Bat box check at the Organ Pipes, 13 October 2015

Written by: Robert Bender

In August, Steve took down several boxes attached to dead trees, all in need of repair. He has found a plastic board not vulnerable to rot like the timber box lids, and replaced the lids with this new material. On 2 October we went out to the park and reattached 8 of them to live trees close to the dead ones. The ridge slope and the flat are densely covered with felled skeletons of dead Red-gums, so the woodland has thinned out a lot.

The repaired boxes also now have numbered plastic tags identifying the box number, and cylindrical spacers between box and tree enabling the sock to be used, which will extract the bats en masse instead of one at a time, reducing the stress on the bats as well as the time taken to collect them all.

To finish up, Steve decided to remove the new box 44 from its dead tree, and found a group of 8 Gould’s inside, captured with the sock. Several females and males, including the very old bat 88866, banded over a decade ago by Natasha, still looking feisty and healthy. The bats were all popped back into box 21, as Steve took box 44 home to modify it.

88866 was last seen in April, so it is nice to know she is still around, despite her very advanced age. She has probably borne 20 pups by now.

Two of the boxes with new plastic board lids are C6 and C7, installed in April 1992, still with their timber in very good condition. Oregon was good quality timber back then. If boxes can be made to last a quarter cent-ury, needing replacement only 4 times a century, that is good value for a $70 box, a mere $3 per year, plus a little extra for repair costs.

On 13 Oct. a big team gathered to follow the ladders about and process little bats. Steve and I had two groups follow us about and took about 2 hours to empty all the boxes. Some boxes just had bat fly pupae – little black specks attached to the side walls, two had sugar glider nests and one had a glider in the nest, a bit startled when the lid was raised. Pia arrived to collect the first hanger of bats to get a team started on bat assessing in the Visitor Centre.

Steve, Pia, Mary, Casey Visintin, Anita Torrance, Jessica Taylor, Melissa Walker, Tanya Loos, Doug Hoather, Treycee Baker, Laura Harbridge, Andy Gregg, Rachel Lee, Anthea Gurr, Angela Walsh, Paul Bertuch, Nick Swinten, Matt West, Stuart Bell, Helen Reilly.

The team turned out to be the biggest we’ve ever had.



Paul Bertuch had brought four of his TAFE students for their first experience of bats, as part of their work experience: Nick, Matt, Michael and Stuart. They followed Steve and helped with the ladder.



There was a cluster of sawfly larvae (Spitfires) on one tree:



Box 42 had a very big group of Gould’s and a Freetail. In fact the day was dominated by big maternity groups of pregnant female bats.



Most of the new recruits wandered up to the VC to be part of the busy scene there, but Michael stayed to help Steve.




There were 23 people in the VC so the table stretched right across the large room




Steve was very busy taking genetic samples, banding a few new bats, and medicating a small number of band-ing injuries, moving bands to the other wing, with Pia and Casey also banding. The recent batch of small bands for Forest bats was causing problems



Paul’s students did a lot of scribing and Nick, who has been vaccinated, did some bat assessing. They didn’t stay to release the bats, as they had a long drive home down to Mornington. A young American student, Andy Gregg, had flown to Australia only two days earlier, and got straight into it



Bat release was in two bites, while Steve finished off the last few bats to be genetically sampled.



One Gould’s landed on the ground, so I set it on my shoulder to warm up and it soon flew off.



The number of bats was up on last year to 207 of four species, spread over 18 boxes.

Box Bat Species    Adult

  M                      F

C19 38 Lge Forest 1 37
C42 32






C01 31 Gould’s 2 29
C14 29 Gould’s 2 27
C05 17 Gould’s 3 14
C17 13 Gould’s 3 10
C35 13 Gould’s 1 12
C41 8 Gould’s 3 5
C23 7 Gould’s 6 1
C27 3 Gould’s 2 1
C15 3 Freetail 1 2
C24 2 Gould’s 2  
C32 2 Gould’s 2  
C36 2 Gould’s 2  
C37 2 Gould’s 1 1
C40 1 Chocolate 1  
C20 1 Gould’s 1  
C29 1



Lge Forest



  207 Totals 39 168

About Pia Lentini

Pia Lentini is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the University of Melbourne's Quantitative and Applied Ecology group.
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