|Black flying-foxes, Herston.|
During a bird survey at Rasey Park on the weekend, I found a colony of black-flying foxes (Pteropus alecto) in the mangroves lining Breakfast Creek.
The sight was a relief: earlier last month, the Brisbane Times reported on the mysterious disappearance of South-east Queensland’s flying-foxes, as observed by Gold Coast bat expert, Trish Wimberley.
The news had triggered alarm in me—suddenly I couldn’t recall having seen any bats for at least a few weeks, an unusual occurrence for anyone living within the Norman Creek catchment area.
A walk with the spotlight through Dawn Road Reserve in mid-June didn’t allay my worries either, as not a single flying-fox was seen or heard.
Where were they?
It seems this year that the flying-foxes are having to chase food supplies a little harder than usual, and the nomadic grey-headed (P. poliocephalus) and little red flying-foxes (P. scapulatus) have sought nourishment further south where the eucalypt blooming season has already commenced.
The black flying-fox is considered more of a sedentary species however, travelling distances each night of around 15 to 30km away from its roosting camp; that there also seems to be very few of these presently in South-east Queensland is therefore notable.
Flying-foxes are very susceptible to heat stress thanks to their lean bodies, large surface area and exposed roosting sites; with the twelve months between July 2015 and June 2016 being the warmest on record for Australia, it is possible that our bats have had a very poor breeding season.
Now that the forest red gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis), tallowwoods (E. microcorys) and various ironbarks are coming into flower, it will be interesting to see if flying-fox numbers perk up in the local area.