June 28, 2012

June: Leopards And Tigers Have Been Spotted On Fraser!


Note the distinctive rippling of the aptly named Tiger Squid
Marine life by night can be an amazing and with the waters of the Great Sandy Strait lapping at the Kingfisher Bay’s western beach (on the lee side of Fraser Island), we’ve got ourselves some prime real estate for spotting passing wildlife.

As night falls on Fraser Island, some of our more reclusive marine locals, like the Pencil and Tiger Squid, (pictured right - pic courtesy of flickriver.com) swim into the limelight.  As their names suggest,  Pencil Squid are long and thin; whilst the ‘Tigers’ are fatter and display a striking striped pattern across their backs.

Technically Squids are Molluscs but, unlike other Molluscs, they belong to a subgroup of Cephalopods that also includes Octopus and Cuttlefish.  Basically it means they’ve got an ink sac and they don’t have external shells.  What we find fascinating about these little creatures is the way they communicate.  They have the ability to rapidly change their colour from hunting mode (that’s one where they completely blend into the surrounding environment) to brilliant red (which signals alarm) – this inadvertently happens when our Resort Ranger’s spotlight surprises them on our guided night walks. 

Interestingly, some species of squid can also change their texture to blend in with the surrounding environment!

Closer to the shoreline, graceful Rays are often seen gliding in amongst the shallows. We’ve spotted several species over the past month, including the Leopard Ray.  These Rays differ from the regular estuary species as they have a pattern of white rosettes spread over a brown or black background.  Their dapples mimic the camouflage of their namesake – Leopards - as they glide majestically over the white sands of the bay.

The end of the Mullet run on Fraser Island has also heralded the appearance of our local pod of Indo-Pacific Humpbacks Dolphins – just around the time guests head to Kingfisher’s famous Jetty Hut for sunset drinks and a platter (FYI sunset is around 1705 at the moment). 

Two dolphin calves have been born this season to our regular pod. We’ve also spotted three to four adults of mixed ages entrenched in the group alongside old ‘Whitey’ - a large adult that displays the unique bleaching that comes with old age in dolphins. Usually shy and reclusive - unlike their Indo-Pacific Bottlenose counterparts - we have found our Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin mates are more than happy to add their own unique magic to the Fraser Island sunset experience.

Until later this month, this is Ranger Amelia signing off (and heading out for a guided canoe paddle to Dundonga Creek mangrove colony).

June 15, 2012

Spangled Drongos, Willie Wagtails And Much More This May

What a great month for birders on Fraser.  In addition to our resort guests, the Kingfisher Bay team were chuffed to welcome members of the Hervey Bay Bird Watching Club back to gorgeous Fraser Island.

During May, the flush of new plant growth in the Wallum set the stage for some of our most colourful and quirky feathered friends to perform.  Leading our May flock star line-up, was the treetop aerobatics of the elegant Spangled Drongos – they put on quite a show as they feasted amongst our Swamp Mahogany trees.

Sam the Eagle? No, it's a Noisy Friar Bird.  Pic by A Leishman
These sleek, noisy birds are easily identified by their blood red eyes, glossy black plumage, with iridescent blue-green spots (or spangles) and long forked, fish-like tail.

Our male Scarlet Honeyeaters (they’re a vivid scarlet red and black bird with whitish underparts) didn’t disappoint – amusing us with their clown-like antics in the scrub.

Did you know that both male and female Scarlet Honeyeaters make a ‘chiew chiew’ sounding contact call?

Scarlet Honeyeaters feed mainly on nectar and sometimes on fruit and insects and tend to feed in the upper levels of the canopy and forage in flowers and foliage.  Unfortunately, they’re normally evicted from feeding grounds by other more aggressive honeyeasters - like our resident Noisy Friarbirds (see photo above) – who also added their deep, honking call to Fraser Island’s morning May chorus.

Visibility around the lakes has been brilliant and our Azure Kingfishers have been regulars, alongside our resident Dusky Moorhen, which we saw gliding in the more reclusive wetland pockets. One of our winter tourists, the Grey Fantail, has also been keeping watch on resort happenings, seen often in the company of the more domestic Willie Wagtail in and around the resort’s Sand Bar bistro.

Beach side, we’ve seen some impressive aerial action with the reappearance of paired behaviour from our Brahminy Kites. These medium-sized raptors usually search for prey from around 20 to 50 metres above the water, before executing steep dives to catch their meal. Talk about extreme fishing!

The colourful cameos are set to continue into June, so stay tuned for more from Kingfisher Bay Resort’s avian family. Until then, this is Ranger Amelia signing off.

June 4, 2012

May: Of Monotremes, Marine Reptiles, Mammals and Mars!

Hi there Tree Huggers and friends of Fraser.  This month has been a sad one for me as my time on Fraser Island has drawn to a close and I’ve been getting ready to move on to colder climes and the lure of a season in the snow.  But I leave you in good hands with Rangers Nick, Jermaine and Amelia, together with snap-happy Lachie in the Jetty Hut, looking after all things ‘eco’ on Fraser till our new Head Ranger comes on board.
That's me with our Short-beaked Echidna, Rex

Over the past month we’ve been lucky enough to see one of Fraser Island’s most elusive mammals going about its business in and around Kingfisher Bay.  This creature we speak of is mostly nocturnal, or crepuscular, (meaning active at dusk); has an average body temperature of 31-32 degrees Celsius; likes to feed on termites and ants; and has spines.

If you haven’t already guessed, it’s an Echidna or the Short-beaked Echidna to be precise! Actually known as Monotremes, these spiny, slow-moving cuties are egg laying mammals and are rarely seen within the resort grounds or on Fraser. 

You may recall the baby Squirrel Glider we blogged about last month (http://kingfisherbayresort.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/our-nectar-loving-nocturnal-animals.html), well, we were also lucky enough to care for an Echidna earlier this year (that’s me and our friend, Rex, pictured above).  The young echidna was found in the middle of one of Fraser Island’s 4WD tracks and was brought in to us by some conscientious drivers. There were no visible signs of injury, so we took some time to assess his condition.

We’re pleased to report that after some rest, water and a good dose of love from the team, he was fighting fit and ready to be released back into the bush.  But this month’s rare sighting begs the question - could the Echidna we spotted be our spiny friend all grown up? We can only hope!

And in stark contrast from continually spotting our ground dwellers, guests on our guided night walks also lifted their eyes to the skies to take in the beautifully clear May nights.

The stars look simply stunning at this time of year on World Heritage-listed Fraser and, as our guests will testify, the resort’s famous jetty provided a perfect viewing platform. During May, the Southern Cross - which disappears below the horizon in summer -  was high in the sky and visible for all to see and point us south. Jupiter has now dipped below the horizon, and Orion’s Belt is doing the same. And as the month progresses, more new beautiful stars and planets will appear. As I write this in early June, Saturn is now coming up through the sky, as are the red-orange hues of Mars.

Below us, the stars were beautifully reflected in the calm waters of the Great Sandy Strait during May... until schools of skittish baitfish broke the surface as they swam and leapt in pursuit of food. Our Green Sea Turtle regular made regular appearances during May and again into June – in fact several nights this month, this gorgeous marine reptile popped its head above the surface to take a deep breath, before nestling in under its favourite rock for good night’s sleep.

It’s been a fab month on May and as I hooroo you for the last time, tree huggers, I wish you all the best, Ranger Kat.  And from all your friends on Fraser, Ranger Kat - we hope you have a fab time following your dream.  You will be missed :(