September 12, 2014

Let Us Tell You About The Birds and The Bees And The Flowers….

A Tawny Frogmouth chick on Fraser Island 
It is shaping up to be a beautiful month here on Fraser Island and we are seeing some wonderful flowers and animals flourishing in the early stages of spring.  September is also Biodiversity Month in Australia and, for us, it is all about protecting the environment and conserving the species within our Great Sandy Biosphere.

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen Squirrel Gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis); Eastern Curlews (Numenius madagascariensis);, Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides - pictured left); and Bush Rats (Rattus fuscipes) among other animals and our wildflowers - including the Dusky Coral Pea (Kennedia rubicunda) and the Wide Bay Boronia (Boronia rivularis) - are beginning to blossom.

For those that like their flowers, the Woombye (Phebalium woombye) is a species of wildflower from the same family as the Boronias (Rutaceae).  Fraser Island’s Woombyes are in full bloom at the moment and the clusters of white flowers can be seen all around Kingfisher Bay Resort, particularly on the Great Sandy Strait Walk (overlooking nearby Hervey Bay) and around Dundonga Creek (just north of the resort). The small white flowers are surrounded by distinctive rusty coloured buds and the overall cluster is very attractive and is a favourite of wildflower lovers around the resort.

Native Bees are easily mistaken for small flies
The flowers are often surrounded by native stingless bees too which can make stunning photographs if you've got a quick eye and trigger finger.  

DID YOU KNOW in Butchulla tribal life, the honey bees – native bees about the size of a small bush fly – were guarded by very strict rules.  Tribe members were very selective when picking and gathering flowers, leaving the white flowers that were favoured by bees to make honey (used as a natural sweetener) and wax (used in canoe construction).  

For those that aren’t familiar with the Australian Native Stingless Bee (Tetragonula and Austroplebeia – see right), they can easily be mistaken for small flies and are one of the primary pollinators of Australian wildflowers. They also produce a honey that tastes great and is sold in small quantities (though it can be expensive since one hive produces only around 1 kg of honey each year).

There are around 14 species of stingless bees in Australia and recent scientific studies have shown that their honey has similar anti-microbial properties to that of Manuka honey - which is used as an effective ointment on wounds to prohibit infection and promote healing.

The complex hives of these bees contain a waxy substance made up of plant resins and bee secretions – called Propolis - which is it is this substance that has the scientific community abuzz as it is thought to help with anything from grazes and burns to oral hygiene issues.  We’ve spotted one of these hives near the beginning of the Sandy Straits walk. If you’re out and about, you can find them in one of two scarred White Cypress Pines (Callitris columellaris) near the beginning of the track, or just ask one of our Rangers!

An Eastern Curlew in full flight over the Great Sandy Strait
For those that have joined us on our Early Morning Bird Walks of late, we’ve been surprised to see of the first Eastern Curlews (Numenius madagascariensis - pictured left) of the season – they're easily identified by their long, curved beaks as the photo shows. 

These migratory birds are listed as near threatened in Queensland though they can be seen from September to November in large numbers. 

Through their life-cycle, they fly great distances from their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere and can  lose more than half of their body weight – so wetland areas surrounding Fraser Island are an essential habitat which allows them to replenish fat stores .

Also visible at low tide are our Rock Oysters (Saccostrea glomerata), which are a delicacy in restaurants around the world.  Unfortunately, many coastal areas are stripped of natural oysters in areas accessible to people, so it’s a nice treat to have a look at these oysters around our jetty, where they are largely untouched.

DID YOU KNOW in Queensland it is illegal to take oysters from the particular area you find them, although you are allowed to eat them on the spot?

Queensland Rock Oysters.  Pic: Queensland Country Life
Oysters are filter feeders and remove microorganisms from the sea water when they are inundated at high tide. Young oysters are known as ‘Spat’ and attach themselves to solid surfaces.  

In the spirit of biodiversity month, our team will always encourage you to leave the shell of an oyster on rocks after you consume them as it actually provides a good surface for new Spats to attach and helps sustain long term population growth.

Springtime is certainly a good season to explore the environment so, if you’re not headed our way to gorgeous Fraser Island; I’d say get out there and enjoy nature at its best!  Biodiversity month is a great time to start protecting the environment so check out this link for more information on how to do just that! 
Hope to see you on island soon, cheers Ranger Bec. 

