When is a bat house not a bat house?

Answer: When it’s a Kingfisher box.

Okay, here’s the story. In 2008 a Kingfisher box was built for a client targeting only the Australian Kingfisher. As the image shows the dimensions are slightly larger than a shoebox. Installed on a horizontal plane with a side entrance it would have been perfect for the bird that we wanted.

KingfisherBox But low and behold during a routine box inspection guess what I found? Yes, micro bats. Have a good look and what they’re hanging onto. Yes, you guessed it. The plain untouched  timber walls. This goes to show that they can really grip almost anything. So next time you are building your own bat box just score the front and side walls with a knife. The rear needs to be mesh. This makes it easy for the bats to land on and climb up.

By the way the white “eggshell” in the foreground is really a spiders egg sack. You see the Huntsman spiders share the same abode without getting eaten.

"What are you looking at buster" says the rear bat glaring at me.

“What are you looking at buster” says the rear bat glaring at me.

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Bat box overflowing with bats.

Having an interest in bats is like following a religion.

  • You have to be patient. Bats might not come immediately.
  • You have to have faith. They are there but mostly we can’t see them.
  • You are constantly praying. Hoping they will come sooner rather than later and they will appear.

So with this all in mind (and holes in my trousers at knee height for praying so much) I decided to show you there is light at the end of the tunnel. In the video attached I talk about the Anabat bat detector, discussing observational skills to acquire in looking for bats in your box. So sit back, relax and enjoy it…cheers Joe.




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Ash-the baby bat

“Hello, is Joe Tonga there?” a voice asked out of the phone. “I saw his Go Batty website and I’ve got a bit of a problem…”

This phone call was from a local resident (Angela) who lives in East Fremantle. She had discovered a bat clinging to a timber bollard in her backyard. The poor thing was severely dehydrated and utterly exhausted.

Angela dropped the bat over at our house. Upon closer inspection, it was noted that it was a Gould’s Wattled bat, aged about a year old and a female.

Dad showed it to my sister and I, met with an enthusiastic welcome. My sister Samantha was given the exciting honour of naming our new furry friend. She chose the name Ash and it stuck.

We fed the bat water from a spoon because Ash was dehydrated and thirsty. After that, we went outside to our backyard with torches and nets to hunt down some moths for Ash’s dinner. Dad caught one, but it flew away. With no luck, we continued into the front garden. We finally caught one, and then hastened inside to feed our little guest.

Ash was still hungry, so we continued searching. Samantha had a bright idea- why not check the pantry? She was lucky enough to catch a moth with just her bare hands. Because Samantha had sprayed mosquito repellent on her hands, we thought the scent might put Ash off her dinner. Ash had no such qualms, however, and gobbled it right up.

When Ash was full, we placed her back in her special container and drove to the East Fremantle Oval to try to set her free. My dad clutched Ash to his shirt so she would be warm. Then he put her on his hand and waited for her to fly away. Unfortunately, Ash did not seem to be in a hurry to fly away. She just sat on Dad’s hand, not moving.

So we returned home. We placed a small cloth with a bat’s scent into Ash’s cage to keep her warm and comfortable. We placed her in my dad’s room so he could keep a watchful eye on her. Also, he could ensure our cat would not eat Ash. After saying goodnight, we draped a black cloth around the container to keep out the light.

The next morning we looked after Ash, giving her water and food. Dad decided we should get her some food (without searching for moths!) so he and Samantha drove to City Farmers.

They returned with a container full of ‘meal worms’ which were still alive and wiggling about.

Although Ash was eating and drinking well, Dad was concerned there was something wrong with her. He took her to a veterinary clinic that specialised in native animals. Unfortunately, Ash had broken her wing and was unable to fly. This explained why she wouldn’t fly away when we tried to release her.

For a microbat that has a broken wing, life can be cruel. She normally catches her food while flying about. If she has a broken wing, she would not be able to feed herself.

The vet decided it would be kinder put Ash to sleep rather than let her suffer.

We were all upset, daddy cried, but understood it was the right decision to make.

We will never forget Ash the baby bat.

