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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
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.

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

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.

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.








I work as a freelance wildlife photographer specializing in flying foxes. I started to get “serious” about photography more than forty years ago, and began photographing flying foxes in 1986. Some of this work has been used by The Australian Museum, Government wildlife services in various states, magazines in countries such as Japan, Germany and USA as well as Australia, in newspapers, by individual scientists and in art exhibitions.

One of the most enjoyable branches of my work is using photography as part of systematic study of flying fox behaviour. With photography individual animals can be positively identified and so their behaviour can be monitored. Detailed information has been gained from this, some of it surprising in light of earlier beliefs.

Living close to the Bellingen Island Flying fox camp, I can usually hear flying fox voices and can watch them streaming home in the morning without getting out of bed. It is convenient for me to visit the island at any time to enjoy the variety of flying fox activities as they change with the seasons and with times of day. The Island is also a rich environment of plants and other animals. Birds are spectacular there on spring mornings.

I use Canon digital cameras and an array of lenses. My favourite is 100-400mm with image stabiliser. I prefer to work without a tripod. Frequently I use fill flash to show flying fox faces that are so often in shadow, though I prefer to keep to natural light.



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BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats: bellingen.com - drinking in the river flying foxes fruit bats megabats
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