Do you know those times, when you come across a sight that you know will stay with you for the rest of your life?
I had such a moment at Yarra Bend Park, at the roost site of Grey Headed Flying Foxes. If you've never seen a flying fox before then picture a red-furred puppy with wings. Needless to say, very, very cute.
Flying foxes represent the effects of altering our natural environment. They are currently classified as threatened. Due to enormous rates of deforestation in Queensland and a greater food supply in south eastern Australia, Grey Headed Flying Foxes migrated down south and found a new habitat in Melbourne's Royal Botanical Gardens.
Whilst not many people know of their existence at Yarra Bend Park, most will probably remember the controversy these animals caused. Due to the public demanding there removal, the State government coordinated a mass habitat relocation of the bats using sonar to direct them to possible habitats. The bats decided to choose Yarra Bend Park.
A comfortable visitors porch has been erected where people-in-the-know have come to eagerly await the sunset. There are also nearby cafes and restaurants and even a local indigenous nursery for those looking to kill some time before the big show. The screeching of the bats become louder as the rays of the sun start to diminish beyond the horizon. The bats will then become restless as they swing from tree to tree.
Warming up to the epic finale
I've been to this spot three times and you can never know exactly when it will happen. All you know is that it will. And you are there, waiting, watching, listening. The mosquitoes will be out in force, so now is a good time to spray insect repellent. I forgot the last time I went and returned home with an admirable eighteen mosquito bites. And as you try to feign off mosquitoes and watch as the world around you turn to silhouettes, it happens. Without warning, the thousands of fruit bats in Yarra Bend Park, in one concerted movement, rise up into the air blanketing the night sky.
The sheer magnitude of the display has not ceased to amaze me. There is something magical and surreal about seeing such a synchronised movement. Such synchronism is rare. When we do see it, like at the Olympics or some main-staged event by performers, we are in awe. But they have been trained for years to develop this synchronism, whereas these bats do it naturally and effortlessly, as if they are so connected to one another. It still remains as one of the most awe inspiring sights I have ever witnessed, and I do hope that these bats will be around for many more years for others to enjoy the spectacle.
Thanks for your article Virginia. I hope more people overcome their fear of flying foxes and appreciate them for the fact that without them we would have no forests! None. They are keystone pollinators and without them we die too.
By Anonymous Wednesday, 17th of August @ 06:06 am
I've been searching the internet for quite a while now and I'm really thankful that you summarised this experience. Now I know exactly where to go :) Thank you so much! I'm so looking forward to this!
By Anonymous Monday, 23rd of January @ 10:48 pm
Where do they go at night? Somewhere south east of the city...