August 15, 2014

It’s Winter On Fraser: Fishermen Are Flocking, Wedding Bushes Are Flowering And Dingo Pups Are Exploring…

The Wedding Bush is one of the most unusual plants on Fraser Island in that it can produce both male and female flowers on the one specimen.  At this time of year, when our Wedding Bushes (Ricinocarpos pinifolius) begin to flower their small, snowy white blossoms, we know it heralds the start of the annual running of the Tailor (Pomatomus saltatrix) on island. Winter was usually a prosperous season for the original inhabitants of Fraser Island - the Butchulla tribe - and one of the most important doctrines of tribal life was “if you have plenty you must share”… consequently many visitors would brave the Great Sandy Strait to share their bounty of fish.

Tailor season on Fraser. Pic: Cody Doucette, Matador Network
These days on Fraser, hundreds of fisher folk flock to Fraser hoping to catch Tailor (size limit is 35cm and there is a species’ limit of 20) and Jewfish (Protonibea diacanthus) off the eastern beach.  

Whilst it is still early days in the season, the Tailor have been keeping out wide to feed on huge schools of bait fish, but we expect them to head inshore as the north-westerlies blow.  South of Eurong, they’ve been landing some big Jewies in the gutters near First Creek.

A Dugong in the Great Sandy Strait Pic: The Gympie Times

Back to the western side, one species that we have welcomed back to our shores with open arms is the Dugong (Dugong dugon - pictured right).  These large herbivorous mammals with paddle-like forelimbs and a broad, horizontally flattened tail are on the endangered species list.  

Dugongs are closely related to the extinct Sea Cow (Hydrodamalis gigas) and feast on seagrass meadows - there are seven seagrass species in the The Great Sandy Strait (which separates Fraser Island from Hervey Bay on the mainland) and they are very sensitive to human influence.

Dugong numbers declined locally after muddy waters from the 2011 Queensland floods impacted their food supply by cutting sunlight to the seagrass pastures.  Although Dugong population sizes are hard to determine, due to the large scale movements along the coastline, scientific evidence suggests a long-term decline. 

Dugong are generally solitary or they travel in pairs or small groups – so passengers aboard the Kingfisher Bay Ferry to River Heads were thrilled to see three surface to catch a breath beside the boat late last month.

At this time of year, the Fraser Island Creeper (Tecomanthe hillii) is also in full bloom around our Awinya hotel wing and main pool areas at the resort.  If you’re visiting us, keep an eye out for clusters of bright pink tubular flowers, which create bright splashes of colour among the foliage of the trees they climb up. The creeper is only found in a few small isolated areas of eastern Australia, so the flowers are a real treat for visitors from both Australia and overseas.  Rangers are more than happy to point them out on our Ranger-guided walks in and around the resort.

In last month’s blog we mentioned that White-cheeked Honeyeaters (Phylidonyris nigra) were nesting around the resort. This month, their super cute fledglings are out of the nest and begging for food from their parents.   Our resident White-bellied Sea Eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster) have also been putting on a show during our Ranger-guided canoe paddles - you can imagine our excitement when we saw two eagles fighting in mid air, locking talons and spiralling out of control!

A Dingo in repose at Eli Creek. Pic: Troy Geltch, Air Fraser Island
Winter time in our neck of the woods also marks the time that female dingoes give birth and consequently protect their young and their territory. Interestingly, an American Bear Researcher (Dr Hank Harlow from the University of Wyoming) recently told ABC News that the dingo management practices on Fraser Island are similar to what is used in the Yellowstone National Park for Grizzly Bears.

Dr Harlow says that unlike bears, convincing people to stay away from dingoes can be difficult. He says that you can tell a Grizzly Bear has mischief on his mind whilst people thought that because dingoes looked like pets, there was no danger.

A recent incident on Fraser (and continuous posts of human/dingo selfies on social media) serves as a reminder that dingoes most definitely aren’t pets and there is a need to follow the 'DINGO SAFETY' rules when out and about in The Great Sandy National Park.  Queensland Parks and Wildlife currently imposes hefty fines on visitors who feed these animals and encourage socialisation with humans. Resorts, like Kingfisher Bay and Eurong Beach are surrounded by fences to keep the dingoes from being loved too much by the general public.

