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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Drey's of the Common Ringtail Possum

The Drey of a Common Ringtail possum is a facinating sight and can easily be mistaken for a birds nest in a tree fork, found often only a few meters from the ground.  The Common Ringtail possum is almost exclusively a tree dewelling nocturnal creature that creates a "Drey" or a large spherical nest made from grass & shreded bark, either in a tree fork, dense vegetation or a hollow tree log in which it spends its days sleeping and often shares it's nest with several other ringtail possums.  Common Ringtail Possums will also use a nesting box if one is provided in areas where natural tree hollows are limited.

These photos of Common Ringtail Possum dreys are located on private property at Cabarlah on the Darling Downs, however there are plenty to be seen in tree forks within the nearby Highfields area also.

 Common Ringtail Possum in a man-made nesting box, Cabarlah, Queensland. 
Drey of a Common Ringtail Possum 

Drey of a Common Ringtail Possum at Cabarlah, Queensland

The Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheircus peregrinus) is around 350mm in body length with a tail of 340mm and weight up to 1kg.  They vary in colouration depending on their area, but in the Highfields & Cabarlah area they have brown backs with rusty red flanks, face arm and legs.  The tail has a white tip on the end which makes it easy to distinguish from other possum species for those who are unsure on possum identification.

The Common Ringtail Possum is found in areas that have thick vegetation, eucalyptus forest & woodland shrubland and suburban gardens.  They are common in the suburban area of Highfields in the older areas with trees and established gardens.  Ringtails are nocturnal and feed predominantly on leaves but also love flowers and fruit.  They breed from April to November and produce two young.  The male Common Ringtail Possum helps the female care for their young and he carries them on his back and cares for them while the female feeds.   The biggest threats to the Common Ringtail Possum are Dogs and Cats and vehicles.  

Since I have learnt more about the dreys of ringtail possums, I find myself and the children also, pointing out Common Ringtail Possum dreys all over Highfields and the Cabarlah areas, that we spot while driving everyday routes in the car.  Beautiful little animals indeed.

J.G.

(INFORMATION SOURCES:  Field Guide to Australian Mammals by Cath Jones & Steve Parish, Wildlife of Greater Brisbane by Queensland Museum, AustralianMuseum.net.au)

Common Ringtail Possum Drey - Cabarlah Qld.

This Drey created by a Common Ringtail Possum is well camouflaged among the native branches.
 
Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocherus peregrinus) emerging from an installed nesting box, Cabarlah Qld. 



Thursday, June 19, 2014

Highfields Flying Foxes to lose habitat

Toowoomba Regional Council has announced further intention to disperse a flying fox colony at a Council Bushland Reserve in Highfields after complaints from locals to have them removed. Scare tactics were used in March 2014 to disperse the colony from its roost, but had to be disbanded when juvenile flying foxes were found amongst the campsite.

"Flying fox camps are often semi-permanent, sometimes dispersing seasonally or when food is no longer available nearby.  Little red flying foxes are particularly nomadic, following the bloom of eucalyptus as the nectar is one of their main food sources."  source: Toowoomba Regional Council Website.

Toowoomba Regional Council's latest plans to disperse the flying foxes will involve "Vegetation Management."

WHAT DOES VEGETATION MANAGEMENT MEAN?  Vegetation management usually involve the removal of the plant understory, which is also home to many other wildlife fauna species that call the vegetation their home. The area in question is also a known Koala habitat, which is know to Council and local residents. Actions to disperse flying foxes from their current roosting habitats can go as far as total destruction of that roosting vegetation on some areas.  Campsites such as the one located in Highfields are important daytime refuges and resting areas for flying foxes for up to 12 hours per day after they have spent many hours during the night in search of food.  Long term effects of dispersal programs such as vegetation management and scare tactics are unknown. Flying foxes are moved on from their current campsite locations to become "someone else's problem".

Highfields Flying Fox Campsite - Sunday 15th June 2014 - Photo taken from Jackson Close, Highfields with Zoom Lens. See wideframe of area below.
Highfields Flying Fox Campsite - Photo taken from Jackson Close Highfields, Sunday 15th June 2014, mid afternoon.  The area in view (mainly two-three trees were the only ones with flying foxes residing in them in the whole reserve).  Photos were take on a zoom lens as they were next to impossible to see from the road.







