April 16, 2012

Change of Species; Change of Season: Goodbye Curlews And Welcome Woodswallows…


Last month the bird watching in and around Fraser Island’s western side was wonderful - with dozens of species being recorded by our Kingfisher Bay Resort ranger team and our guests on our morning guided walks.

As autumn began, we’ve started to experience some changes in the types of birds spotted around the resort.

In March, many Eastern Curlews (see above left) start their long journey back to their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere. These impressive waders will not grace Fraser Island’s shores again until August, when they make their triumphant return.

As one bird flies the coop, so to speak, another species takes their place… and we’ve spotted White Breasted Woodswallows, which have been migrating up our way, from the southern parts of their range, to experience a milder winter. Dozens of these handsome birds can be seen on autumn and winter mornings perched along tree branches basking together in the warm morning sun.

While migratory birds provide us with seasonal variation, so too do our precious resident species through their feeding and breeding cycles. Red-backed Fairy-wrens were spied nesting amongst a Midyim thicket (an Australian bush tucker plant that produces small, white flower and blue-grey spotted fruit which ripen about now) right next to the resort’s main pool! The vibrant male showed no qualms parading his mating plumage, while the demure female stayed well hidden along with the pair’s well concealed nest.

March saw our resident Rainbow Lorikeets congregating in the freshly flowering Eucalyptus Robusta that fringe our Wallum wetlands. Flocks of these highly decorated and rambunctious parrots are often accompanied by a few of their green headed relatives, the Scaly-breasted Lorikeets.   Next time a flock of screeching ‘Lories’ flies over, keep your eyes peeled for the odd ones out!

Until next month, keep on Twitchin’!

April 2, 2012

Autumn Marches Onto Fraser Island

The start of autumn is a magical time of year here on Fraser Island. This change of season, in particular, is one of the most noticeable for us as the southerly breezes roll in and whisks some traces of summer away. Lucky for us – autumn is fabulous on Fraser Island with gorgeous sunshine-filled days.

During the wetter summer months the influx of fresh water flowing out of the Mary River system into the Great Sandy Strait (a double-ended sand estuary that borders the Hervey Bay mainland and Fraser Island’s western shore) encourages a change in the types of marine life in the waters alongside our jetty.

The Great Sandy Strait itself consists of intertidal sand and mud flats; extended seagrass beds – which provide food for the local dugong population; mangrove forests; salt flats and saltmarshes as well as coastal wallum swamps and freshwater Melaleuca wetlands.

Patterned fens (networks of peat that are devoid of trees) have been recorded in the Great Sandy Strait – these are rare in Australia and have not been recorded in subtropical regions of the world.

Our Great Sandy Strait watery wonderland is an exceptionally important feeding ground with in excess of 20,000 migratory shorebirds, 17 species of shorebirds, waterfowl and other seabirds along with dolphins, sea turtles, crustaceans and oysters enjoying this habitat.

Last month, Banana prawns could be seen jumping about in the clear waters under the jetty with their tails fanned and legs flailing. They’re easy to spot as their large eyes reflect red in our spotlight’s beam.

The nights are gloriously clear in autumn and perfect for gazing at the amazing night sky above Fraser – which adds a fabulous element to our Ranger-guided night walks. As the Southern Cross follows its track through our skies - at this time of year it is perfectly positioned above the resort when looking backwards from our jetty.

The constellations actually have different meanings for different people. Close to the Southern Cross is a dark cloud of interstellar dust, called the Coalsack by astronomers. To many Aboriginal tribes it represents the head of the emu in the sky. The emu's body stretches down to the left dominating the southern Milky Way.

The onset of autumn also marks the beginning of dingo mating season. During this time dingoes tend to be more active as they search for mates. It also means that they tend to howl more at night.

This March we were lucky enough to hear distant howling as we stood on the Jetty during one night walk; the beautifully eerie sound reminding us of the evolutionary link that these special canines share with wolves. As we approach Easter, we take this opportunity to remind all guests to not feed native animals on Fraser Island and to please be dingo safe when in the Great Sandy National park. http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/fraser/dingo-safe.html

Until next month, hooroo from the team here at Kingfisher Bay!