April 27, 2015

Autumn’s Endless Summer In Paradise

It's barely Autumn and Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have already been spotted off the New South Wales coastline as they migrate north to the warmer Whitsunday waters and by our eagle-eyed Air Fraser Island pilots on the eastern side of the island – heralding that winter (and the start of our Humpback Whale Watching season on 1 August) is not far away.

They're big, they're blue and they're on the move... Humpbacks have been spotted by our Air Island Fraser pilots
Climate change debate has the ability to polarise, but according to a recent report in The Courier Mail, Queensland seasons are all out of whack with figures showing summer is starting earlier, lasting longer and stretching into autumn.

By-in-large, our temperatures have been above average in the last month and, according to the paper’s Environment Reporter, Brian Williams, Scientists have reported that the late onset of winter – followed by an early start to spring – is becoming the norm.

DID YOU KNOW: The resort runs a Conservation Credit Scheme to help reduce our carbon emissions? Guests, who choose NOT to have their room linen changed, will earn credits that can reduce the costs of their tours or spa treatments.  Conference, Meetings and Incentive Guests are automatically part of our Carbon Neutral Conference program, which also aims to reduce their footprint on our environment.

Forget being blue, try being green on Fraser Island
Whilst endless summers are the stuff that holiday-makers dream of, have you ever wondered what can you do to help reduce the effects of climate change?  Here on island, we are always looking for ways to reduce impact and, as technology changes, we are looking at cost effective ways we can change.

1. GREEN YOUR DRIVE: On Fraser, we encourage guests to join our eco-accredited group tours, which use fuel efficient vehicles to reduce fuel consumption and emissions – it’s one of the reasons we were awarded ‘Green Leader’ status by EcoTourism Australia. Or, if you’re self-driving, consider 4WD pooling with your mates.

Kingfisher was one of the first resort’s to install energy efficient room card technology, so that non-essential power could be shut off when guests weren’t in room – it’s an easy way you can help. The resort’s architectural design allows for minimal power requirements. In summer, windows and vents are kept open to generate the induction of cool air from the lower level and expel warmer air through loft vents. In winter, windows and vents are closed to create a glasshouse effect, trapping warm air inside the building.

3. BE AWARE OF YOUR IMPACT: When the resort was built, impact on the dunal system was minimised as resort buildings were floated on piles sunk up to 16 metres. You can help reduce impact by throwing your waste in the bin/dumps provided and by walking on paths and driving on existing tracks.

Miles of piles... here's how the architects ensured Kingfisher Bay sits lightly on the land...
4. WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: The resort minimises waste production through reducing resource use, environmentally responsible purchasing, recycling, reusing materials and, for example, placing refillable soap and shampoo dispensers in resort bathrooms thus eliminating packaging. Paper, glass, aluminium, tin and plastics are recycled.

As tree huggers, we’re eternally grateful to the fabulous Four Wheel Drive Clubs of Queensland who come every year to help us clean up the mess that litter bugs leave behind or that gets washed in from the ocean.

An onsite worm farm turns the resort's sewerage sludge, waste paper and kitchen preparation scraps into compost for a herb garden, which supplies the resort's kitchen. Waste minimisation programs, green purchasing and green product programs round out our environmental program.
Want to know more? Join one of our Ranger-guided eco walks, talks or paddles and learn a bit more about our fragile island backyard. There’s even a Junior Eco Rangers program with some fun educational stuff for the kids.  That’s it from us, tree-huggers.

April 25, 2015

April's Anzac Day Commemorations On Fraser Island

Today marks a special time in Australian history and we're publishing an extra special blog to commemorate our fallen soliders for Anzac Day.
Starry, starry night. The Milky Way above Kingfisher Bay.

April/May is a spectacular time of year on Fraser Island and the clear night skies make for some fantastic star-gazing – which our international visitors and our city dwellers never fail to appreciate.

These days there are plenty of smart phone apps available like Star Map or Star Gaze, which will help you find your way around the night sky, or ask our Rangers to point out the Southern Cross or Milky way as we head out on our guided night walks.

Fraser Island was the secret training ground for special commando troops during World War II as they trained for operations behind enemy lines?  It's absolutely true!

On island, these transitional months of March through May sees an influx of bird and marine life and subtle changes in our fauna. It's also fabulous for walkers and hikers who travel from all parts of the globe to try their hand at our Fraser Island Great Walk trails in the national park.

For those that prefer shorter walks, there is plenty of medium/easy level, self-guided walks in and around the resort grounds – including a historical walk to the remains of the old Z-Special Commando School, which is particularly poignant as we head towards the Anzac centenary later this month.

