Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bat Lover or Tree Hugger?

You can tell I’m British in that I tend to start with that great ice breaker, a comment on the weather. It has been the most beautiful day, slight chill in the morning and then just a glorious, 30oC without being sticky – after all the wet there is a sense of entitlement about a fabulous Saturday. Last week I found my trusty LL Bean spongebag/washbag had been defeated by the humidity, and had gone mouldy. I was slightly peeved by this discovery as, call me naïve, but I would have thought the life of a spongebag is destined to be spent in wet and steamy places – admittedly more of the bathroom variety than a wet Sydney February, but I do feel it is a bit sad that my spongebag with its ‘cope with everything that the great outdoors can throw at you’, heritage courtesy of LL Bean has succumbed to a similar fate as the Drama Queens’ school blazers (attractive spotting of mould), my winter boots (furry fringes of yes you’ve got it, mould) and my London coat (in which I now look like Cruella De Ville in reverse, black with white spots everywhere).

I spent the afternoon down on the beach with the younger two Drama Queens and a crowd of their friends. The girls hurled themselves off the jetty and swam whilst I sat and drank coffee and chatted to some of the other parents. Have to say having a chilled afternoon – if that is the right word for a hot Sydney February day, at a beach you can walk to, rates pretty highly in the Life’s nice things competition. I am still on my find five things to be grateful for each day kick, so that can definitely go top of today’s list. Also on the list would be watching a couple of moorhens picking their way through a forest of water lilies at a pond in Centennial Park where Drama Queen no. 2 was playing Touch – which is a very entertaining version of rugby league that girls play here.

Bats or more correctly Grey-headed Flying-Foxes, are a feature of the Sydney night sky, and also of Sydney Botanic Gardens where they have a huge daytime roost. They leave at night, in search of nectar and fruit, flooding out in their hundreds from the Botanics like the start of a bad horror film with their black, pet of Dracula, silhouettes, given emphasis by the backdrop of business skyscrapers. Although they attract tourists to the Gardens – and I have to say we always go and look at “The Bats” which hang in giant clusters, they are actually a menace for the gardens, completely swamping and ultimately killing trees. They have in fact become such a problem that the Botanic Gardens Trust has invested lots of time and energy trying to persuade the bat squatters to move on. I was completely intrigued by some of the methods they have apparently tried, including water sprays, an inflatable man – a variant on a scarecrow here but I did wonder why they hadn’t gone for an inflatable woman which if I remember correctly from my student days was a relatively easy thing to get your hands on. They also tried strong smelling stuff to shift them – which amazed me as the bats themselves are pretty malodorous so I would be surprised if the smell of shrimp paste or apparently python poo had moved them on. Would have loved to have seen the requisition slip to the zoo for that last one – “Please supply as a matter of urgency, a vat of python poo”. The Botanic Gardens is now being forced to resort to trying a month of “industrial noise” in a final effort to persuade the bats to find a new roost. The downside to all this is that whilst the bats are killing trees in the Gardens, they as a species are now listed as threatened as their numbers have dropped substantially, so whilst it is tempting to snigger at the claim from the chap from Bat Advocacy that the industrial noise will be akin to “sleep deprivation” for bats, I can see why resolving the issue is going to put tree-huggers and bat-lovers at odds. I am also completely torn as I love the Botanic Gardens which is an invaluable green expanse of serenity to wander in, in the heart of Sydney, filled with welcoming notices exhorting you to “Walk on the Grass”, but I also get great pleasure from the the sight of the bats spiralling out over the city at dusk and flapping silently up our street.

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