After an 11-month hiatus, grey-headed flying foxes briefly returned to Batemans Bay Water Garden this month.
The flying fox camp at the garden had been occupied by the creatures each summer and autumn since they were first recorded there in 2012. However, in April 2020, the bats vacated the camp and did not return until late April this year.
Eurobodalla Shire Council’s flying fox officer, Natalie Foster, said flying foxes are very unpredictable.
“We’re not sure why they did not come back to the Water Garden until now,” she said, adding that in 2021, they seemed to favour Club Catalina golf course, as well as camps in Moruya, Tuross Head and Narooma.
Many Batemans Bay residents would have been happy to see the flying foxes go. Back in 2016, numbers at the Water Garden site grew to such an extent some residents had to leave their homes due to the noise and odour.
At the time, it was estimated that 20 per cent of Australia’s total flying fox population was in Batemans Bay, drawn to the region by a flush of spotted gum flowering in the forests.
With more than 100,000 bats in the camp, the noise, smell and intensity of the situation was described as a natural disaster and prompted a $2.5 million dispersal plan, which included smoke, loud noise, flashing lights and vegetation clearing.
More recently, the Water Garden has been spruced up thanks to the hard work of volunteers at a Landcare working bee.
About 25 volunteers helped to remove weeds, collect rubbish and plant native shrubs and rushes, and took the opportunity to learn more about the reserve and its plants and animals.
New educational signs about flying foxes and various water birds were also recently installed.
“Grey-headed flying foxes are important pollinators of the region’s native forests and, like much of our fauna, were impacted by the Black Summer bushfires,” said Ms Foster.
“Council continues to monitor flying fox camps and help residents who might be impacted by flying foxes, where possible.”
She said the Water Garden is a wonderful asset in the heart of Batemans Bay CBD.
“It’s the perfect spot to take a work break or a stroll or simply throw a picnic rug on the grass,” said Ms Foster.
“You can watch water birds going about their business on the meandering wheelchair-friendly path, which continues into the forest where frogs sing and sometimes flying foxes gather after a night of foraging.
“We hope the community will continue to be involved in preserving the unique habitat at the Water Garden and have regular working bees there.”
To register interest in attending future working bees or for queries about flying foxes in Eurobodalla, contact Natalie Foster on 02 4474 7329.