Fraser’s totally wild and that's why we love it. Who knows what we’ll see next month - catch you then.





July 28, 2014

July: Close Encounters Of The Animal Kind On Fraser Island

It’s always really interesting, when you live and work on Fraser Island, to see people’s reactions when they start exploring for the first time.  Fraser Island the only place in the world where rainforests grows in sand (at elevations of 200 metres) ; one of only two places in the world where Humpbacks whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) take time out of their migration schedule to socialise in calm waters; and sports the world’s largest and highest perched dune lakes.

It’s also a place of incredible beauty… where something as simple as four-wheel-driving through sandy tracks and out ontothe gazetted 75-Mile Beach Highway can make a visiting tourist’s entire Aussie holiday.

Here on Fraser, we’ve been seeing whales galore this month, including a Southern Right Whale mum and calf (Eubalaena australis) just metres off the resort’s jetty and our Humpbacks have been putting on plenty of impromptu shows on the eastern and western side of the island and for our Fraser Island ferry passengers.

We've even had a fur seal pop by for an extended holiday on the eastern beach. It's very difficult to tell the difference between the two species - New Zealand Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) are slightly smaller than their Aussie counterparts (Arctocephalus pusillus) and are best distinguished by their much darker colouration.

Everything you need to know about our Humpback holidaymakers... and more!
DID YOU KNOW: For their first time since 1946, Japan will not hunt whales in the Southern Ocean?  This follows a ruling by the International Court of Justice in March this year.

Humpback Whale displays close to shore on Fraser Island
With just hours until we start our daily Humpback Whale Watching tours from Fraser Island, there’s been an exciting development for the tourism industry.  Today, it was announced that a select group of whale watching operators will host immersive whale tours on a trial basis – allowing visitors to swim with the whales in the calm waters off Hervey Bay.  Under the Nature Conservation Act, strict guidelines will be in place to ensure the safety of both whales and swimmers.

To say that we’re excited is an understatement!  And, if you've ever wondered what it's like to hear a Humpback sing, here's your chance!

For those out and about on the western side of the island, you might also be lucky enough to see a group of scientists from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USQ) who are using ground-penetrating radar to located disturbed ground, human remains and artefacts for indigenous burial sites. We'll keep you updated with any developments.

Guests venturing to the eastern side of the island may see smoke in the skies above Waddy Point and at Orchid Beach this month.  Fire is a really important element for Fraser Island’s ecosystems. Many of the tree species that grow in our wallum (coastal heathland) and eucalypt forests require fire for their seeds to germinate.  To help these environments to flourish and to prevent an unexpected wildfire, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service will be conducting controlled burns around Fraser Island right up until the end of the month.

As we mentioned last blog, our local Northern Brown Bandicoots (Isoodon macrourus) and Long-nosed Bandicoots (Perameles nasuta) dig for fungi underground - this action helps to cover leaf litter that would otherwise be a fire hazard and is just one of the many eco services provided by the bandicoots, which are commonly seen a night around Kingfisher Bay Resort.
A White-cheeked Honeyeater  in repose

In and around the resort, our beautiful White- cheeked Honeyeaters (Phylidonyris nigra - pictured left) have been nesting, and this is providing excellent photo opportunities for keen photographers. The nests are hidden well in the undergrowth and are not easy to find, so our team are only too happy to point them out on our daily Ranger-guided walks.

Off the Kingfisher Bay jetty, there have been small Spanish Mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson), Trevally (Gnathanodon speciosus) and Dusky Flathead (Platycephalus fuscus) caught through the days. Around the full moon, big Black Jewfish (Protonibea diacanthus) were caught in the evenings and, at night, our Rangers have been seeing our small insectivorous Micro-bats hunting with echolocation over the window lakes here at the resort.  Bats are classified in a single Order, Chiroptera - Order being a biological term meaning a taxonomic group containing one or more families.

All in all a great month to live, work and visit paradise, Tree Huggers. Catch you next month.