Written by Natasha Tonga

(with contributions from Samantha Tonga)

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International Bat Station

Are you a visitor to Western Australia?? Mad keen about bats too??? Then come over and see what the West Aussies have to show you.  I’d love to take you on a magical mystery tour pointing out the various bats that zoom around in our part of the world. See the different bat boxes in operation. Get up close and personal with the bats. Just for a bit of extra excitement watch out for the deadly Tiger snakes. They hunt the frogs in the lakes close by. The bats are waiting???? Evening tour consists of a one hour roaming around discovering the world of micro bats. Now this will blow you away. See the bats through a thermal imaging scope. It’s hooked to a Ipad so you can see what I see.

Cost POA.

Showing english visitors some bats

Showing english visitors some bats


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Build a bat box workshop

For all those batty people out there who want to build your own bat box this is it. Come and learn all about the bats. Construct the latest successful design and take it home. Simple to make and very effective.

WHERE: Herdsman Lake Wildlife Centre, Cnr Flynn & Selby Street, Wembley.

WHEN: 11th August 2012

TIME: 10am to 12pm

COST: Ask when you book.

BOOKINGS: 9387 6079

Put it into your calendar….

Building the bat boxes


Bat walk & talk

So you missed out seeing some bats really close last time. Well, don’t despair. The Cockburn Wetlands Centre is having another bat walk. Come and see what the local bats look like. If you’ve never seen a bat before then this is your chance. Bring the kids along. They’ll love it…

Where: Cockburn Wetlands Centre.

When : 20th April 2012.

Time: 5.45 to 7.30pm

Contact: 94511 3444

Bookings essential.


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Secret tip for building bat boxes…..

If you happen to live in Australia and wish to build your own bat box, then read on….

A little tip. DO NOT use a power saw to cut slots in the wood for the bats to cling to. Why???Ants!!!!! Yes, the little devils will start using these as nesting areas. They will soon take over the bat box.  Yes, I know all the information found on the internet tells you to use this technique. Well, I’m sorry it might work where there are no ants. But, it will not work in Australia. What’s the solution then????? Easy, go to Bunnings and buy some galvanised metal gutter mesh. Cut it with tin snips then staple it to the timber. The square holes are a perfect size for the bats to climb on to.

While I’m here, check there are absolutely no small holes or gaps in your box. The ants will use these as a home. Talk about “ants in your pants”. The bats don’t like them.

Have fun…

Ants nest in saw cuts.

Ants nest in saw cuts.

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Are there bats in Perth??

Yes, yes and yes. Bats are found almost everywhere, even in the metro area. It’s just that  they are small, come out at night and are difficult to see. I had an email from a lady living in a suburb called Willetton, where a six lane highway thunders past her place. She found an dead emaciated bat and wanted to know more. It was under her Brazillian Pepper tree. What was it looking for??? A place to roost most likely. What do bats need??? Water. You don’t have to be near some bushland or lakes/river to have bats. Research has shown they will fly down to a swimming pool and scoop up water to drink on the go. Your chances of occupancy will increase though living within 4 to 10kms from a lake or river. Homes. They need a place to stay. Just like us. A bat box is the best home you can provide.  Once they find it they’re extremely loyal and will stay for years. And the best part. One microbat eats 1,000 mosquitoes per night….. So why not install a bat box and go for it.

Bat found in Backyard

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Bat Tour

Would you love to see a micro bat really close. Come along for an interesting walk&talk at Bibra Lake. This is all about being up close and personal with our furry little friends. With 24x bat boxes close by Batman will climb up the ladder(he can’t really fly), gently withdraw a bat from the box to show you all. Learn about how they attack people and suck their blood….Nah..just kidding!! We’ll be taking about myths, what they eat, where they hang out and all sorts of goodies like that. If you want to have some fun then come along….don’t forget to bring the kids, they’ll love seeing the bats really close.

When: Saturday 12th November, 2011.

Time: 6.30pm to 8.30pm

Where: Cockburn Wetlands Centre, Hope Road, Bibra Lake.

Cost: Gold coin donation.

Bookings: Numbers limited…Get in quick…Ring Vicky Hartill | Environment and Education Officer
City of Cockburn
P: (08) 9411 3556
E: vhartill@cockburn.wa.gov.au

Come and meet me....

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Anabat SD2 bat detector

If you’re one of the lucky ones to own one of these detectors, then this two part instructional video might help you. I’ve designed/modified and built a pistol grip that enables the operator to comfortably carry the detector for hours on end. Coupled with the HP Ipaq 212 Enterprise model PDA it becomes an awesome machine. Studying bats brings on a new dimension when you can see the actual ‘real time’ calls while looking at the PDA screen.

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