01 April, 2013

Things that go "squeak" in the night

Not all the creatures seen along the banks of the Barwon River are to be found during daylight hours. When darkness falls, the rustles, squeaks and screeches of the nocturnal creatures begin...and so do my problems!
Besides the fact that a darkened river track is not the best place for a lone female, there are other factors which make it tricky to gather material for a nocturnal blog post. Not least of these is the fact that my camera is really not up to the challenge of night photography and to be honest, neither is the photographer!
One of these days I might get the right equipment and take a course which teaches me how to use it, but until then, I will have to make do with a few blurry shots taken during an occasional early evening stroll with the family.
So, what is out there on the cool, dark banks of the Barwon? Well, probably quite a bit that I have yet to notice, but also a number of things which I have experienced. Firstly, there are those nocturnal creatures which - conveniently enough for me - are happy to make an appearance during daylight hours. The so-called Nankeen Night Heron which I have shown in several previous posts does not seem to discriminate too much as to time of day or night. Nor for that matter do mosquitoes! I have also caught the occasional Possum of indeterminate species blinking at me from the foliage of an overhead branch, but my only photos have been nocturnal.

Probably a Common Brushtail Possum
(if you look on just the right angle)
There is however, one other creature which frequents the Barwon - and for that matter, the trees in my backyard -  and that is the Grey-headed Flying-fox. During the warmer months, they can often be seen flying over the river through Geelong. I have seen them in the eucalypts near the rowing sheds and also in the Moreton Bay Figs at Barwon Grange.
I imagine that they are members of the colony of flying-foxes which took up residence in Eastern Park overlooking Corio Bay in 2003 after being evicted from the botanic gardens in Melbourne. Just on dusk and well into the evening, these fairly substantially-sized bats can  be seen flying out from the gardens to look for food. On a warm evening, hundreds of them pass over our house, heading south-westerly towards the Barwon. The flapping of their wings is quite distinct and not at all like that of a bird.

Grey-headed Flying-fox in the Eastern Park colony
Also distinct is the racket they make in the various trees which surround us - screeching and chattering away as they stop off en route for the odd plum or fig, although I gather their main diet consists of pollen and nectar from eucalypts, melaleucas and banksias which they are willing to travel up to 50km to find. In doing this, the bats play a substantial role in pollinating the region's flora.

A very odd Christmas tree!
As mentioned, my skills are not up to photographing the passing parade of an evening, however it is a relatively simple matter to visit them during daylight hours when they are at home in the park.
The racket made by the colony as they hang from the branches like some form of macabre black fruit can be quite loud. This is, I am informed, the way parents communicate with their offspring during the summer months. The other means of communication is by smell - and that can be quite pronounced too!

Bats in the Eastern Park colony
 From an initial population of around 4,000 bats, the population in the Geelong colony had risen substantially by 2010 to somewhere upwards of 20,000. The figure suggested for 2011 was somewhat lower and I have not been able to find a more recent estimate of their number at this stage.
Good night!
Whilst they are only passing visitors to the Barwon, the river is however of some significance to the bats. In flight, they use it as a landmark by which to navigate to and from the colony as well as flying down to swim in the water then drinking by licking the moisture from their fur.
Finally, there is one other nocturnal breed which can sometimes be found lurking along the banks of the Barwon after dark and that is of course the geocacher. For those in need of enlightenment the Geocaching.com website will help. In addition to the expected array of caches which can be located at any hour of the day or night, there is a rather devilish night cache located towards the Breakwater section of the river which took us several hours and three trips to track down during which time we heard many rustlings but saw little in the way of nocturnal wildlife.
Well these are just a few of the nocturnal beasties I have seen along the river to date and as long as the weather holds for a while yet, I will hopefully be able to venture out to see if I can acquaint myself with a few more creatures of the night along the lengths of the Barwon.

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