June 19, 2014

June: We’ve Sprung Into Winter Here At Kingfisher Bay

FRASER ISLAND: June 1st marked the first day of winter in our sub-tropical backyard, which means we’re in for long, sunny, blue-sky days (average temperatures sit around 22˚ during the day time) and cooler nights and mornings.

As we mentioned in last month’s blog, we’ve already started to see the first of our winter holidaymakers – the Hervey Bay Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) on their annual migration. If you’re driving or on tour on the eastern beach, keep an eye out for their water spouts and breaching!   We’re still two months away from the official start of the Whale Watch season – with cruises leaving daily from Kingfisher Bay Resort on the lee side of Fraser Island.

Fraser's resident raptor finds love in the air!
Already, a few Winter Whiting (Sillago maculate) have been reported in the Great Sandy Strait and, along with the Summer Whiting (Sillago ciliate coming off the flats), they’re feasting on live bloodworms as bait. Threadfin Salmon (Blue Threadfin – Eleutheronema tetradactylum and King Threadfin Polydactylus macrochir) have also been active feeding in the drains and the ledges along Fraser Island have been worth a look for those fisher folk looking for Jewies,

This month, we have also seen some developments in the love life of our western beach resident Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus - see above), who seems to have found a mate on the western beach. On one of our recent guided walks, we spotted these love birds swooping down on a Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius), forcing it below the water surface.

We are happy to report that the Cormorant made a daring escape, swimming about 30 metres underwater! Pied Cormorants (Phalacrocorax varius) are large coastal birds and, in all probability, way too large a prey item for raptors like Whistling Kites, so it’s likely that they were trying to force the waterbird to regurgitate its’ fish catch (which is a method they sometimes use to get an easy dinner).

A Whistling Kite nest and chick. Photo: Birdway.com.au

DID YOU KNOW that Whistling Kites are found all over mainland Australia as well as New Guinea, The Solomons and New Caledonia?  

It’s easy to confuse other kites and other raptor species, like the Little Eagle (Hieraaetus morphniodies) - you need to look to their silhouette and body shape to tell the difference.

Over the past month we have had some much needed rainfall on Fraser Island (after the lowest summer rainfall on record), which bodes well for the arrival of kite chicks (see above left).  Whistling Kites like to breed after periods of rainfall, so keep your eye out for a nest (a large platform made of sticks, generally found in the fork of a tall tree) and the arrival of eggs!

Not magical, just fluoro!  Photo: Peter Meyer
Out on Fraser Island’s sand tracks, we’ve seen, the first bioluminescent mushrooms, Omphalotus nidiformis, (commonly known as Ghost Fungus - see right) bloom at the Valley of the Giants – an out-of-the-way spot known to walks on the Fraser Island Great Walk - where giant Tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys) rub trunks with enormous Fraser Island Satinays (Syncarpia hillii).

Ghost Fungus can be seen throughout the month of June, creating an eerie green glow in the rainforests by night. This glow in the dark mushroom brings fungus enthusiasts from all around the world to Fraser Island to witness the phenomenon first hand!

Long-nosed Bandicoot on the hunt for food.  
With the start of winter thousands of native truffles have also begun to form underground. This is causing great excitement for our resident mushroom enthusiasts - the Northern-Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon macrourus) and the Long-nosed Bandicoot (Perameles nasuta - see left).

It you look closely at the sand in and around the resort, you will see small pot holes - most commonly around the base of vegetation - where the bandicoots use their long noses to dig down and find their favourite treats.

RANGER FACT: Each truffle species has a distinctive, pungent smell (examples include peanut butter and bubble-gum), which helps the bandicoots to discover their whereabouts.  This feeding cycle also helps with the dispersal of the fungi’s spores.
Cane Toad hatchlings.  Photo: herpindiego.com

A sad development this month has been the appearance of hundreds of Cane Toad (Rhinella marina - formerly Bufo marinus) hatchlings in our Wallum Health land, and most likely throughout all of Fraser Island’s freshwater ecosystems.

Cane Toads reached Fraser Island several decades ago and have caused population declines in some of the island’s native species, including the regional extinction of Quolls (genus Dasyurus). 

So what can we do about it?

Extensive research is currently being done to find a biological solution for controlling the Cane Toad. Hopefully these will be more effective than the cane toad itself, which was initially introduced to Australia as a means of controlling the Cane Beetle (Dermolepida albohirtum)!

