August 23, 2012

Fraser’s Flockstars Put On A Spectacular August Concert!


No matter where you are in the world, we think it’s marvellous to wake up to the magic of birdsong – and with 354 different species of birds recorded on Fraser Island, you never know quite what warbling awaits of a morning.
These guys command a lot of attention
Kingfisher Bay Resort’s hotel wings, villas and houses were built to integrate with the natural environment.  During construction, plants were taken from the build site; were propagated in our onsite nurseries; and replanted back in and around the property – to attract natural birdlife.

So, if you are not a morning person and don’t wish to give up the comfort of your cosy room and join us on our early morning bird walks, you can still indulge in a spot bird watching from the comfort of your balcony (coffee in hand of course).

Birdsong starts in stages. The first layer is the territory song. A good example of this is in our Laughing Kookaburras – the world’s largest Kingfishers (see left).  Renowned as ‘Laughing Jacks’ in cultural folklore, the laugh is actually a verbal territory display, warning foolish rivals out of the family territory.

Ranger Fact: According to an Aboriginal legend, the Kookaburra’s laugh is actually a signal for the sky people to light the great fire in the sky that illuminate and warms the earth.

Kookaburras are family-oriented birds.  A group usually consist of one dominant breeding couple, other adult non-breeding birds, and immature birds from previous broods and juveniles .The adult non-breeding birds can be male or female, but not necessarily related to the dominant pair. They co-exist in a strict hierarchy and all pitch in to help with incubation, babysitting, feeding, teaching the chicks and defending territory.

If you’re in and around Kingfisher Bay - either as a resort or tour guest or on a day trip from Hervey Bay - the best place to spot our Kookaburra family is down at The Sand Bar – just a short stroll from the resort main Centre Complex or Jetty Hut - where they command plenty of attention from our guests and provide great photo opportunities.  They’re part of the Kingfisher family, and you may also spot their feathered relatives - the Azure and Forest Kingfishers flitting in and around the Wallum Heath at the front of the resort.

The next to rise in the mornings are the nectar feeders. As the saying goes the early bird will get the worm – but in this case it’s the honey. Honeyeaters are prolific around Kingfisher Bay Resort and on Fraser Island.  Already this month, we’ve spotted White-eared Honeyeaters, Noisy Friarbirds, White Throated Honeyeaters and Blue-faced Honeyeaters. 

One of the more rare sightings – for the twitchers amongst us - has been a pair of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos sighted along the Northern Lookout track.  Although not strictly nectar feeders, Cockatoos and Parrots are always up early to stake out the best feeding spots.

As the sun rises, our insect residents are the next to rise and add their song to the morning chorus.  Rufous Whistlers, Varied Trillers and Eastern Yellow Robins are frequent guests in and around the resort. And considering your food needs to warm up to be caught, it is logical for these feathered hunters to indulge in a sleep-in.

Morning are fabulous for bird watching on beautiful Fraser Island, so please stay tuned for more of our adventures or, better yet, come and join us on one of our Ranger-guided walks or talks on Fraser.  This is Ranger Amelia heading off to go and sing with the birds.

August 3, 2012

July: Winter Nights On Fraser Are Star-Studded Events


On winter, our days on Fraser Island are long, sunny and we’ve been enjoying temperatures up to 21 degrees.  Our evenings are slightly cooler (as the sand doesn’t tend to hold the sun’s heat for long after sunset), so we’ve been bringing out our beanies for our Ranger-guided night walks, where conditions have been perfect for a spot of stargazing.  

The island’s indigenous Butchulla Tribe have a vibrant cultural history with the stars, and since Australian Aboriginal culture is the oldest continuous culture in the world; it is possible that the Australian Aboriginal people were amongst of the world's oldest astronomers.

Many of our resort guests are used to the city lights and big smoke where only the biggest and brightest stars can be seen, so Kingfisher Bay’s clear skies - peppered with stars - are somewhat of a novelty.  We love the surprise on people’s faces when they find out just how many constellations are out there and learn of the rich culture that surrounds them.  
  
One of the most iconic and recognised Australian constellations is, of course, our Southern Cross or ‘The Crux’ as it is also known. Its name is symbolic with the Eureka Stockade; it has been written into the lyrics of ‘Advance Australia Fair’ (this song, by Scottish-born composer Peter Dodds McCormick, was first performed in 1878, but not officially adopted as the Australian National Anthem until 1984); and it is also the name of the victory song for the Australian National Cricket – ‘Under the Southern Cross I Stand’.

Traditionally, Aboriginal culture marks 'The Crux' and the Coalsack Nebula as the head of an Emu in the Sky (see right). Tribes would use the rise and fall of The Crux to mark the start of hunting seasons and gathering. One southern tribe also used The Crux to indicate the harvesting season for Emu eggs!

 Unlike our Northern Hemisphere counterparts, The Crux is visible year round in our night sky so it has been adopted in the colonial age as a national symbol by several southern nations. The brightest stars of The Crux appear on the flags of Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Samoa.

Just near The Crux is another well-known bright constellation ‘Centaurus’ containing Alpha and Beta Centauri – it’s one of the largest constellations; it was among the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer, Ptolemy; and remains one of the 88 modern constellations.

 As the name suggests, it is named after the centaur - Centaurus - whom legend says was the first person to group stars into constellations and teach others to read them.  Another explanation of the constellation is that Centaurus put a picture of himself in the sky to guide his sailor friends, the Argonauts.

A little closer to home, Aboriginal tribal legends from the south east coast see the Southern Cross as a stingray swimming across the sky with two sharks – the pointer stars Alpha and Beta Centauri – in hot pursuit.

Contemporary astronomers now know that Alpha Centauri is our closest neighbouring star system and is the nearest star to the Sun. Because of this, we can see Alpha Centauri during the brightest full moon!   Here’s a Ranger tip for you: We think the best place to observe this constellation is sitting on Fraser Island’s gorgeous western beach (directly in front of Kingfisher Bay Resort) with white sand and water tickling your toes.

Stay tuned for more Ranger Adventures next month as we see what our feathered friends have been up too.  And, if like me, you’re a mad keen astronomer, join astronomer, Noeleen Lowndes for 'International Observe The Moon Night' with us on September 22.  Until next month – happy star gazing – from Amelia and the Ranger Team.