The Tolga Scrub is critical habitat for flying foxes. Spectacled flying foxes are usually at the Tolga Scrub, though the numbers will vary throughout the year, being least in winter. It is a very important maternity camp for them, and is sometimes the only maternity camp on the Tablelands. Census counts in November usually report about 5000 to 10000. The total count for Spectacleds in the Wet Tropics is about 180,000
The Little Red flying foxes (Pteropus scapulatus) are sometimes at Tolga, and often in large numbers compared to the Spectacleds. They rarely use Tolga as a maternity camp, but often arrive when the young are flying, around September. The numbers will sometimes build up by the end of the year to be over a million, but they are usually gone again by March when the wet season sets in. Little Reds can do significant damage to the forest if they hang in the weaker mid-canopy trees. This damage is the result of their characteristic behaviour of hanging in ‘bunches’ – the branches cannot take the weight and often bend until they break. This damage will repair itself, unlike the damage being done by the cockatoos that results in the death of the tree. However the Little Reds are sometimes camped in large numbers and do no damage, by camping in the larger trees and hanging apart from each other, rather than in bunches. This seems to happen late in the year, just before mating season.
Four consecutive years of heavy winter use by the cockatoos in 2000 to 2004 caused the death of 65 tall canopy trees and subsequent closure of the walking track through the Scrub. Council was granted a permit to use birdfrite as a deterrent to the cockatoos since 2003, and this has been quite successful. A condition of their permit is that they notify us when commencing the birdfrite action. The cockatoos camp higher in the trees than the bats and as long as the birdfrite is aimed high, it appears to have little impact on them. Nevertheless we feel it’s important that birdfrite is not used until the young are independent of their mothers which happens about March.
The cockatoos often arrive when the peanuts are being harvested, and try to use the Scrub as a camping spot close to the farms. Unfortunately they trim the new growth off the emergent canopy trees, and the impact was greatest in the northern area where the flying foxes camp.
Tony was a great friend of the Tolga Scrub until his death in late 2008. He was a superb bushman with an enormous knowledge of native plants, and an advisor to Tablelands Regional Council on the health of the Scrub.