Drinking in the river header picture

At dusk, after a hot day with no rain, flying foxes drink in the river before they fly out for their night of foraging.  The hotter the weather is, and the longer the time since there has been rain, the larger the number of flying foxes that will be drinking.  As the heat of the weather rises to extreme levels flying foxes come out earlier and earlier before dusk.  When the heat is at dangerous levels the animals will be out in full daylight.

On a normal summer evening it is fun to swim in the river during drinking time.  Flying foxes come quite close if you stay still and quiet with most of yourself under water.  I like to go in my canoe.  I cannot hide but I can move about and wait close to the favourite drinking places, where they come first, before daylight has completely faded.  I take my camera with me.

First, the flying foxes gather in the trees along the riverside, then they may fly up and down the stretch of river several times before they swoop to skim the water, making a sharp sound like a skater’s blade striking the ice.  White sprays of water spurt up in the twilight then the animal flaps its wings and rises, with its belly fur full of water

Bats drinking in river

When the weather is very hot they often snatch a mouth full of water from their fur as they rise, but all of them fly to a tree nearby to lick their fur thoroughly.

Bats drinking in river

They may skim a second time, to collect a second drink.  Some clever ones save themselves the effort of skimming and lick at other animals who land dripping nearby

bats drinking

It must take energy and skill to skim and rise again successfully.  Youngsters can be seen making beginner efforts, perhaps managing only to dip their feet and flutter tentatively.  In events of dangerous heat debilitated animals are not always successful in rising from the water.  When they fall in they can swim, with a stroke that looks just like butterfly.

When all is well, after a normal hot summer day, it is beautiful and exhilarating to be on the river amongst the flying foxes.

bats drinking

But by the way, flying foxes also routinely drink by licking dew from leaves.  On Bellingen Island it is very rare for there to be no dew in the morning.  Smooth leaves such as Red cedar and White cedar seem to be popular with drinkers.

bats drinking


Flying Fox Face

All photographs and text are subject to copyright Vivien Jones ©2000

E-mail: viv@bellingen.com
Phone: 02 6655 2213

The flying foxes
How and when to visit Bellingen Island
Bats or flying foxes
Drinking in the river
We need flying foxes
Local attitudes
Regeneration of the rainforest
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