Bats.org.au tells us that "Dispersing a flying-fox colony will be risky business as their movements are unpredictable. As free flying mammals they cannot be herded or directed to what we humans think would be a more desirable site. It is highly likely that they will move to a less desirable site where they will be even more difficult to manage and potentially increase the human wildlife interactions and conflict."

More information on Flying Fox Campsites:  Flying Fox Campsites are a a place where young are born and nurtured until strong enough to be able to fly out to forage with adults. It’s also where a lot of communication takes place between mothers and young, socialising teenagers, mating adults and males squabbling over territories. A campsite can be temporary or it can be permanent. Some are only occupied for short periods when flowering maybe abundant, we call these camps. While other roosts that are permanently occupied all year round and may have been there for many hundreds of years, we call these colonies. Campsites are the most important refuge for the lives of bats and this is where flying-foxes call home. Even so they do not have fidelity to one particular site but move in relation to food and breeding cycles. An adult flying-fox my visit campsites many hundreds of kilometres apart and all of the ones in between.

A flying-foxes main motivation for staying in urban areas is the availability to easy food resources and the safety of camp sites due to the fact that people are unable to discharge firearms in built up areas. The dispersal of flying-foxes is only now being used as a management tool. What long term effects they have on breeding status and disease prevalence is still largely unknown. We do know that dispersal's rarely work over time and are more likely to move the bats to become someone else’s problem. Dispersal action will then no doubt be repeated, perhaps many times.

Two of the four flying-foxes in Qld, the Grey-headed flying-fox and the Spectacled flying-fox are nationally threatened. Man made causes such as legal and illegal shooting at orchards, land clearing, roost habitat destruction and ongoing harassment take their toll. Other factors such as heat stress and prolonged drought or prolonged wet and unpredictable forest flowering causing starvation events that are in some cases wiping out entire generations of young or old. All of these causes are now witness to plummeting populations of flying-foxes which will have serious consequences for their health and well being. On top of all of this, bats will now face legalised colony destruction – in the guise of dispersal's. -SOURCE: bats.org.au

WHY ARE FLYING FOXES IMPORTANT:
Flying-foxes have an important ecological role because their feeding behaviour helps pollinate and disperse the seeds of native trees. 
Flying-foxes spread the pollen of valuable plants as they feed, so they play an important role in our environment. Some plants even rely on flying-foxes to pollinate their species. SOURCE: Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland 

While I understand that the no one wants to be the one trying to sort out the management of flying foxes co-habitation with residences in environmental areas,  I do not see how further eradicating  parts of their natural environment helps the situation?  There will be even less areas for them to go and to me this seems like a backward approach that will ultimately increase the problem which has stemmed from habitat loss in the first place.  It would be a terrible shame to lose any of these beautiful gum trees or native shrubs in the Woolmer Road area.  I am sure that this beautiful backdrop was part of the appeal of people who purchased the surrounding properties when the development backing onto this reserve was created.  

My thoughts are that since habitat loss is one of the main reasons for flying fox urbanization, possibly looking at planting/providing an ideal habitat for flying foxes that included a wide variety of flowering & fruiting native plants, away from the suburban areas would be more of a long-term resolution to please the flying foxes and suburban residents.  Such a plantation area could provide an ideal habitat away from suburban areas and may avoid them having to re-locate to urbanized areas in search of food. Of course there is no guarantee that they would use such an area.

In preparation for this post, I have visited the site in person (see photographs taken 15th June 2014).On the occasion of my visit to the site which was mid-afternoon, I was only able to see the Black Flying-Foxes present, with the Little Red Flying Fox clearly having moved on from this camspite. The habitat was not stripped or decimated as I expected it to be after hearing about the huge population in this location.  Honestly, I found it very hard to even see where the flying foxes were in the area and the noise was very minimal during my visit.  I have spent some time researching the local and Queensland flying foxes species and I have spoken to local wildlife experts and also spoken to Toowoomba Regional Councillors who shared my concerns.  

