Around this time of the year, when the berries ripen on the fig tree outside my window, a screeching can be heard throughout the night. The noise keeps most of my neighbours awake and eventually also drives me a little crazy. But even if the noise invades my dreams and causes me sleepless nights, I can't complain about the culprits: little flying foxes that share our city.
The Grey-Headed Flying Fox (Pteropus Poliocephalus) is a native fruit bat and the largest of its kind in Australia. The bats set up camps during the day and towards dusk head out in large groups in search of food. They always arrive in my fig tree before the sun sets. Landing with much screeching, they then continue to burp and fart and chat amongst themselves while spending the next ten hours or so dining on fig berries. Sometimes on rainy, dark days, the bats mistakenly think it is dinner time and arrive about three hours early.
For weeks I have been trying to capture them on film without success, despite the fact that they are often just 1m away from my window. I really wanted some better pictures of them mid-flight, but despite hanging around my window in wait, I always seemed to miss them and instead just captured an image of the sky. So apologies for the poor photographs.
A huge colony of the bats has been living for years in the palm grove at Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens. But the outgoing gardens director, Tim Entwistle, complained that the bats were destroying rare and important species of plants and set out to evict them. Animal welfare group Bat Advocacy launched a Land and Environment Court challenge to the proposed eviction on the grounds that the bats were an endangered species and past evictions had been unsuccessful. But last month Justice Dennis Cowdroy (of 40A Caldwell Street fame) ruled in favour of the gardens and ordered Bat Advocacy to pay costs.
The eviction begins in May and will run for three months until the end of July. Any attempts to evict the bats after then will not be allowed because the disruption could lead the mothers to abort their young. According to this Sydney Morning Herald article, the plan is to play a loud CD of horrible sound-effects, such as chainsaws and gunshots, at all hours in a bid to annoy the bats and force them to move on. It will be interesting to see if it works and where the 20,000-plus bats move to.