East Fremantle resident Joe Tonga has taken bird watching to a whole new level. He builds nest boxes fitted with infra-red cameras so he can watch his favourite owls up close and personal. While there aren’t any big trees in his backyard, Mr Tonga’s neighbours trees are home to three boxes which he monitors from his home office. He also builds boxes for bird enthusiasts and provides bird and bat boxes for Piney Lakes reserve in Winthrop, where his cameras will beam the action live into the education centre.
Mr Tonga homes watching bats at home will educate people about their less scary side, especially their ability to act as an environmentally friendly insect repellent. “Each bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes a night”, he said. Piney Lakes mozzies beware – the two bat boxes can house up to 750 bats.
The fascination with birds began when Mr Tonga was a young man and branched out into building nest boxes when he became a carpenter. He is one of only four people in the world with this kind of owl-watching capability and he’s hoping to get a grant to enable him to broadcast the secret lives of birds and bats on the web.
Nest boxes were needed around the metropolitan area because of the destruction of old hollow trees that are normally home to owls and bats, Mr Tonga says. “These boxes would equate to a 200 year-old tree and there’s not many big trees like that around anymore”, he said.
— Katherine Fleming (Fremantle Herald)