Today, Saturday, 25 April 2015 – ANZAC Day - will mark one hundred years of remembrance for the Australian and New Zealand soldiers that served and died in WW1.  This year, our famous SS Maheno shipwreck will play a pivotal role in the ANZAC Day centenary commemorations on island on Anzac Day.

The SS Maheno will take centre stage on 75-Mile Beach this Anzac Day
Originally built as a luxury cruise liner operating on the trans-Tasman run between Australia and New Zealand. As World War I broke out, the liner was converted to a hospital ship and, some four months after the Gallipoli campaign started, was anchored offshore and served as a floating hospital for thousands of Australian and several hundred New Zealand soldiers.

When ANZACS were transferred to the French western front, the Maheno was there to transport soldiers from particularly bloody battles in Fromelles and Somme. 

With ANZAC centenary celebration planning underway, the folks at Rotary have stepped in to fund the passage of seven school children, their families and teachers, from the tiny New Zealand town of Maheno, who will bring the original ship's bell across the Tasman. A replica will ring during a special ANZAC ceremony on April 25 and another will be given to the Maritime Museum in Brisbane.

Lest we forget.

March 16, 2015

Graffiti On Gums, Dingo Dating And A Cockatoo Or Two!

FRASER ISLAND: March... it’s that time of year again when Dingo romance fills the air and the annual mating season begins on the world’s largest sand island.  During Autumn, visitors to the island can expect to see Dingoes (Canis dingo) showing dominance, scent marking and protecting their territory on island.  And, as we head towards the Easter holiday peak, we advise would-be visitors to take the time to familiarise themselves with Queensland Parks’ Dingo Safety Tips ahead of their visit to the Great Sandy National Park.

Fraser Dingo  Photo: Paul Forrester
DID YOU KNOW Fraser Island’s Dingo population have significant conservation value because they have rarely bred with domestic or feral dogs?  

Our beautiful Fraser Island Dingoes are very different to domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) in that they only come into season once a year (during Autumn) compared to the domestic dogs ability to come into season at least twice a year.  

Consequently, the population fluctuates throughout the year and numbers peak with dingo pup births from June to August.  The latest Dingo census data suggests the island is home to 25-30 packs – each containing between 3 and 12 animals… although we have to stress that it is possible to visit Fraser and not catch a glimpse of these elusive animals.

OUR TOP TIPS: Both Kingfisher Bay Resort (to the west) and Eurong Beach Resort (on the surf side) are surrounded by Dingo fences.  Please remember to keep gates shut if you’re exiting out onto the beach or into the National Park.  And remember, feeding dingoes disturbs their natural ecological balance - there are hefty fines for those that ignore the rules.

Dingoes on 75-Mile Beach  Photo: Troy Geltch
RANGER FACT: Dingoes have an interesting dominance hierarchy where an alpha male and female take their place at the top of an established pack. This dominant pair is generally the only successful breeders, leaving the subordinate members to assist in rearing the young.  Following mating, a relatively short gestation period of around nine weeks (similar to domestic cats and dogs) takes place, eventuating in the birth of around 4-6 pups.

From one Australian icon to another… a glorious flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita - see left) has been enjoying (maybe a little too much) the many species of Eucalypts on island. 

A Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo At Kingfisher Bay 
Close to the resort, you can expect to see the Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus racemosa - see below), which is easily identifiable by the graffiti-like scribbles from the Scribbly Gum moth larvae tunnelling their way through the bark to feed on the gum underneath; our distinctive Paperbarks (Melalucia alternifolia), which contains the magical anti-bacterial properties of Tea-tree oil found within its leaves; and the simply beautiful Smooth-barked Apple (Angophora costata), which lights up the Eucalpyt forest with its rusty-stained bark and iridescent green leaves.
Scribbly Gum  Pic: GoingFeralOneDayAtATime.Com

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have been messily feasting on the seeds from our Eucalypt species above as well as berries and nuts from other trees around our front yard  Cockatoos are an Aussie icon, grow to around 48-55 centimetres and can weigh up to a kilo. 

You’ll easily identify these ones by their bright yellow crest and a raucous squawk (follow this link to Birds in Backyards and scroll down to the right hand side) as they fly around the grounds - they are very hard to miss.  Due to their size and rambunctious nature they often make quite the mess whilst they bite off branches and leaves - not because they’re hungry, but to keep their bills from growing too large.

