Friday 6th March 2015.

TIME: 6.30pm – 8.30pm.

Bring your camera too.  You will be wanting to take photographs of this awe-inspiring event.

For more information email bats@wollicreek.org.au

Bats, also known as flying foxes, are in trouble. People don’t want them & their habitat is being destroyed at a rate of knots.

“Bats are primary predators of night-flying insects, including many of the most damaging agricultural pests & others that bedevil the rest of us. More than two-thirds of bat species hunt insects, & they have healthy appetites. A single little brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour, while a pregnant or lactating female bat typically eats the equivalent of her entire body weight in insects each night.

Almost a third of the world’s bats feed on the fruit or nectar of plants.  In return for their meals, these bats are vital pollinators of countless plants (many of great economic value) & essential seed dispersers with a major role in regenerating rainforests. About 1 percent of bats eat fish, mice, frogs or other small vertebrates.” ~ Bat Conservation International http://www.batcon.org/

Two days ago Bat Conservation International posted a great 3-minute video that shows how the health of our planet & the pollination of much of our food depends upon the free environmental services provided by bats. Without bats we are in serious trouble.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8CkEIz6rdc

This intervention won’t make the barbed wire that seems to be popping up throughout Marrickville LGA safer for people, but it will make it safer for urban wildlife.  As for razor wire, as far as I am concerned it has no place in the Inner West.  I came across a website called ‘The Wildlife Friendly Fencing Project.’ It is trying to raise awareness about the dreadful impact of barbed wire fencing on wildlife. See – http://wildlifefriendlyfencing.com/WFF/Home.html

“Each year thousands of animals face a cruel death or permanent injury from entanglement on barbs, usually on the top strand. More than 75 wildlife species have been identified in Australia as occasional or regular victims of barbed wire fences, especially nocturnal animals such as bats, gliders & owls. Many fail to see the fence, or cannot clear the height under windy conditions. Most of those rescued are too severely damaged to return to the wild.”

Until organisations like Railcorp & Marrickville Council remove barbed wire from their fencing, interested people can do something simple that will go a long way to helping birds & bats avoid injury.

A length of white ribbon or other white material tied at 1.5 – 2 metre intervals along the top strand of barbed wire will make this area visible to birds & they will fly above the barbed wire. The top strand is important as 86% of wildlife entangled on barbed wire is caught on the top strand & white is the colour that is most easily visible at night.  The material should be long enough to be able to move in the wind. A 25 cm length tied will allow a drop of around 12 cms (5 inches), enough to be able to flutter, but not so much to be a visible eyesore.

This is a simple & cheap way of preventing injury to wildlife.  !!! Anyone who wants to do this needs to be careful not to injure themselves whist attaching the ribbon to the fence. A pair of leather gardening gloves will help avoid injury as will long sleeves & a careful approach. !!!  And stay away from razor wire!

The Wildlife Friendly Fencing Project is also calling for the banning of sales of monofilament (thin nylon type) netting & all black netting across Australia.  Their website has photographs of animals caught in this type of netting & the injuries are horrendous. Bats & birds that get caught in this type of netting suffer a long, slow & agonising death for want of a simple change of netting & doing the job properly.  Bird & bat-friendly netting is readily available & all one has to do is ensure that the netting is tight around the tree so that it has a bounce-effect. This will allow wildlife to walk over the netting without getting entangled & without being able to get to your fruit.  If the flying-foxes do get dispersed from Sydney’s Botanic Gardens, we will likely have an increase in bats in our suburbs & more care needs to be applied to not expose them to unnecessary dangers.

This is an extreme example of poor netting technique. It's easy to see how wildlife can become entangled in this

A fabulously creative way to pass on a message of conservation, this is a YouTube video of a rap song by Australian Peter Noble about the critically endangered flying foxes in Australia.  “The greatest threat they face is ignorance from you & me.”   The video shows inside a bat rehabilitation aviary & is well worth watching.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoFNBAhEquc

The arrows point to rows of barbed wire fencing off the railway corridor at the back of Tillman Park Sydenham & in the background, at Frazer Park Marrickville. The large railway corridor here & the 2 parks have been identified as high biodiversity value

Earlier this week I watched a program on Channel 6 about a flying fox rehabilitation centre.  Unfortunately, I did not catch their name.  As with most programs on Channel 6, this was a simple documentary, the camera fixed on a woman who spoke about the work of the rehab centre with shots of the bats she was talking about.  The scene was a large aviary where flying foxes of all ages were being rehabilitated for release back into the wild.  A few bats had been so badly injured that they will remain at the rehab centre for life & are used as educational bats when speaking to groups.  They can’t fly.  One of these bats was at the Eco Festival on the Cooks River last year.

