April's Been A ‘Shore’ Thing For Our Fraser Island Twitchers

On Fraser Island, February to April is our migratory bird season and, during this time, we welcome our transient bird population who, as part of their migratory pattern, fly north for the winter and then flock back in the summer and spring to feast on the island's abundant supply of crabs, worms and crustaceans.

Some 354 species of birds have been officially sighted on the island and in the resort grounds. You may not know that parts of World Heritage-listed Fraser Island (in particular a sand passage estuary that runs between Hervey Bay and Fraser Island) are listed as a Ramsar wetland site – which is essentially a site of international importance, often because of the plant species that are there, and because of the protected migratory birds that can be seen inhabiting those wetlands.

A lot of the shorebirds we see on Fraser Island are migratory and 18 of them are actually listed under international migratory bird conservation agreements. With this in mind we always encourage our resort guests and Junior Eco Rangers to take care not to disturb nests and to observe signs when walking near wetlands.

A White-faced Heron
This month we're pleased to report that we have spotted several of our shorebird species - including Herons and Egrets – when we’ve been out on our Ranger-guided beach walks.  Both species are beautiful to look at and commonly found in wetlands and intertidal mudflats, both of which we have here at the resort.

The White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollindiae - see right) or White-fronted Heron, as it is sometimes called, is easily identified by its height – these birds can grow up to 70cm – and by its pale grey-blue back feathers, long yellow legs and white cheeks.  In flight, the dark feathers of the wing contrast with the pale plumage making it easy to spot.

When we’ve been out, we’ve spotted our Herons wading along the shoreline or stooping down to dig their beak into the soft sand to pluck out some of the crabs and other tasty morsels like sea snails and exposed yabbies.

Another fabulous shorebird, the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta - pictured below), is a small, nomadic bird that has wide distribution across eastern and south-eastern Australia and, on Fraser, is commonly found hunting from a perch in a mangrove tree near Kingfisher Bay Resort.  Little Egrets are slightly smaller than the Herons and grow between 56 and 65 centimetres tall.

Did you know that The Little Egret will spread one or both of its wings to shade the water whilst stalking prey? It's fascinating to watch

The Little Egret is also know as The Lesser Egret
As you'll see from our photo, these birds are almost completely white, except for their dark grey-black legs and black bill with yellow colouring on either side of the bill.  Interestingly, in the breeding season their plumage is abundant on the back and breast and includes two ribbon-like head plumes.

On Fraser Island we also see the large, thick-set Beach Stone Curlews (Esacus neglectus) waders from time to time and April was no exception.

This particular species is listed as vulnerable in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and has one of the strongest beaks out of all the shorebirds, which allows them to easily crush crab shells and prize open bivalves (i.e. oysters, mussels, scallops).

Beach Stone Curlews are usually found solitarily or in pairs and need a runway and a good run in order to take off in flight   At high tide they can be found roosting around mangroves or in the shade of trees - their habitat is marine tidal zones, which fits the western coast of Fraser Island to a tee.  We haven’t seen their chicks or nests yet, but suspect there is bound to be quite a few on the western side of Fraser - so we'll keep you posted.

Well as you've read, it’s been a great much for bird watching on Fraser – stay tuned to find out what we spot next month.  Happy twitching.