Article by Tyron de Kauwe, Natural Areas Conservation Officer, Sunshine Coast Council
Welcome back for the October edition of flying-fox community news.
In the last couple of months, there has been a greater occurrence of the ‘pop-up’ camp phenomenon described in our June edition. Four previously unrecorded sites have emerged in Buderim, Kuluin, Maleny and Palmwoods in varying sizes. While they have not previously been occupied, each of these sites occur near traditional summer and winter sites and in areas identified as highly suitable from the recent QUT habitat modelling.
As with all issues with wildlife, there is no certain way of knowing how long they will reside in the area and whether they will return in the future. But it is expected that flying-foxes will return to their historic maternity roosts and these pop-up camps will start vacating across the birthing season.
September and October is the birthing season for grey-headed and black flying-foxes and is when the numbers usually inflate across most of the sites monitored on council’s BatMap. In recent years, the sites at Elizabeth St Drain (Coolum), Emerald Woods (Mooloolaba) and Vidler Court (Landsborough) tend to be occupied first over these months, with Aragorn (Maroochydore) and Hardie Buzacott (Moffat Beach) filling up from October to December.
The images below are from the national flying-fox monitoring program, coordinated by the CSIRO, and illustrate the fidelity flying-foxes have for some sites. Flying-foxes most often return to previous maternity sites to give birth. It is expected that all of these sites will be reinhabited soon, in preparation for birthing and rearing of young.
A day in the life of a flying-fox manager
Flying-fox management is a very complex issue, always trying to balance the complicated ecology with important social issues. For those who are interested in learning more about it, David Westcott, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO, is the leading ecologist in this field, and he has given a great deal of insight into the issue in this article.
National monitoring – May results
Quarterly roost counts are performed across their entire range to determine the abundance and distribution of the grey-headed and spectacled flying-foxes. While performing these counts, data is also collected for the little red and black flying-foxes. The area surveyed does not cover the entire range of these latter two, but it still gives a good representation of how these populations are faring across the East coast.
The national results of the May count were recently released, and here are some of the fast facts.
107 roosts were monitored with 63 of these roosts or 59% identified as absent. Of the 44 roosts (41%) that recorded flying-foxes:
- 19 roosts recorded a total of up to 1,000 flying-foxes
- 15 roosts recorded a total of between 1,001 and 5,000, and
- 10 roosts recorded more than 5,001 flying-foxes.
The largest roost was recorded in Coalstoun Lakes Recreation Reserve (North Burnett Regional Council), with 40,000 Black flying-foxes and 1,000 grey-headed flying-foxes.
To put this in perspective, of the ten roosting sites council monitored at the May count, Sunshine Coast had one site with 7,600 flying-foxes, four sites with less than 500 flying-foxes and five vacant.
Redecorating ‘reds’ push other bats next door
The biggest shift over winter occurred at Palmwoods, with over 17,000 flying-foxes residing in Kolora Park, just 300m away from a nationally significant maternity roost in Jubilee Ave. The most likely scenario for this shift is caused by the movements of nature’s pruners—the little red flying-fox.
As was covered recently, Sunshine Coast was visited by over 35,000 little reds at council-monitored sites, understandably causing many branches to be stripped or break under the added weight of extra animals. This was the case in Jubilee Ave, with thousands of flying-foxes causing significant defoliation at the site. It is believed that with so little remaining suitable vegetation, those that usually frequent Jubilee headed across the train tracks to the nearest available habitat.
Flying-foxes are still inhabiting Jubilee Ave in very small numbers, with an increasing number choosing to reside at Kolora Park in the meantime. Due to the long history of flying-foxes in Palmwoods, it is expected that once the vegetation at Jubilee Ave regenerates, flying-foxes will continue to move back there long-term.
‘Creatures of the Night’ bat night returns
Due to the overwhelming success of the Australasian Bat Night at Caloundra State School last October, Council will again be holding a Bat Night in Caloundra this year!
Everyone is invited to attend the coastal version of this FREE event. This year’s event will again be held on Thursday, 31 October.
Last year more than 250 people came along dressed in their best bat costumes and enjoyed a live wildlife presentation, cultural connections presentation, the final bat night presentation from the incredible Dr Les Hall, a movie under the stars and a sunset fly-out from the nearby bat roost.
We hope to make this year even bigger and better, with food and plenty of stalls with information and activities for all ages to enjoy. Please keep an eye out on council’s website and events pages for more details as they emerge and I hope to see you there.
Bats in focus
Over the last year or so, this article has taken on many changes to try and better inform and educate everyone about bats on the Sunshine Coast and further afield.
I am happy to announce another exciting change — Clancy Hall will now be collaborating on this article and will continue to contribute the “Bats in Focus” section of the community news.
Those avid readers of this article will know that Clancy is the daughter of flying-fox ecologist Les Hall and is a wildlife biologist in her own right. Welcome aboard Clancy and thank you for continuing this legacy!