Article by Tyron de Kauwe, Natural Areas Conservation Officer, Sunshine Coast Council
General flying fox roost updates
Over the last few months, the majority of flying foxes have been occupying their winter camp sites away from urban areas such as in the estuary at Bells Creek and sourcing nearby flowering paperbarks as their main food source. Very soon we will likely start to see them moving into their traditional maternity roost sites to give birth to their young. Some of these are located in urban areas and are managed council reserves. September and October traditionally sees pregnant females establish themselves at their favoured site and will remain there while they raise their young until the end of the year.
What happens at each site?
Council uses a range of techniques to manage human-flying fox interactions across its urban roosts. These actions are governed by our Regional Flying Fox Management Plan—which has been endorsed by the state government, and is approved by the federal government as a conservation agreement.
The main action currently implemented across many of our roosts is maintenance of a “buffer”. This buffer is 10-30m from properties where flying foxes are discouraged from entering. These flying fox exclusion buffers are designed to lessen the impact on residents, Buffers can be maintained in several ways:
- Understorey weed reduction - This has been shown to effect the microclimate within the buffer, which is often enough to discourage flying foxes from using the area.
- Deterrents - Canopy-mounted sprinklers have been used in several sites to ‘nudge’ flying foxes out of the buffer zone. The sprinklers work by turning on for and spraying water into the canopy vegetation. The sprinklers are not implemented to hit the flying foxes or damage surrounding foliage- they are designed to rustle the leaves and branches to mimic the motions of a predator quickly moving through the canopy and are triggered randomly so the flying foxes do not become accustomed to the regularity of the noise.
- Tree removal - This is obviously a more drastic method as removing the trees will definitely prevent flying foxes from roosting in them, however this can also be ineffective for some residents if there is no longer a vegetated screen and the flying foxes can be more visible and equally as noisy.
Council is currently utilising a combination of these techniques, along with investment in education and research, as each site has its own unique management difficulties. Buffer maintenance occurs routinely throughout the year at most of our urban camps to ensure a continued commitment to reducing impacts on residents, while maintaining the wellbeing of a threatened species.
What is happening outside these sites?
Council is committed to identifying ways to encourage flying foxes outside of the urban footprint. Many people do not tolerate having flying foxes so close to their properties and likewise, flying foxes would largely prefer to be in large colonies away from areas of high disturbance.
Therefore, council is investigating ways to increase the resource availability of historic camps and suitable low-conflict areas to try and encourage flying foxes to occupy these sites. One of the ways we do this is through revegetation, and council is currently performing offset planting of flying fox food trees in a reserve outside of the urban footprint.
Interactive BatMap - update
For those of you who did not read on from last issue, council has developed an interactive BatMap to document the movement of flying foxes within and across camps in the area. Flying Fox data is collected routinely over seven of council’s camps to improve understanding of flying fox ecology.
This information is critical in guiding our management techniques and assists in ground-truthing their efficacy. By implementing this new method, we will be able to see how flying fox populations change spatially over time.
Council’s flying fox monitoring is currently performed fortnightly by Ecosure, with data uploaded straight to the BatMap soon after collection. This information will be available for public access, to inform you of the movements and density of flying foxes in urban areas, and to ensure you have the most up-to-date data to be well-informed on the scope of this issue.
At the time of writing the BatMap is not live, but is expected to be publically available by early October.
Halloween bat night
Due to the overwhelming success of the Australasian Bat Night at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve over the past four years, council will be holding a second Bat Night this year! Everyone is invited to attend the coastal version of ABN. This event will be held on the sports fields of Caloundra State School, off Queen St, on Wednesday, 31 October 2018. That’s right, what better night to celebrate bats than on Halloween!
Come along in your best Halloween-influenced bat costume and enjoy a live wildlife presentation, cultural connections, a talk from a local bat ecologist, a movie under the stars and if you’re lucky, you might see the nearby flying foxes fly out for their nightly feed. There will be food and plenty of stalls with information and activities for all ages to enjoy. I hope to see you there.