Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Of Birds, Bikers and Bats

My garden is becoming more and more of a haven for birds, despite the watchful stalking eye of Basil the Wannabe Big Bad Bird-Gobbler. (Cat Palace erection date: 8-9 April - stay tuned!)

With the perfect amount of spare time at my disposal these days, I recently indulged my inner hippie and made this bird feeder from found/recycled materials. The birds loved it, but anything heavier than a tiny firebrow finch (see Leon Peachey’s great pic below!) kept knocking the top plate over/off, so back to the drawing board I went, scrounged some chook wire from the vegie cage, and a few other bits and bobs, including cat-netting and garden rocks – and I made a scrotumish-looking thingy that has stabilised it beautifully! You can see it in the photo at the top of this post.
Tiny firebrow finches (photo courtesy of Leon Peachey)
The birds were a real treat for the big bad bikers who attended Disorgural 1.0 - the successor to the immensely fabulous Unaugurals that were hosted by BT Humble and Cass for 10 years. A very tiny crowd travelled the vast distances to the remote East Gippsland coast (everyone of them, apart from Tim, in a car!) – and found the wildlife and scenery well worth the trip. (Also the fabulous hosting by moi, ha ha ha.) Despite the size of the non-crowd, we had plenty of laughs and made nearly enough noise to annoy the neighbours! Thanks heaps for coming, folks, and celebrating the Mallacoota lifestyle with me.
Disorg 'campfire' - a far cry from BT Humble's famous conflagrations!
The other very exciting critter to be spending some time in Mallacoota at the moment - apart from birds and bikers - is the flying fox, or fruit bat. This critter, as a carrier of the Hendra virus and the Lyssa virus, gets a bit of a bad rap – but is actually an important part of the ecosystem, helping to keep native forests alive by transporting bazillions of seeds each night. What makes them dangerous is not their batness per se, but our encroachment and destruction of their habitats, so that they gather in places that are often inconvenient to humans - botanical gardens, city parks etc...

The 129,000 strong colony that spends summer in Mallacoota is nestled in the trees of a gully in Karbeethong. Every night these amazing flying mammals flap over my house to head to their feeding ground, then fly home to the gully afterwards. A sensible observer, I treat them with respect and caution. I give them distance, stay in the car when close to the colony, wash my hands after being in the garden etc etc etc. No drama. By day or by night, they’re magnificent – and apparently they’ll stay in Mallacoota for a few weeks yet, before heading to their next stopping-place.
Fruit bats by day - Karbeethong colony. (photo courtesy Geoff Hansford)
 Last night, my mate Kat, her daughter Tash & I went to see them exiting their daytime sleeping place just before nightfall. Oh. My. God. What a sight! The air was THICK with them – one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen – and they’re quite BIG! Here's a pic (apologies for the low light, but you can at least get a vague idea of the sheer numbers. This weekend I'll head over again in better light and try for better pics.)
 We also went to Betka Beach late in the afternoon, just to walk around and enjoy the rocks. The light was beautiful – look!

And look at the quirky things people do with the beach rocks - down at the far end of Betka it's almost a 'rock sculpture garden'!

So anyway, with my head chock-full of beautiful images of the natural world, I felt inspired to pen a few lines about the fruit bats, just to try and keep my English teacher skills up to scratch. Here, then, is 

Doggerel for the Fruit Bats: a sonnet

Oh flying fox, oh mega bat, oh Fruity,
Like prehistoric parcels in the trees
You swing and chatter, flap and search for booty
And have a reputation for disease.
Some love you, many hate and fear your power
And those there are who'd see you all destroyed
Despite all this, each magic twilight hour
Deserves to be respectfully enjoyed.
For, like the spider, you have special talents
You transplant seeds and pollen where they're needed
On Mother Earth you help maintain a balance
By making sure our vegetation's seeded.
But best of all, magnificent in flight
You pour in waves above my house each night.

Till next time, this is Batty Betty signing off. Peace, all! (OMG, I really AM turning into a hippie! Are my 1970's roots showing???)
Moon over Mallacoota - the inlet after dark. Why would I live anywhere else?


Trobairitz said...

Great photos. I like your relative dangly bits to stabilize the bird feeder. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Of course the beach and bat pictures are way cool too. Growing up we always would see bats out feeding on insects, but not in the mass grouping you have there now. Just one or two we'd see. Here in Oregon the bats carry rabies.

Thanks for sharing. You sure live in a wonderful area.

AndrewM said...

10/10 for rhyme, 10/10 for rhythm, 0/10 for topic. What next, an Ode to Lyssavirus?

Sue said...

Like I said, Andrew - I keep my distance and treat them with respect. They are truly beautiful creatures! :-P
And hey, at least it's not rabies, like the bats in Trobairitz's neck of the woods!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad Disorgural 1.0 went well for you, Betty. I was disappointed thatCass and I couldn't attend, but you know priorities and all that... :-(


Sue said...

Hey BT, it's all good. Your pike was very valid and reasonable and perfectly understandable. Besides, there 'may' be another one next year, so you can wallow in Mallacoota magic then (unless, of course, we do the "Pissorgural" that we talked about the other night. Top secret plan, so don't tell Pisshead Pete it'll be at his place, bwahahahaha!!!)

Hope all is well with your dad xox

lemmiwinks said...

Erection and scrotum in the one post? Too good! :-)

AndrewM said...

Sue, it is rabies, at least for all practical purposes. There are 7 types of lyssavirus, and Type 1 is rabies; rabies is not found in Australia in terrestrial animals and probably (but not certainly) not in bats either. Type 7 is Australian Bat lyssavirus, only found in Australia; nobody who has contracted the disease has survived, and that includes the unfortunate boy in Queensland recently who was scratched by a bat and almost immediately hospitalised (died 3 months later).

OK, you can't contract lyssavirus unless an infected bat draws blood, and that is very rare, but why risk it?

Sue said...

I can always rely on you for facts, Andrew - thanks :-)

All of life's a bit of a gamble, really, isn't it? Here in Oz there are so many things out there in the natural world that can kill us - venomous spiders & snakes, germy bats, giant sharks (not to mention dropbears, ha ha!)- but we take our chances with them every day. The alternative is hiding away from life and wrapping up in cotton wool. The most dangerous critter, I think, is the human.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sue I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to the next installment. Sheila