All Hail The Holy Grail Of Quails...

December was, as always, a bird watcher’s delight here on beautiful Fraser Island. Kingfisher Bay Resort guests disembarked the ferry to friendly greetings by our aerobatic Welcome Swallows – who dipped and dived through the air chasing down a bug-gy meal.

The Welcome Swallows’ muddy nests – filled with fluffy fledglings – were easily spotted from under the resort’s Jetty on the western side of Fraser… and were a definite highlight on our early morning bird walks.

Walking through the Wallum Heathland – just a stone’s throw from the resort’s Centre Complex - always excites our Ranger team and the Twitchers who come and stay with us. There are no manicured lawns and rose gardens here at Kingfisher Bay and when the resort was built, the landscaping was designed to mirror the native vegetation and ensure the protection of the gene pool.

Many thousands of plants were removed prior to construction and held in an on-site nursery for replanting later. A further 150,000 plants were raised from seeds and cuttings. The success of the revegetation in the area can be judged by the abundance of wildflowers and native wildlife nesting and feeding in the bush around the resort.

This month, we were pleased to see plenty of Bar Shouldered Doves going about their daily business. These uniquely marked doves – adults have a blue-grey head neck and upper breast with a distinctive reddish-bronze patch on the hind neck with dark barring - have a unique feeding habit. Once the young hatches, both parents feed them with a source of milk known as Crop Milk. After about a week the young chick is weened onto an adult diet of seeds.

Our fabulous White Cheeked Honeyeaters were all aflutter as them flitted from blossom to blossom on the Swamp Banskias in the resort grounds – they were too engrossed to spare a thought about our cameras and curiosity. The White Cheeked Honeyeaters’ busy feeding behaviour along with the Brown Honeyeater and the Blue Faced Honeyeater helps to pollinate our local plant life.

However, the word on everyone’s lips this month was ‘Quail’. A few lucky twitchers were treated to several sightings of the super-shy Brown Quail (pictured above; image courtesy of Wikipedia) - a bird very rarely seen around the resort grounds. Though the holy grail of quails; the Black Breasted Button Quail eluded us for the year, we remain hopeful we’ll spot our BBBQ courting pair in the coming months. The species is listed as vulnerable in Queensland due to habitat loss and exotic species and Fraser Island is one of the few safe havens left for this ground dwelling bird. Fingers crossed for 2012!

With December coming to an end, we look forward to a bird watching bonanza in 2012 - may it bring some feathered surprises with it. This is Ranger Kelly sighing off until next month.

December's Been A Magical Month of Marine Magic

Kingfisher Bay Resort’s Jetty has been a popular hangout with fisher folk after the ‘catch of the day’ and with resort guests wandering down to watch mango-coloured sunsets over the Great Sandy Strait. And with December’s the gorgeous weather – it was also popular feature on our Ranger-guided night walk trail.

The jetty’s infrastructure creates the perfect platform for viewing the intertidal zone – or the seafloor exposed by the low tide - and the creatures that normally lurk beneath the surface. Our guests continue to be fascinated by the moving wave of hundreds upon hundreds of Solider Crabs and Ghost Crabs swarming the area looking for food.

These animals are prime examples of the many organisms that have adapted to this extreme environment. Whilst it’s great for fishermen and the guests that paddle the water’s edge; for marine creatures it represents a combination of voluminous nutrients from the sea, saline and fresh water from Dundonga Creek, and harsh sunlight conditions during tidal changes.

Guests delighted when we spotted Bottlenose Dolphins (file picture - see above) on numerous occasions. Working as a team, they glided through the water in rings, flipping fish out of the air and catching them swiftly in their mouth. It was magical to be just a stone’s throw from the resort, but so close to the action and we hope to see them continue their fun in the coming months.

Other marine life capturing our attention included some particularly large Stingrays, Loggerhead Sea Turtles - which can also be spotted on our guided creek canoe paddles – and ruby-coloured Squid. Deep sea squid are generally this dark red colour because the red wavelength doesn’t penetrate into the deep sea, making them nearly invisible.

Around the rest of the resort, scattered December rain brought our Wallum area to life with a number of species of frogs competing with one another for the loudest croak. The fresh water lakes around Kingfisher’s grounds are naturally acidic and create a special habitat for a lot of these vulnerable acid frog species such as the Wallum Rocket Frogs and Striped Rocket Frog – which are often spotted from the boardwalks. Large Green Tree Frogs and the comparatively smaller Cooloola Sedge Frog were also heard within the chorus.

Spotting our nocturnal flighty friends - the Tawny Frogmouths - requires keen eyes. These gorgeous non-raptorial birds are masters of disguise and are able to perfectly mimic a part of a tree branch.

Birdy Fact:
Did you know that many Aussies refer to the Tawny Frogmouth by the colloquial name of Mopoke?

While Tawny Frogmouths are often confused with Owls, they are actually more closely related to the Nightjars. Their feet are quite weak, mostly used for perching and they lack the curved talons of Owls.

Keep your eyes peeled for Ranger Kelly’s December bird wrap up – it’s coming soon.