A Summery Feast For Fraser's Honey Gluttons

FRASER ISLAND: Well, the tail end of summer has brought with it some much needed rain which has, in turn, hardened the island’s tracks nicely for our four-wheel-drive visitors. We’ve also seen lots of Lemon-scented Tea Tree (Leptospermum petersonii) and Swamp Banksia (Banskia robur), which are native to the area, starting to fruit and flower.  And, for treehuggers like myself, we’ve noticed many bird species flocking back to our shores.

Glutton for food - a fledgling Lewin's Honeyeater
Out and about in the resort grounds on our Ranger-guided bird walks we’ve seen (and definitely heard) some old favourites including Lewin’s Honeyeaters (Meliphagos lewinii - pictured right) going about their business in and around the resort’s restaurants and wallum heath area.  Lewin’s Honeyeaters have a distinctive machine-gun-like call and, in addition to insects and fruit, love to feed on nectar and honey (so the Swamp Banksia in the wallum health, on Fraser Island’s western side are ideal).

DID YOU KNOW? The Lewin’s Honeyeater’s Latin name of ‘Meliphagos’ actually means ‘honey glutton’ – which suits these little birds perfectly.  

Before the Europeans came to Australia, the Aboriginal people used fire to help them manage the environment, using a practise called mosaic burning.  Mosaic burning is essentially a controlled, low intensity burn that sweeps through the under-story of the bush in designated areas and creates a patchwork of burnt and unburnt bush areas.

A burst of colour in a barren landscape
Last May the resort conducted a small, controlled mosaic burn in the wallum to reduce the fuel load near our Centre Complex and hotel wings, but this style of burn also helped enhance our ecological diversity in the wallum heath by maintaining plant, animal and habitat needs.

If you take a look at our native Banksia seed pods in Australia, you could be forgiven for wondering how the fragile seeds could possibly break through the hard outer shell.  This is a great talking point on our Ranger-guided walks as we explain that when fire sweeps through bushland naturally (or in this case through the mosaic burn), it causes the pods to open and the seed to fall out and germinate within the ash resulting in a whole new generation of plants.  This is what we’re seeing at the moment in the wallum.

In fact, Mother Nature is truly amazing and within days of the burn, we started to see gorgeous green shoots sprouting up from our Sword Grass (Ghania clarkei - pictured above), Wide Bay Boronia (Boronia rivularis) and the Foxtail Sedge (Cautis blakei) and now, some 10 months later, the heath is looking fantastic.  This mosaic effect allows animals and birdlife can still flourish in the wallum and one species – the White Cheeked Honeyeater (Phylidonyris nigra) - which temporarily disappeared is now flocking back as their food stock is naturally replenished.

A White-bellied Sea Eagle in the skies above Fraser
On the Ranger-guided canoe paddles we have seen some majestic birds of prey, such as the White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster - pictured right) and, more frequently, the Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) in the skies above us. The White-bellied Sea Eagle is the second largest bird of prey in Australia, and the largest bird of prey on Fraser Island. With a wingspan of almost two metres, it’s not hard to see why they attract attention.

And of course, what would the pool area be like without our Welcome Swallows (Hirundo neoxena). These small and incredibly agile birds dart incessantly as they search for insects.  The fork-shaped tail is just one way we identify them, but with binoculars you’ll truly appreciate the beautiful navy blues and orange hues on their back and chest.

It’s been a busy few months at Kingfisher Bay Resort and as we head into autumn, we look forward to seeing what our furry, feathered and marine friends get up to.