And out there I discovered that it isn't a powerful owl in our garden, as I so optimistically thought. It's at least one very big flying fox. One took off from the tree just now, and obligingly circled the garden right above our heads, its big black wings beating the air with a whooshing sound. (I should have known our visitor wasn't an owl, because they fly silently, but I really wanted it to be an owl!)
Of course, being a champion worrier, I then remembered that these creatures carry a the deadly hendra virus. As far as I know, so far it has mainly caused horse deaths, though it can infect humans through horses, having caused some human deaths already.
I don't like reading that many new diseases these days are crossing species, possibly because we are crowding into the natural environments of wildlife.
I've read that
The disease appears to spread from flying foxes (fruit bats) to horses, especially during the fruit bat breeding season (spring to early summer). The flying fox is the natural host, that is it remains unaffected by the virus. It is suspected that horses may become infected by eating food contaminated with bat urine or birthing products.If it can cross to a horse, who's to say it can't affect a dog? Penny loves to dash out to that part of the garden in the morning to eat possum poo, which I've never thought would be bad for her, seeing possums are vegetarians.
Transmission from horse to horse does sometimes occur, probably through direct contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected animal.
But now I'll try to stop her doing that, I think, just in case it's bat poo and not possum poo. (Maybe I need to do some research about what bat poo looks like. I wonder if bats don't produce poo - most of the sites I looked at only mention urine.)
I think fruit bats are gorgeous-looking and I've never objected to their being moved to our area to roost. But it's funny - now that I see them in our tree, just above our heads, each night, I don't feel so positive about their presence. We've known they visit our garden, because they eat the skins off our lemons on occasion, leaving the poor naked fruit hanging there all bare to the elements. And they squeal and argue with each other in our giant lemon-scented gum when it's in flower. But seeing bats eighty feet up in the air isn't the same thing as having them ten feet up.