Sunday, 11 March 2012

Jottings from the Tropics: 11 March 2012


I went out with the head torch last night to see if I could spot any leaf-tailed geckos. Even though the heavy rain had turned to drizzle, my hopes were not high. As anticipated, I didn't see any geckos, leaf-tailed or otherwise, but I did spend an entertaining few minutes as a centrepiece for a microbat ballet.

Apart from the big quandongs and figs, most of the trees lining the driveway are regrowth. (Previous owners were diligent about cutting back vegetation.) They're all the same age, so are roughly identical in height (2 – 3 m) and diameter (4 – 5 cm). They look just like a fence surrounding a kraal. But there are gaps in this fence. One lies between the megapode mound and the biggest quandong, where a toppled tree not only cleared out the regrowth, but also provided a new display perch for the riflebirds.

Regardless of time of day, this is always an interesting spot. The quandong's buttress roots provide hiding places for all sorts of animals and the rotting timber from the riflebird tree hosts hundreds (probably thousands) of recyclers and decomposers. At night, it is a prime location for long-nosed bandicoots, no doubt drawn in by all of the above, and those rodents of unusual size, white-tailed rats. Stoney Creek frogs are also common there. Last night, they were hopping around like popcorn.

As I was watching these energetic leapers at my feet, a bat zipped past, about a hand's breadth from my face. I expressed a mild degree of surprise. "Gosh," I said. "How astonishing. Well I never." And so on. As I was standing there, head torch on, resembling a small and totally ineffective lighthouse, two more bats came out of the forest and zoomed past. Then a handful more. I was surrounded by microbats.

For a few minutes, they hawked for moths and mosquitoes within range of the torch light, and then disappeared into the forest. It started to rain again, so I headed back to the house, frogs bounding out of my way. I didn't see any leaf-tailed geckos, but I was happy to forgo that experience for that truly batty bat encounter.

- o O o -

It is not as if my house is lacking hiding places, so I don't see why spiders feel a need to occupy my footwear as well as the bookshelves and bathroom. I evicted a plump and mildly peeved huntsman from one of my shoes this morning. I managed to pick up the other shoe before the spider could scuttle over to it like a hermit crab swapping shells..I wonder if I could come to an arrangement with the bats? Give them free run of the house for one day every week to take care of these deal-breaking liberty-taking arachnids.

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