Monday, November 30, 2009


I'm in Newcastle this week, giving talks at the Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium. By a semi-fortunate mixup, I got here a day early.

Today I took the bus out to the Blackbutt Wildlife Reserve (strangely enough, the buses come once an hour and both buses came about 5 minutes early).

From the looks of it, almost no one strays very far from the front parking lot. They had big wombats, some dark maroon kangaroos and lots of birds in enclosures. Peacocks (above) roam the grounds freely. You could see, pet and take photos of a koala for $3.50, which I passed on.

Lucky for me, the bus driver decided that he'd let me off at the back entrance of the reserve rather than the front, making me walk through the wild part of the reserve. It was an easy walk and downhill most of the way. There was a bit of trail blazing and brush scrambling at the start when I took a wrong turn.

Within minutes, the forest was alive with sounds, buzzes, clicks, zaps, chirps and so on. All of a sudden I looked up and saw an entire tree full of large bats. The above pictures don't do it justice, but they looked like flying possums, with big orange eyes and furry bodies. They were just hanging out, scratching and stretching and climbing around, mostly hanging upside down. Occasionally a "fight" would break out (who knows what was really going on there) and sometimes they'd take flight like in an Indiana Jones movie. I'm no bat expert, but a little googling suggests that they're flying foxes, like so (not my pic):

I was pretty gobsmacked. But then I kept walking and soon realized that every tree for probably about 10 minutes of walking was totally full of the bats. Neat!

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