I originally wrote this article for The Christian Science Monitor while we were in Australia for son Sam's wedding in 2011. We're heading back Down Under soon, this time to meet baby Poppy. I wonder if the grey-headed flying foxes are still in the botanical gardens? I'll let you know!
Here is the original article. Enjoy!
Just after we sold our house in Maryland, my husband and I visited Australia for a well-deserved holiday and son Sam’s wedding.
One of our first sightseeing stops was the Royal Botanic Gardens where we checked out the Queen of Flowers and learned that Australian roses suffer from many of the same pests and diseases we cope with in the US.
|The Sydney Opera House can be see from the gardens|
Not long after visiting the Palace Rose Garden, we wandered over to the Palm Grove, where I spied what appeared to be some hefty coconuts hanging from the trees.
Imagine my surprise when one of the “coconuts” suddenly started shrieking, unfurled its wings, and flew over my head on a path toward the Sydney Opera House.
|Suddenly, one of the "coconuts" took off|
Grey-headed flying foxes
What I thought were hundreds of hanging fruits turned out to be a colony of grey-headed flying foxes. Named because the faces of the creatures resemble a fox (I didn’t care to get close enough to confirm that), they are actually one of the largest species of bats in the world.
Flying foxes weigh as much as two pounds and have a wingspan of up to five feet. Although they generally feed at night, the bats often take a noontime zoom around the gardens. No wonder folks at the snack bar suggest sitting under umbrellas while dining.
The bats are reputed to be very intelligent, with large eyes and an acute sense of smell and hearing. During their nightly sorties, they can venture as far as 25 miles from their campsite at the gardens.
And because they are one of the few species that pollinates the flowers and spreads the seeds of rain forest trees, flying foxes are a vital part of the local ecosystem.
They’re messy guests
Sadly, though, they are considered a messy nuisance anywhere they decide to hang out.
And since they are damaging the trees in areas such as the Palm Grove, the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service has granted the gardens permission to begin a two- to four-week noise disturbance program to encourage the bats to settle elsewhere.
A similar program succeeded at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.
|The gorgeous Sydney skyline|