Today I spoke with TRC Parks and Environment Staff in person and expressed my concerns about vegetation management and loss of habitat for flying foxes, koalas and other wildlife residing within the Highfields reserve in question. Today TRC staff told me that they would consider my concerns but did not inform me that that the vegetation management was already planned and scheduled for the following day!  It was not until a local Highfields resident from the Woolmer Road area contacted me this afternoon to let me know that the local residents had been notified today by flyer distribution (see attached document) that vegetation management at Highfields would commence tomorrow, 20th June 2014.


"Selective Vegetation Management will be used to render the Highfields Park unattractive for roosting Flying Foxes".- SOURCE: TRC Residents Flying Fox Flyer 19/06/14

I do hope that the loss of vegetation and the distress to the flying foxes and other wildlife living in this area is minimal.  After photo and information updates to come.

Judi Gray

UPDATE:  20/06/14.  I spoke with TRC Environment Departrment today who informed me that initial vegetation clearing at the Woolmer Road Reserve will only begin with clearing of lantana that resides under the trees in which the flying foxes are roosting.  Gum Trees and branches will not be removed at this stage as part of the dispersal plan to manage the flying fox campsite. J.G.

UPDATE:  11/07/2014.  Toowoomba Regional Council reports that the flying fox dispersal at Highfields, Woolmer Road campsite has been successful, however there are plans to "trim the large trees and remove some of the lower canopy" to discourage the return of the flying foxes.  Below update from Toowoomba Regional Council:  
Highfields- Progress so far:
  • 30 June-04 July: Active dispersal is carried out at the Woolmer Road Roost and a site near Parkway Drive, where flying foxes relocated to. Approximately 1000 flying foxes move between the two sites but don't leave the Highfields area.
  • An independent assessment by an expert in flying fox biology reveals that the remaining animals are subadults. While these are able to fly and forage independently, they still lack the experience to relocate without the guidance of more senior members of the colony.
  • 07-10 July: Dispersal is carried out at the Woolmer Road roost only and achieves to move the entire remaining colony to the Parkway Drive site.
  • A second stage of vegetation management at Woolmer Road is planned to maintain the original roost site in close proximity to residential properties free of flying foxes. This will include trimming of some of the larger trees and slightly opening up the lower canopy.
  • The colony is being closely monitored and active dispersal will re-commence at a later date.
More information here...http://www.toowoombarc.qld.gov.au/environment-and-waste/wildlife/flying-foxes/10445-roost-updates 

Same trees as above photographed from Woolmer Road, Council Reserve Entrance with Zoom Lens.  Sunday 15th June 2014.  See wide view of area below.

Highfields Flying Fox Campsite, 2-3 trees with flying foxes evident - Sunday 15th June 2014.  Photo taken from Council Reserve Entrance, Woolmer Road, Highfields with normal to capture full area - showcasing the few trees with present flying foxes on this day.

Highfields Flying Fox Campsite, 2-3 trees with flying foxes evident - Sunday 15th June 2014.  Photo taken from Council Reserve Entrance, Woolmer Road, Highfields

Highfields Flying Fox Campsite, 2-3 trees with flying foxes evident - Sunday 15th June 2014.  Photo taken from Council Reserve Entrance, Woolmer Road, Highfields with zoom lense to capture present flying foxes

Highfields Flying Fox Campsite, 2-3 trees with flying foxes evident - Sunday 15th June 2014.  Photo taken from Council Reserve Entrance, Woolmer Road, Highfields with zoom lense to capture present flying foxes


PAGE 1 -Information Flyer supplied to residents in the Woolmer Road, Jackson Close, Holly Avenue areas of the Flying Fox Campsite at the TRC Bushland Reserve on 19th June 2014.

PAGE 2 - Information Flyer supplied to residents in the Woolmer Road, Jackson Close, Holly Avenue areas of the Flying Fox Campsite at the TRC Bushland Reserve on 19th June 2014.


RELEVANT NEWS ARTICLES RE HIGHFIELDS FLYING FOXES -



INFORMATIVE SITES & ARTICLES RE FLYING FOXES:

Information and opinion collaborated by Judi Gray
15-06/14 - 19/06/14