All in all it’s been a great few weeks on island and we’ve had fantastic weather to boot. The team here are looking forward to seeing what April brings and, if you’re headed our way, here’s a sneak preview of what to expect on Anzac Day.

March 3, 2015

Soldier Crabs And Natural Toad Busters: We’re Shaping Up For An Action-Packed Autumn

Today (March 3) is World Wildlife Day, so we're publishing this blog a little earlier that usual to honour all our weird and wonderful wildlife in our backyard...

Lake McKenzie one day after TC Marcia crossed the Queensland coast at Yeppoon  Pic: Ranger Gaz
Autumn has arrived Tree huggers and Fraser Island has come alive as the southerly breezes roll in and the wet season departs.  We’re pleased to report that last month’s Tropical Cyclone Marcia – which hit the headlines worldwide and crossed the Queensland coast at Yeppoon, some 435 kilometres (or a 5 hour drive) to the north of Hervey Bay - scooted around us and did not leave a noticeable footprint on our shores.

In and around the resort this month, our staff and guests continue to be inspired by some of our smallest critters which we have discovered on our daily walks/talks out and about on the island – so we hope you enjoy the read.

Guests on our guided walks are always blown away by the sheer quantity of blue-tinged Soldier Crabs (Mictyris longicarpus) that habitually appear in immense numbers in the inter-tidal zone along the foreshore of the western beach.  These crabs are so named because the males patrol the beach at low tide in large armies walking forwards - not sideways like other species of crabs including the Ghost Crabs (Ocypode cordimana), Sand Bubbler Crabs (Scopimera inflata) and Orange-clawed Fiddler Crabs (Uca vomeris), which are also found right here on Fraser Island.

A lone Solider Crab on the western beach of Fraser
DID YOU KNOW Soldier Crabs feed on detritus (organic matter produced by the decomposition of organisms) and microorganisms in the sand? They do this by travelling across the beach at low tide and by using their claws bring sand up to their mouth – a process which leaves round pellets on the beach behind them.

When the feeding’s done; the tide rises; or if spooked, the crabs bury themselves in a corkscrew fashion under the sand in essentially a sand cocoon with enough room for air and a sand cap on top for added protection against predators such as migratory wader birds and rays.

A stone’s throw from the beach, and we have been under attack in our Wallum heath by the villainous feral Cane Toad (Rhinella marina) – a species that is native to Central and South America and was introduced into Australia to control the native grey-backed cane beetle which were destroying sugar crops.  Since their release, feral toads have bred rapidly and have fast become pests in their own right.
Cane Toad  Pic: camilletravels.wordpress.com

FERAL FACT: According to Wikipedia, the long-term effects of toads on the Australian environment are difficult to determine, however effects include the depletion of native species that die eating cane toads; the poisoning of pets and humans; depletion of native fauna preyed on by cane toads; and reduced prey populations for native insectivores, such as skinks.

In news that has the scientific community on their toady toes, a group of scientists from the University of Sydney have been trialling a new eradication program at Waddy Point on Fraser Island - using the cane toads’ venom against their spawn aims to stop the breeding cycle. Cane Toad tadpoles are attracted by the venom and are caught in traps – researchers caught up to 10,000 a day - whilst native tadpoles are repelled by the venom and hop the other way.

The scientists say results have been excellent and that this novel approach could hold the key to completely eradicating this pest in our island backyard.  Until this happens, we have our very own superhero to help thwart this dastardly foe - the one and only Keelback or Freshwater Snake (Tropidonophis mairii).  This very mild-mannered, non-venomous snake is a part of the Colubridae family of ‘rear fanged’ snakes which includes a couple of other island residents - the Brown Tree Snake or ‘Night Tiger’ (Boiga irregularis), and the Common or Green Tree Snake (Dendrelaphis punctulata).
Keelbacks eat toads and frogs. Pic: canetoadsinoz.com

Rarely seen around the resort, you’ll find Keelbacks in well-watered habitats near creeks or in low lying areas on Fraser Island as well as along the eastern and northern coasts of Queensland.

What we love is that this species has become a true unsung hero of Fraser Island - and Queensland for that matter - as they are one of the only native snake species to have a tolerance to the bufotoxin, which Cane Toads produce from glands along their backs and behind their eyes.  This, of course, has allowed them to successfully prey upon our island feral Cane Toads and help control population numbers.

As you can see, it’s been an action-packed last month and, if you’re an environmental nerd like us, or just have a natural curiosity for nature – then we definitely have something here on Fraser Island to pique your interest.  Until next time fellow eco-enthusiasts, this is Ranger Aaron signing off from Kingfisher Bay Resort.

