Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bat guano

Funny how things come in threes.  Up until a fortnight ago I hadn't spent more than a few seconds of my life thinking about bat guano and then suddenly it was everywhere.  I'll work backwards.

The third time it came up was kind of cute. I popped into the front living room to check out whether the screaming coming from that room was happy screaming or call-the-police-now screaming. It was happy and caused by a gaggle of sugar-crazed teenage girls. This was well after Halloween but they were still chowing down on their enormous Halloween haul. (Halloween is big here.) When I asked what the interesting mix they were eating was, they replied "Batsh*t!" and there it is above.

The second time it came up recently was that incredibly cringey news story from NZ.  NZ doesn't often make it into the news here and when it does it is always something dreadful (someone going apesh*t, earthquakes, sport) or terribly embarrassing (someone going batsh*t, Kyoto pull out, sport).  The recent incident where someone who should know better did a great impression of a dipsh*t by spouting some bullsh*t about a hotsh*t soccer player being as thick as batsh*t, was obviously the latter.  The media here lapped it up and speculated on whether he was chickensh*t when there was no apology.  I wondered whether I was the only one bothered that he'd muddled his batsh*t with his pigsh*t (though I guess I shouldn't be surprised given that he strikes me a someone who regularly confuses people of wealth with people of worth)

But as much as I was annoyed by his muddling, offended by his lack of manners and horrified by his lack of good judgement, (Holy Sh*t! This person is the boss of a country?) it was the fact that he was technically wrong that really irked me.  I have recently found out quite a bit about batsh*t and it is not at all thick.  The real deal actually looks quite like tiny ratsh*t.

Soon after moving here we spotted tiny bats while out walking our neighbour's dog at dusk.  So I read up about the local bats in the well-thumbed tome we simply refer to as "The Book" (a guide to local wildlife) then my interest was piqued further after I noticed bat boxes in trees at various reserves. 

So when I heard that the City of Mandurah was holding a "Bat Box Workshop" and a "Bat Night Stalk" I jumped at the chance and signed up.  At the workshop I learned all about the local bats, how to construct houses for them and why these houses are necessary.  On the stalk through a local bush reserve, my family saw plenty of bats out feeding.  We learned lots more about bats from our wonderfully entertaining and knowledgeable guide and also about many other aspects of the local ecosystem.

In this part of the world we don't have the big fruit bats that many of you will have seen in the eastern states of Australia.  The bats here are micro bats, and yes, they are very small.  Below is a picture I borrowed to show you just how small they are.

Man-made homes are necessary because with urban expansion mature trees get felled and then there are no longer enough suitable nesting sites to house the bat population.  Bat numbers have therefore dwindled but the key thing is that Mandurah does still have masses of food for these bats because micro bats eat mosquitoes!

The facilitator of the workshop and guide of the walk, Joe Tonga, has therefore designed and created artificial homes for the bats.  His latest design has been developed over many years and many, many prototypes and has lots of very clever features.  One of these is the angled front to the box so that the bat guano falls straight out the bottom of the box so that even after many years of use, the entrance doesn't get clogged up.

Each one of these bat boxes can house 100 bats and each bat can eat 1000 mosquitoes a night.  Bat boxes are being installed in many reserves but they can be installed in home gardens too.  Evenings in Mandurah would certainly be considerably more pleasant if thousands of Mandurah gardens had bat boxes, the bat population was able to increase again and the local mosquito population was brought back under control.

My partner had a birthday recently.  Sometimes I find that men of a certain age can be quite tricky to buy presents for but this year I bought him one of Joe Tonga's latest design bat boxes. (If you live locally then you can too from and I highly recommend going on one of his Bat Night Stalks.)

Thankfully my partner thought that his present was topsh*t.  No sh*t, well at least not until some bats find it, move in, then eventually cover the ground below it with plenty of their guano.

No comments:

Post a Comment