Thursday, August 12, 2010

Flying Foxes -- Sydney Botanic Gardens

Sydney is known first and foremost for the magnificent Opera House, Jørn Utzon’s architectural masterpiece, which extends out into Sydney Harbor like a magical sailing ship. Miranda and I both worked there for years back in the 90s. The Australian Ballet has two seasons per year in Sydney for a total of about 4-5 months. Unfortunately, the Opera House is as unworkable inside as it is beautiful outside; but that’s old news.

Just south of Bennelong Point where the Opera House is located are the Botanic Gardens. What was once a string of dilapidated fisheries is now a spectacular garden filled with great and glorious indigenous flora and fauna. We quickly deviated from the main path up to a giant Morton Bay Fig tree. Having just come from Sequoia National Park seeing huge trees was not an uncommon sight for us. The external root structure of this tree extended outward from the trunk like giant concrete road dividers. The boys had a great time walking up the roots and climbing all over the tree.

Our main purpose for entering the gardens was to see the flying foxes. We had told the boys so often of these bats that they no longer believed us. We didn’t have much further to go to see these weird black and brown pod-like creatures hanging upside down in the tops of the trees. While we were gawking, several bats took flight showing us their huge wingspan. I used to see them flying around my Sydney apartment at dusk gobbling up insects. They are ugly and frightening close up but extremely graceful and beautiful in flight
Several times over the years the city has tried to rid the gardens of the bats. They did this by playing some ghastly loud “music” during the day waking the bats and causing them to circle overhead screeching. This served only to annoy the bats and those humans walking through the gardens at the time! Ultimately, they didn’t leave; after all, this area has been their home for centuries. That’s one point for the bats!

We walked on and sat on a bench for a “chokkie” break. We heard some cockatoos screeching and Riley and I walked over to see what they were up to. They were quite friendly and one even tried to land on Riley’s head!

The iron bars around the thought to be extinct Wollemi Pine had been removed and tree was growing well. We finished our afternoon in Sydney at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. We didn’t see too much art but had a great time in their gift shop.

From Riley:  After seeing the Sydney Opera House we went along the harbor through the Botanic Gardens.  Once we saw the flying foxes/bats me and dad saw some cockatoos.  We decided to walk over to them and we took some pictures. One of them walked sort of like a tank (toed-in) and he was very loud. We saw two cockatoos digging holes and then the cockatoo walking like a tank came waddling over to me, stared at me for a second, flapped its wings, and tried to land on my head!   But I ducked!

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