Some facts about flying foxes discussed on this program –

  • Flying foxes are playful, cheeky creatures that enjoy interacting with humans when in care.
  • They have close friendships with each other. Two bats that were tagged with consecutive numbers before release found themselves coming back into care a couple of years later showing that they had remained together since their release.
  • Staff members have come to work to find an injured bat waiting outside the aviary.  Checking their tags they found the bats, for there have been a few, knew where to come if they were injured.  Now that is smart.
  • Bats are not just flying around indiscriminately with a few thousand others. They are families, pairs & groups of friends who sleep together & forage for food together during the night.

The good thing is the new tree planted in Tillman Park recently. The bad thing is the barbed wire along the goods line. Two sides of Tillman Park has barbed wire fencing

What made me decide to write a post about this program was that the woman being interviewed said there were 2 main reasons why flying foxes get injured.  The first is barbed wire, which is often placed near a Eucalyptus or Bottle Brush tree. The bats come to feed on the flower nectar, don’t see the barbed wire & tear their wings.  Many bats are still alive when you see them tangled in barbed wire. They stay still because they are in pain. People who see them think they are dead & the bat ends up suffering a long, slow & painful death.  So if you see a flying fox in this condition, it is well worth ringing a wildlife rescue organization that will remove the bat if it is dead & rescue it if it is still alive.  Barbed wire injuries often mean that a bat cannot fly again & many are so badly injured that they need to be euthanized.

How I hate barbed wire & razor wire.  I’ve seen more of the stuff in Sydenham seeming to protect something belonging to Railcorp.  The back fence at Tillman Reserve & the border of the goods line is barbed wire as well.  Tillman Park & this section of Railcorp land is viewed as a prime biodiversity corridor so hopefully Marrickville Council will convince Railcorp to remove the barbed wire in these areas.

It’s crazy to plant to increase biodiversity & then surround the area with an invisible obstacle course that that has the high potential of severely injuring the very wildlife you are encouraging.  People know how to get through or over barbed wire & razor wire anyway so it is entirely unnecessary.

Even the Department of Corrective Services is removing barbed wire from the prison walls & is using slip-rollers instead. If the prisons can remove barbed & razor wire, surely the Council, Railcorp & other organizations around the locality can do the same.  How long before a kid gets hurt?

The second main cause of injury is fruit tree netting because people sling the net loosely over the tree. Loose netting means that bats as well as birds are very likely to become entangled in the net.  Netting causes deep wounds & severe burns to the skin of a bat. A tangled, trapped bat or a bird is also very difficult to get out of the netting.  A homeowner does not want to find a terrified & injured bat wrapped in netting high up in a fruit tree because trying to remove a wild animal is likely to cause injury to the person.  It is best to call a trained wildlife rescuer who has also been vaccinated against any bat-related viruses.

If you have fruit trees, you can still net them. However, you need to pull the netting tight around & under the canopy so that a bird or a bat will bounce off it if they land on the tree.  Sydney Bats have a document that explains how to net your fruit trees with wildlife in mind. – http://www.sydneybats.org.au/cms/index.php?urban

If you see an injured bat, call –

  • Sydney Wildlife (02) 9413 4300 or
  • WIRES (Wildlife Information & Rescue Service) (02) 8977 3333
  • Outside Sydney contact your local wildlife organization.
  • Your local Vet will also know whom to contact.

