Saturday, 30 January 2016

The bats of Karbeethong

In my posts about our recent trip to Mallacoota I mentioned the colony of Grey-headed Fruit Bats a few times.  Some close-up photos are in the later parts of an earlier post, while my best images of the flock in flight are here.  I thought it might be interesting to record what we observed, based around some images snipped from Google Earth.

This first images shows the 'suburb' of Karbeethong - about 5 km along the Inlet from the town of Mallacoota, with the green dot giving the position of the bat colony.
There are two clues to the existence of the colony shown below.  The first is the calls of the bats as they communicate with each other.  These are clearly audible to humans within the yellow lines.  That is what first alerted us to the existence of the colony.  A second clue is the sharp aroma of bat guano which can be detected by my crummy honker within the brown lines.
When we first observed them, in early 2015, we saw them from the house, streaming out in the evening basically as shown by the black arrows
That was also the story in the most recent sightings.  They seemed to emerge as dusk settled, for the first few evenings at about 2035.  It seemed to take about 10 minutes for the colony to empty out.

On our last evening it was very overcast and thus getting dark somewhat earlier.  The bats were swarming by 2010.  However, rather than heading straight out up or across the Inlet, for several minutes they appeared to circle as if unsure what to do.
At this stage the airspace was pretty crowded.  This led to quite a few of bats clipping the power lines as they circled (and the utility company has put hangers on the lines to enables flying beasties a chance of seeing them).  This was revealed more by 'tings' coming from tensioning devices close to the poles than actually seeing a strike.

By about 2025 things seemed to have settled down and, while some were still circling, others were flying off.  As I had gone down the hill to get some photos I was able to notice that as well as the torrent heading NNW there was also a good number heading SSW.
 This suggests to me that there were two feeding areas more or less as shown here.
I presume that there were a lot of Angophora floribunda flowering in those areas as I am advised that is a popular food resource for the bats.

A final comment is to note that Tammy is not at all happy to go anywhere near the colony.  Whether it is:
  • the noise - I can imagine she'd pick up a lot of the high-frequency echolocation calls as well as those audible to humans; or 
  • the smell - she mainly hunts by nose so is presumably pretty sensitive in the stink department;
which she doesn't like isn't clear.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Final sights and home

I was a bit occupied in the evening of 27th so you have had to wait a day for this.  I'm sure you have all found good things to do while I get my act into gear.

For a change the sky did not look to indicate a good day in the offing.
 Despite this we did our 'usual'walk into the town and back.  No great excitements but some nice chats with locals and the view is always pleasant.

We then took ourselves off to the Casuarina Walk on the edge of the town.  There were a few birds about (see below) but very little blossom.  Hence a snap of a Brachyscome (one of very few 'daisies') ...
 .. and ditto Wahlenbergia.
 The highlight was finding two flowers of Dipodium variegatum.
Later in the day I went to the heathland in (unsuccessful) search of Emu-wren.  I did find some Hakea in flower.
 I also had a chat with two women who had walked, carrying huge packs from Cape Conran.  This looks to be somewhere close to 100km and had taken them 5 days.  They seemed to have had good fun and were pleased I could take a photo (on their phone).  Mallacoota was their destination and they were keen to find a good coffee  shop: I had to explain my ignorance of such matters!

Getting back to nature, one of the bird calls in the morning walk had frustrated me.  It was like a high pitched horses whinny'.  Eventually I spotted a big lump in a high tree.  This turned into a juvenile Brown Goshawk and I suddenly recognised the call.
 Some years ago Frances read that photography had changed art because photographs could cut people in half by accident, which no painter would do.  This is possibly the sort of thing they meant.
 At least you now know the dihedral of a Pelican's left wing.  And yes, I generally do have something against right wingers!  Of either Party.

A little later I managed to get a better shot, which also covered a question about the distribution of white and black in a pelican's wings.
On the theme of birds the cloudy/stormy weather led to an outbreak of White-throated Needletails, seen in small numbers through the day.  They were going well for Birdoftheday until a Black-faced Monarch briefly appeared in the garden.

Today's reptile is a Mountain Dragon.  Possibly a tad surprising as it was at an elevation of about 20m, and well within the sound of the surf on Davis Beach.
 Not quite as big as the dragon, but just about as frisky, was this Orb Weaver.
We went for what has become our usual dusk walk to Karbeethong Jetty and found that dusk was much duskier than expected for 2000 or thereabouts due to the weather.  This had got the fruit bats agitated earlier than usual.  This shot is from close to Inlet level and shows them pouring out of the roost.
I actually think this image captures the size of the flock better - and it is like this for about 20 minutes.  I might try and do an ad-hoc blog later on the direction(s) they seem to head.
 I'll finish the 27th with a couple of bits of human insanity.  As the tide ebbs a sandbar appears in the mouth of the inlet.  On an earlier evening kids were playing cricket out there.  This binch were just flying a kite.
Wicked Campers occasionally get into trouble with the slogans they daub on their vans.  This one hasn't gone viral yet.
So on the 28th we packed up and headed for home.  Basically a nice drive up the hill.  It was interesting that we crossed with at least 8 double jinker log trucks on Imlay Road.  (We decided to go home that way as a landslide on Brown Mountain meant there were delays on that route.  So we passed on going to the Eden Smokehouse!)

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Happy Advanced Economy Day

Today is the Anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, officially celebrated as Australia Day.  It is also known as Invasion Day to some proportion of the community and apparently as D**khead Day by the proprietors of a cafe in Bermagui. All of those seem a bit value ridden, whereas I think it is not possible to argue against per capita real economic output being rather higher in 2016 than it was on 25 January 1788.

