There's a menace in the air

THERE'S a menace in the skies above Gympie, and it's got nothing to do with strange lights at night or noisy helicopters.

The problem is of the winged variety: some leathery, some feathery.

Increasing numbers of flying foxes and corellas, and reported sightings of "flying rats", indian mynas, in the Gympie region drew a response from the Department of Environment and Resource Management yesterday.

The flying fox colony at Widgee Crossing has returned to full strength after diminishing in the wake of floods earlier this year, and the newly elected State Government has pledged to overturn the four-year ban on damage mitigation permits that allow farmers to shoot flying foxes threatening fruit crops.

The colony fluctuates in size from 50,000-100,000, and while DERM confirmed its numbers had reduced over summer, the abundant food supply now available because of the rain meant large numbers of flying foxes could now occur in many south-east Queensland areas.

Widgee Crossing is populated by grey-headed, black and little red flying foxes and is an important nursery site for the grey headed flying fox.

"The colony is about the same size as it was before the flood, but there is a change in the species ratios, with more black flying foxes than grey-headed flying foxes," DERM said.

Gympie Mayor Ron Dyne welcomed the State Government pledge as a positive move for orchardists, though he said the Gympie Regional Council had received no complaints from growers about flying foxes or corellas, and that the permits were more about moving the flying foxes on than culling them.

Local rural producers are more likely to have trouble with wood ducks, also a protected species, which can cause havoc with forage crops such as lucerne and sorghum.

"It's been a different issue for the North Burnett Council because where the (flying fox) colony was right over their water supply," Cr Dyne said.

Flying foxes are native to Australia and roosts such as Widgee Crossing are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

DERM also monitors flying fox roosts at Inskip Point, Searys Ck, Snapper Point, Varley Rd at Glenwood, Power St at Neerdie, Dinnies Ck at Tin Can Bay, the Amamoor State Forest and Hyne Estate Rd at Kandanga.

Increasing corella numbers are causing concern for some residents, with the native white cockatoos notoriously destructive of the trees where they perch, chewing off the bark and small twigs.

They roost in the trees overnight and fly off to feed in the early morning and late afternoon with an almost deafening screeching.

"Rangers have had a complaint from neighbours of people who have been feeding corellas, due to their noise and the damage the birds do to gardens," DERM said.

Indian mynahs, not to be confused with native noisy miners, have spread from Asia and are considered an invasive pest. There are only a few isolated communities of the bird in the state.