February 11, 2015

February: Love Is In The Wallum And All Around Us On Fraser Island

The heart-shaped Lake Mckenzie. Pic: Caters News Agency
Fraser Island is a haven for nature lovers and, with February 14 just around the corner, it seems our amorous Short-beaked Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus) are taking full advantage of Cupid’s bow with lovelorn males seeking out female company in the wallum scrub.  On the Great Sandy Strait, an algae bloom hotspot has become a fish feeding magnet which the Hervey Bay fishing industry - and lovers of fresh seafood - is enjoying.

Volunteers are helping our Loggerheads survive on Fraser
And, on the northern most tip of Fraser, our endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) nests are being purged and the eggs/hatchlings are being lovingly cared for by the volunteers - under the direction of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Rangers.  All in all, Valentine’s month is a lover-ly time to be on Fraser.

DID YOU KNOW that the Loggerhead Turtle eggs need to be transported in their original north-south alignment if they are shifted more than one hour after they have been laid?  If this doesn’t happen, the egg contents detach from the shell and become infertile.  Volunteers mark the eggs with the depth they were found, the number of eggs in the nest and the alignment (this magnetic field allows the turtle to return to its birthplace to mate and lay its own eggs).

Halfband Snake Eel. Pic: Australian Museum
In our front yard, Kingfisher Bay Resort guests and staff often glimpse tiny eel-like creatures (about 30cm long with a cream body and brownish and yellow blotches) swimming along the surface of the water at the end of the jetty and come and ask us what they are.

The best answers we’ve heard are baby sea snakes or miniature Moray Eels (Muraenidae are a family of Cosmopolitan eels), but we’re busting those myths right here today and can in fact confirm that these elusive creatures are actually known as Halfband Snake Eels (Malvoliophis pinguis - pictured left) and are one of several species of eels in the family Ophichthidae.

We’ve been able to identify them by the tiny brown spots around the head and their sharp little teeth – which sounds nasty, but they're harmless to humans. The Halfband Snake Eel is endemic to Australia, populating shallow waters from central QLD to southern NSW.  They can be found hunting along the sea floor and can actually slither right under the sand during their search for food.

A splash of pink from this skink. Pic: Normf, Redbubble
On our more formal Ranger-guided walks over the past month, we were delighted to spot two Pink-tongued Skinks (Cyclodomorphus gerrardii) slithering through the grass near the Sunset Beach.  These skinks are similar in appearance to their more widely known cousins, the Blue-tongued Lizards (Tiliqua scincoides) – though the length of the tail is a dead giveaway.

Pink-tongued skinks have a very long tail - in fact, in the dark, we mistook the skinks for snakes at first - and they can grow up to around 30-40cm in length. As their name suggests, their mouth is pink (see pic above) and, when threatened, they open their mouth, inflate their bodies and make hissing noises to warn off their attacker. The majority of their diet consists of slugs and snails and, unlike some large skinks; they can climb to retrieve their food.

The skinks share the island with one of the strangest animals we have on Fraser Island -  our Short-beaked Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus) - which belong to a group of mammals known as monotremes (a group including the Echidna and Platypus). As we alluded to in our intro, Echidnas are out in force this time of year and can sometimes be seen on the Ranger-guided night walks shuffling around in the undergrowth looking for insects (mainly ants and termites).

Spotted! A Short-beaked Echidna on one of our guided walks
RANGER FACT: Monotremes are quite different from other mammals because they have the ability to lay eggs.  Echidnas lay a single leathery egg and carry this around in their pouch for about 10 days until the baby Echidna (known as a Puggle) emerges. 

The Puggle breaks out of the egg using an egg tooth and then continues to grow in the mother’s pouch for around three months.  

During this time, the Puggle is fed milk from the mother, but it is secreted by pores in the skin rather than a nipple.  Young Puggles develop a soft layer of hair and spines and, once they leave the pouch, remain protected in a burrow - sometimes up to a year - until ready to fend for themselves. 

At Kingfisher Bay, our team are committed to spreading our environmental message - for example, on our jetty,  we use Tangler bins for fisherfolk to dispose of their old lines instead of them blowing into the ocean.  This month we urge everyone to watch what you throw out and where - biodegradable bags may break down in soil, but they cause havoc in our oceans for animals like our Loggerhead Turtles. There’s an awesome campaign called Take 3, which is encouraging Aussies to take three pieces of rubbish with them when they leave a beach or waterway, and we’re certainly encouraging that here on island.

Every little bit counts! Catch you next time, Tree Huggers.