That’s nature folks… and on that note, I’ll say goodbye and catch you next month.
Cheers, Ranger Rach.


May 21, 2014

May: We're Farewelling Our Frequent Flyers And Targeting The Tailor

One of the things we love most about living and working on Fraser Island is that we never know what we’re going to spot as when go about our daily duties and, yes, we all still get excited when unexpected things pop up.  At this time of the year, we say goodbye to our Eastern Curlews (Numenius madagascariensis) and other shorebirds... and hello to the semi-nomadic and autumn/winter migrant species who, as part of their migratory pattern, use the island as a home base during the cooler months.

Australasian Fig Birds. Photo: rwsboa2011.blogspot.com
More than 354 different species of bird have been recorded on Fraser Island including the rarely seen Eastern Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus) and the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua - whose breeding season is about to start on island).

Ranger Luke was also super excited to spot an Australasian Figbird (Sphecotheres vieilloti - pictured) in the resort grounds recently.

DID YOU KNOW May 10 was World Migratory Bird Day?  Each year more than 5 million shorebirds migrate from Australia to breed in the Arctic?  That’s a 30,000km return journey! That a lot of frequent flyer miles.

In early May, we also welcomed competitors from the Australian Fishing Championships who were on island (and in Hervey Bay) to film recreational fishing segments for their show, which is expected to screen later this year to audiences of more than 330M people around the world.

Richard S gets up close and personal with SPIKE
Grey skies meant we postponed filming on the Great Sandy Strait by a day and headed to the eastern side to throw a line in.  Enroute to our secret fishing hole, Hobie Fishing World Champion, Richard Somerton, from Team Hobie, was lucky enough to spot one of the island’s resident echidnas on the eastern beach. Short-beaked Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus - pictured right) are rarely spotted on island, but this friendly fella was happy enough to pose for pics and became a social media sensation on our Instagram and Facebook pages.

RANGER FACT: The Short-beaked Echidna has few natural enemies, but may be killed by cars, dogs, foxes and occasionally goannas may take the young.
The first Humpback of the season is spotted from Fraser!

On the western side of the island, teenage dingoes (Canis dingocheck out last month’s blog as the Aussie dingo was given its own species status) have been spotted exploring the intertidal zone.  Breeding takes place between April and June and, as we head towards winter, females will give birth – after a relatively short gestation period - and we start to see pups spring up around the island.

At the moment, resort guests landing Mackerel (a common name applied to a number of different species of pelagic fish, mostly, but not exclusively, from the family Scombridae) and Tailor (pomatomus saltatrix - winter marks the start of the tailor run on the eastern beaches) ) from Kingfisher Bay’s jetty or those that choose to head across island for a great sandy adventure are spotting our migrating Humpback Whale holidaymakers (Megaptera novaeangliae) on their annual migration north to the warmer breeding areas in the Whitsundays.

The first of the Humpbacks were spotted a week ago off Bondi at the beginning of May – which is early – but it was an absolute surprise to see them in the Great Sandy Strait as we headed out on our guided canoe paddles to Dundonga Creek earlier this week.  You can follow all the Humpback action during the season on our dedicated Facebook page or website.

Glider antics in the night sky. Photo: hoothollow.com
As dusk falls on Fraser Island, our resident Sugar Gliders (Petaurus breviceps) - the most common of all the glider species in Australia - come out to play and they've been anything but shy in the night sky.  Be sure to listen for the distinctive YIP YIP YIP cry - on our guided night walks (or, for our villa/hotel guests, from your balconies).

But not all of Fraser Island’s animals are nocturnal and a very friendly Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) has been wowing arriving and departing guests from his hangout near our boat ramp.

As you can see, it’s been a big month of wildlife spotting on island and here's another fabulous spot!  Online travel website, The Escape Lounge, has listed Kingfisher Bay and our fabulous Junior Eco Ranger program, in their Top 5 Fabulous Family getaways blog…  and we’re chuffed. Call us biased, but if you haven’t had a chance to enrol your children in the program when you’re visiting Kingfisher Bay, make sure you do – it’s the best classroom in the world!

Catch you next time, Tree Huggers.