Whether that is a Good Thing is not a question I am going to debate.

Whatever.  Let me begin with an update on an Australian icon, in the shape of the Teddy Bear or Koala.  Late last evening I could not spot the portly person covered in yesterday's post so assumed he'd climbed down and gone elsewhere.  However after we went to bed we could hear him roaring from the same tree, so assume he was just hidden by foliage.  Then this afternoon as we were driving home from the town we spotted a rather small Koala scrambling up a bank at Shady Guully - the first time we have seen one in that area.

The day began with a picturesque sunrise.
The rest of this post is going to move about a bit in terms of timing to cover the more interesting things early.  In the afternoon I went for an explore to Sandy Point, a few km up the Inlet, accessed from Genoa Rd,  A quite interesting area with densish forest.
It is the property of fairly large Goanna, apparently called 'Harry'.  His defence mechanism is to flatten himself out and stay still.  I'm not sure how well that works against entities who like munching on Goannas.
 I am rather chuffed with this snap showing his nicely forked tongue.
 I posted a while ago about animals pf many hues, and was cautioned against getting obsessive on this.  Not, me, no sir!  But I have circled some areas of colour on this chap to show blue, yellow and orange elements.
Back in the garden the reptiles are much smaller.  They are also a topic of much interest to a small dog.  I dread to think what would happen if she spotted a Goanna,
Down at the entrance to the Inlet there are warning signs about keeping dogs away from this chap.  A kind lady held Tammy while I took this photo.  I think it is an Australian Fur Seal, but it might be a New Zealander.
Earlier in the day we had walked on Quarry Beach.  The first point of interest was that the sand was at least 1m higher, allowing us to get around our usual rock barrier and into the next bay North.  The rocks there were interesting!
Here is the view looking South.
The beach was more crowded than it looked with a couple having a picnic; 2 young people going for a swim; and a family of 3 fishing.  Plus us, all jammed into about a kilometre of beach.  They'll soon have to start selling passes.

Some of the wrack (a vernacular name for Fucus seaweeds) had what appeared to be red fruits - or whatever the reproductive organs of algae are called.
The kelp was washed up in a big heap at the South end of the beach.
It stank as badly as the bat roost.  Which is probably what attracted the gulls.
At the spot (Captain Macpherson's Lookout, at the end of the campground) where the seal had hauled out I wielded my telescope to check the seabird situation.  I could clearly see individual birds in the area inside the rectangle and distinguish terns from gulls etc.
This generated bird of the day, in the form of Eastern Curlew.  Beating off a Rufous Fantail seen on our dog walk and 10 White-throated Needletails (aka swifts) seen at Quarry Beach.

Early in the day we found 5 Royal Spoonbills ...
.. and a very poorly photographed Littel Egret
Insects have been few and far between.  I think this Tiger Moth is the first invertebrate I have photographed on the trip.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Two fat boys

This is not a new cooking show but recognising that I was joined today by a Koala, in the eucalypt next door.  We didn't get a look at its genitals but its generally chunky shape, and bad tempered roaring, suggest bloke rather than sheila.

This was the position when first sighted.  It does look rather as though it has a hangover!
 A couple of hours later it was very perky.
Late in the afternoon it was sitting up again and roaring.  You will note that it has changed orientation: in my experience that counts as hyperactivity for a Koala!
Sticking with mammals, I was keen to see the fruit bats fly out, from near the colony,  As it involves walking down the steep hill I kept an eye out from the deck and at 2033 saw a few flying out over the Inlet.  I grabbed the camera and headed off.  The sky was full of bats.
I couldn't persuade my camera to take a really clear image - but it was close to dark and they were moving very quickly.  Within 10 minutes they had all gone: perhaps two bats in the sky.  Better images of the fly-out are on the Wednesday evening.

A Welcome Swallow sat on the line holding the shade sail.  It was facing into the rising sun so is a little redder than reality.
A surprisingly silent Wonga Pigeon came to walk around outside the kitchen window
While at Bastion Point there were good numbers (at least 10) of White-fronted Chats around.  I knew they were around somewhere around a bush so just snapped.  To my surprise I got quite an acceptable image.
My second birdie walk was to a track under a powerline.  The power company had slashed under the line so visible birds were few.  It was nice to see 3 (circled) Sacred Kingfishers at once.
 Here is one of them.
An on-going battle is to get a photo of an Azure Kingfisher.  They don't stay still.  Here is the best I have achieved so far.
These seed-heads were at Bastion Point.  To our surprise they seem to rise from a bulb.   My guess is that they are some form of Lily.
 This old cone of Banksia serrata is one of the better Banksiaman images I have seen.
The local form of heath (Epacris impressa) has apparently been mucked about with by taxonomists and shifted to the pommy heath family.  Probably in rebellion against this, there were few plants in flower.  (An alternate explanation is that they flower in Spring not mid Summer.)  However I manage to find all three colours along the powerlines.


 A bean - possibly a Dillwynnia.
 A small white Lily.
This was one of the few bits of Angophora (probably) floribunda.  This plant is a favourite food of the fruit bats!
 A fungus: I have found very few for the last couple of years, either at home or the coast.
The beach at Bastion Point with Surf Patrol in evidence.  Also in evidence and against The Rules are three pooches.  Which seemed to be having a good time and not interfering with other beach goers or the wildlife.
On the matter of the beach etc, I took my new spotting scope to Bastion Point and was able to count Crested Terns on a sandbar so far away that with the naked eye we could barely see the bushes on the bar, let alone the terns!

Back at the harbour the Pelicans were dining on fish offal.  Frances counted up to 30 of them.
Late in the evening a stand-up paddler was out on the water.
Perhaps he was after 2 small fishes?