Night stirrings

4 01 2017

As a child, I remember camping out on our dining room floor on hot Summer nights, the back doors to the garden thrown open, lying in wait for a dim shape to emerge from the backyard foliage: possums on the prowl for food. Both common species of Australian possum are commonplace in Melbourne, from the smelly, hissing larger brushtail possums to the agile little ringtails, often seen scurrying along power lines.

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But there are other creatures of the Melbourne night, almost as common, which I have never glimpsed. The city is, surprisingly, sometimes said to be the world’s urban fox capital. Researchers recently discovered that in the suburb of Port Melbourne for instance, the creatures live at a density of up to 20 animals per square kilometre – and yet they are invisible during the day and almost as invisible at night.

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Jenny Brompton, Sea Country Spirits at the Ian Potter Centre for Australian Art

Another tribe of foxes is more visible though,  the flying foxes – a colloquial name for the squawking fruit bats with a wingspan of up to one metre – which migrate into the city in the warmer months. They provide a surreal and beautiful spectacle, streaming out of treetops at Studley Park in Kew at sundown to fan out in the search for food, over the river and the inner Eastern suburbs. I loved to watch them. It is a sight both beautiful and awe-inspiring.

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