Jets turn tail from our hordes of hungry bats

BALLINA's flying foxes are so hungry that not even commercial jets can stop their quest to find food.

The starving bats have this week forced at least two Ballina-bound flights to divert to other airports.

On Monday a Rex flight which was due to land at the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport was redirected to Lismore, and on Wednesday night a Jetstar plane from Sydney was sent to Coolangatta after the pilot had three landing attempts.

With large numbers of bats in the area, it was deemed too dangerous to land.

Tracey Burke - who flies regularly between Sydney and Ballina - was on the Wednesday flight.

She said she had never seen anything like it.

"We had started landing but the plane suddenly went back up again," she said.

"The pilot came on and he said, 'sorry folks, but as we were coming in to land there was a huge number of bats'." After two more attempts at landing, the pilot decided it was too dangerous and continued on to Coolangatta. Passengers were then put on buses to Ballina.

"I'm not sure what can be done about the bats, but it has the potential to endanger people's lives," Ms Burke said. "I think this is a real issue for the airport."

Ballina Shire Council's environmental scientist Ian Gaskell confirmed the bats were flying to the airport from the roost at Bangalow Rd, across from the Kentwell Community Centre. He said the recent heavy rainfall had washed pollens and nectars from flowering plants, which is a source of protein for bats.

That means, he said, the bats were leaving their roost earlier than usual because they were waking up hungry. "Usually the bats would fly out on dusk when there are not many flights coming in," he said.

He said the bats would return to their normal routine, but it would depend on the weather.

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