“Fig jam this year,” I thought last week, as I surveyed the figs developing on my fig tree. I have to admit that I’ve been quite proud of this three-year-old fig as I grew it from a cutting given to me by a friend, but I haven’t been able to identify it. This year it has more figs than ever before and they are ripening much earlier, I’m guessing due to the very hot dry weather we’ve been having.
A few nights ago, when we were on the back verandah enjoying the coolness brought by a miniscule one ml of rain that arrived late in the evening, something quite large and heavy landed in the top of one of our silver birch trees. It soon set off again, leaving us to guess what it was. Trevor surmised that it was a flying fox, but I wasn’t so sure.
Next morning there was damage to the figs, several of them torn from the tree and others half eaten, and although I hadn’t ascertained who the culprit was, I made hasty visit to the local hardware to buy netting. Soon the tree was wrapped up like a hot air balloon readying for take-off. That night we clearly saw bats winging across the night sky and even swooping down into the garden to inspect the tree, their leathery wings sounding like umbrellas being flapped to remove raindrops. “It will be fine,” I thought, “we have the net now.”
Not so. More damage this morning, and the outermost figs eaten right through the netting. There wasn’t much more I could do, except secure the net more tightly and hope for the best. I picked some of the fruit, but then the insidious thought: what if the bats have contaminated the fruit somehow?
A visit to NSW Health http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/flying-foxes.aspx provides the answer: as long as the skin is not broken, a thorough washing prior to consumption is all that is needed. Bats can carry diseases, but you are more likely to catch something if you are scratched or bitten, so they are creatures to be cautious around. I’m not planning to be around them, if I can help it.
I lurked in the dark garden for quite some time to try to get a photo, but it was very difficult, and I don’t have enough patience to stay out there for hours. Rather surprisingly there were far fewer bats than the previous night. I managed to get one photo, but it isn’t clear enough to identify the flying fox correctly.
The Environment NSWwebsite http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/animals-and-plants/native-animals/native-animal-facts/flying-foxes seems to indicate that the flying fox most usually found west of the Blue Mountains is the Little Red Flying Fox, although it didn’t look little to me.
Fascinating though these creatures are, they are not welcome in my garden, but I have no say in the matter. I’m still hoping there will be enough figs to make jam!