Centennial Park is not only a haven for people to enjoy, but it’s also a haven for some of our most important and endangered creatures. And the best way to see and learn about them is on one of our family-friendly Spotlight Prowls.
A surprising variety of wildlife calls Centennial Park home. Some of this wildlife is very obvious (like the many species of birds which are always present on the lakes and ponds) and some less so (as they are nocturnal).
Before we tell you about the tour, guest blogger and wildlife ecologist, Tim Pearson, tells us about some of the great sights you see in the Park at dusk.
Calling Centennial Park home…
At dusk, animals like Brushtail and Ringtail possums, Tawny Frogmouths, and many others wake up and prepare for the night shift. In the last few years the better known nocturnal animals have been joined by a large group of flying-foxes, who’ve taken up residence in the tops of the trees in the Lachlan Swamp.
During the day you can go and look at these big bats (both Grey-headed flying-foxes, Pteropus poliocephalus, and Black flying-foxes, Pteropus alecto) calmly going about their daytime business of alternatively sleeping, grooming, and socialising.
Of course, the real action is at dusk, when the flying-foxes leave their camp and stream out into the surrounding area (flying up to 50 km a night!) to search for food – flowering and fruiting trees. And it’s here that the flying-foxes perform their critical ecological role – they’re one of the main pollinators and seed dispersers for many of our native trees.
Not just the big ones, but…
As well as the flying-foxes there are other bats that live in the Park that you’d never even notice. These are the little insect-eating microbats.
Microbats are actually quite common, but because they only come out at night and that they’re pretty small, they pass largely unnoticed.
You might wonder, given the fact that microbats are so small and only out at night, how we actually find them.
Well, it’s all to do with their radar or sonar (or echolocation, to give it its correct name). This is the famed ability of bats to hunt insects in the dark, which effectively involves the bat shouting very loudly and listening for the echo of the sound bouncing back off the insect. Sounds a bit rough and ready, but it’s amazingly effective and accurate, and allows these little bats to navigate and hunt in complete darkness.
How do we hear them?
The pitch of the echolocation sound is very high – way above what humans can hear, so we’re not even aware they’re doing it. Thanks to modern electronics though, we have a device that can help us and it’s called – appropriately – a ‘Bat Detector’!
These little boxes pick up the echolocation calls of the tiny microbats, and make them audible to us. So we wander around, pointing the box at the sky, and wait for it to go beep!
Actually, it typically goes beep beep beep beep beep beep beep, as microbat echolocation typically has about ten pulses a second, as they swoop through the sky in pursuit of a tasty flying bug.
The really neat thing about walking around the Park at dusk with a bat detector is that once the detector gives you a rough idea of where the bat is, you can often catch a glimpse of them zooming overhead. So as well as seeing the big flying-foxes flying overhead, and skimming the ponds to get a drink, we picked up on the bat detector more than a few microbats flying round, and managed to actually spot three or four.
Our regular Spotlight Prowls are for the whole family. It provides a fascinating insight into a much misunderstood creature – the flying fox – as well as learning about the nocturnal habits of a range of other native animals and birds.
Our next Spotlight Prowl is now available to book, and details are available online here.
To give you a taster, here’s a few photos from a recent tour we took that looked at the bat colony.
So come on and join us for a night walk in the Park!