13 November 2008

fresh, free, filtered water

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(12:42am Sydney, 8:42am NYC)

Yesterday, we took the ferry to Manly Beach, a laid-back little community that's part of Sydney's Northern Beaches. We unintentionally sat on the sunny side of the ferry and got a little overheated. Thankfully, this little public service was available: free filtered water. Sure, it's just a hyped-up water fountain, but it's got the right message. And as always I had my Sigg on hand to fill up (BTW, that's not my manly hand in the photo!)

it's a bird, it's a plane... it's fruit bats!

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(12:08am Sydney, 8:08am NYC)

At dusk on the day we arrived in Sydney, I saw what I thought were birds flying around the city, filling the skyline (see little specks in picture above). "I think those are bats," one of my travel companions said. "No way!" I didn't believe there could be so many. She said that she saw them in a tree at the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens. We had heard that there were big bats in the gardens, but I didn't believe it. The prospect of seeing them during the day was too exciting for me.

Yesterday, we finally went to check out the tree that was the daytime refuge for these fruit bats. When my boyfriend asked the women at the gate which tree (or two) the bats were in, they laughed. Tree or two? Try hundreds. "They're destroying our garden!" The women pointed us in the right direction and gave us a flyer with more information. Here's what it read:

Grey-headed Flying-fox
Fact Sheet

Named because of its fox-like face, the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pterus poliocephalus) is one of the largest species of bat in the world, weighing up to 1 kilogram [2.2 lbs] with a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres [nearly 5 feet]. Flying-fox are very intelligent, they have large eyese and oval ears capable of acute hearing.

Grey-headed Flying-fox are distributed along the eastern coast of Australia from Rockhampton in the north to western Victoria in the south.

At night the Flying-fox feed on the fruits of rainforest trees, especially figs, and the nectar and pollen of eucalypts and melaleucas. The Grey-headed Flying-fox is particularly important because it is one of the few species that pollinates the flowers and spreads the seeds of these rainforest species. They use their excellent night vision and acute sense of smell to navigate and seek out food sources over a wide area. They have a nightly feeding range of up to 40 km [close to 25 mi] from the camp (roost) site. [Continued below...]

That's not fruit... it's bats!

So cute and fuzzy


Grey-headed Flying-fox give birth to a single, well-developed, furred young in October/November. The baby suckles milk from a nipple in either of the mother's wingpits for 6 months. From birth, a baby Flying-fox holds onto its mother when she flies out of the colony to feed at night. At about 5 weeks it is left with the other bab Flying-fox in the camp trees until she returns. By 4 months the young have learned to fly and join the adults on nocturnal feeding flights. [Continued below...]

Mama and baby

From time to time the bats set up camp in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. As you can see by looking around the Palm Grove, they are damaging the trees they roost in. If the bats continue to camp here they will cause permanent damage to these trees which are part of our living heritage. For this reason, the Royal Botanic Gardens has been given a licence by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to use non-harmful methods to discourage the bats from roosting here. [Continued below...]

I love them, but they're devastating the trees

Major threats to the survival of Flying-fox are destruction of their habitats and roost sites, and clearing and fragmentation of their feeding sites. Loss of these areas has a direct impact on Flying-fox populations. The colony size in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney varies between 1000 and 8000 individuals depending on the time of year and food availability both in the immediate area and along the eastern coast of Australia.

Read more about Flying-foxes (fruit bats).

Getting ready for the big dusk flight

It's almost time!