I made a couple of short YouTube videos of flying foxes in the local area –

Razor wire at Tempe Bus Depot

Tempe Reserve is a hot spot for biodiversity creation

Today is Threatened Species Day & September is also National Biodiversity Month.  These events are meant to raise awareness in the community about our environmental issues.  The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population & Communities says the following about Australia’s biodiversity –

“Australia is home to more than one million species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. About 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds & 89% of inshore, freshwater fish are endemic – that is they are only found in Australia. Changes to the landscape & native habitat as a result of human activity have put many of these unique species at risk. Over the last 200 years many plants & animals have become extinct.”

The NSW Office of Environment & Heritage says, “In NSW more than 1000 native species, populations & ecological communities are threatened with extinction.”  In Marrickville LGA we have remnants of Sydney Turpentine & Ironbark Forest, Swamp Oak Floodplain Forest, Sydney Sandstone & Sandstone Heath. The Marrickville Draft Biodiversity Action Plan identifies these as a priority for action to keep.  Once the habitat goes, so do the animals, birds, reptiles, frogs & insects that inhabit it.  In some areas species are hanging on by a thin thread.

In Marrickville LGA we have the Green & Gold Frog, the Grey-headed Flying Fox, the East-coast Freetail Bat, the Eastern Bentwing Bat & the Long-nosed Bandicoot on the vulnerable or endangered list.  With funding for the GreenWay being cut out in this week’s NSW Budget, the Bandicoot colonies will be at greater risk.

Flying Foxes across Australia have become ‘Public Enemy Number 1’ because they are impacting humans more than ever in search of ever-dwindling food sources & habitat.  Recently there have been incidents of poisoning local Fig trees, a major source of food for flying foxes.  For bats, the future is not looking good.

Also mentioned in the Marrickville Draft Biodiversity Strategy as threatened species for this area are the Red-crowned Toadlet, the Barking Owl, the Masked Owl, the Powerful Owl, the Sooty Owl, the Pied Oystercatcher, the Terek Sandpiper, the Swift Parrot, the Regent Honeyeater & the East-coast Freetail Bat.  That’s a long list for an area of only 14 square kilometres.

Looking at the map of ‘Threatened species, population & ecological communities around Marrickville LGA over the last decade’ in the Marrickville Draft Biodiversity Strategy, about 98% of sightings follow the GreenWay or near the GreenWay, the Cooks River & off to Wolli Creek.

Council has the responsibility to plant street trees, parks & other areas with urban wildlife in mind. It is wonderful to see that they have prepared such in-depth reports about biodiversity in Marrickville LGA. Their action list gives me great hope in that there will be a future for urban wildlife & that areas of habitat will continue to be cared for & built upon, especially for those classified as vulnerable or worse.

The Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation List of Threatened Fauna has a list of 444 species that makes for bleak reading – http://bit.ly/qCM3lO

Here is an Inner West Courier article about the GreenWay funding – http://bit.ly/o4MvUp & another where WIRES are asking people to net their fruit trees correctly so as not to injure flying foxes & birds – http://bit.ly/ovPTlB

There are a number of events happening across the locality for National Biodiversity Month such as the Two Valley Trail Reconciliation Walk (see –  http://bit.ly/oHDA0C ) & the Birds & Bush event (see – http://bit.ly/pirv0V ).

This is a close-up of one of a row of perfect Bottle Brush (Callistemon) trees just inside the perimeter of Ferncourt Public School in Marrickville South. Native trees in this condition are great for biodiversity because they offer lots of food for a range of animals, birds, butterflies, native bees & other insects. If only the thousands of Bottle Brush trees across Marrickville LGA were in such good condition.

The NSW Labor government committed to end the licensed shooting of flying-foxes in NSW just before the recent elections. They committed $5 million for farmers to install exclusion netting around orchards & the legal shooting of flying-foxes to be phased-out within 3 years. The Liberal Party said if they were elected they would reduce this period to 2 years, so I guess, now that the Liberal Part are in government, this will be happening. The Humane Society International said, Only an immediate ban on the shooting of flying-foxes can avoid this unnecessary cruelty.” http://www.ecovoice.com.au/eco-news/2813-flying-foxes-get-a-last-minute-reprieve-from-the-nsw-government

I have made a 1min 45secs YouTube video of the spectacular sight of thousands of flying-foxes crossing the Cooks River at dusk. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToG4T_mkUWE

 

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