January 20, 2014

Summer, The Silly Season And Other Rangery Stuff

Hi there tree huggers, it’s been a little while since our last blog as it has been all hands on deck as we celebrated the busy silly season on Fraser Island and proceeded full-steam ahead into 2014. The stable weather conditions in and around Hervey Bay and on the Great Sandy Strait have produced an abundance of small schooling fish, as well as Mullet (Mugilidae spp), Mangrove Jack (Lutjanus argentimaculatus) and Sand Whiting (Sillago ciliata) off our jetty, much to the delight of visiting fisher folk and attendees at our fishing clinics.
The Brown Cuckoo-Dove. Source: photos.beilby.com

Valentine’s Day is just under a month away for us humans and, in the animal world, this time of year generally marks the start of the breeding season for a lot of our island residents.  During the day, Major Skinks (Bellatorias frerei) sun themselves next to the walking trails and, during our balmy summer nights, our male frogs come out in the Wallum low heath and call to attract a mate.

Our Brown Cuckoo-Doves (Macropygia amboinensis) also start breeding early in the New Year on Fraser Island.  Males have a full chestnut body, whilst the females have a scaly pattern on their breast and both have a long graduated tail. Primarily a rainforest species, we have spotted these guys at The Sand Bar and perched by the main resort pool during our morning bird walks.  Keep an eye out in the forks in the tree tops for their platform-like nest made of sticks and vines.

*DID YOU KNOW: The earliest bird species evolved from dinosaurs
and birds still have the genes to grow teeth?  Beaks and feathers are also thought to be complex, modified scales.

The very distinctive Noisy Friarbird. Source: bushpea.com

Noisy Friarbirds (Philemon corniculatus - pictured left) have a bit of a pre-historic look and been easily spotted on our guided Bird Walks, helped in part by their distinctive call that sounds like a crazy cackling clown and earns them their nickname as a Jester of the bird world.

We have to say, this bird is not the most attractive of the honeyeater family - it sports a bald black head, a prominent bump a third of the way along their beak (called a casque) and non-descript light grey feathers – but it’s certainly one of the larger (and louder) birds we are seeing feeding in and around the resort at the moment.   

Vibrant colours. Source: QPWS
Speaking of honeyeaters, the slow-growing Swamp Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea fulva - pictured right), which is dispersing seeds at the moment,  is a valuable food source for our honeyeater and insect species – particularly in spring when they flower or when they flower as a direct response to a wildfire (or mosaic burning where we reduces the fire load in the bush by burning off patches).  

Swamp Grass Trees were also a valuable food source for the Butchulla tribe who used to dip the flowering spikes in water to make a sweet beverage.  Butchulla kids would even lick the nectar straight off the flower spike like a lollipop.  This Australian native is under threat on the mainland, mainly due to urban development, but can be found flourishing at Kingfisher Bay (generally near the helipad and in the wallum) and across the island. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect to see are our delicious Midyim Berry (Austromyrtus dulcis) bushes fruiting and increased numbers of colourful dragonflies.  We look forward to welcoming you to enjoy these experiences.