February 20, 2014

Fraser’s Fabulous Fauna Flock In For A February Feast

February has offered up a moveable feast for Fraser Island’s animals along with some spectacular weather and fantastic wildlife spotting in and around the resort grounds.  The island’s native Midyim shrubs (Austromyrtus dulcis) love the sunny aspect near the resort’s tennis courts and are fruiting at the moment and our gorgeous Mistletoe birds (Dicaeum hirundinaceum) are in constant competition with Ranger Luke for the juiciest berries.

Shepherd's Crook Orchid (Source: wildwings.com.au)
Squirrel Gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis) have been seen feasting on wattle blossom and sap near the hotel and Australian Spotted Mackerel (Scomberomorus munroi),  Broad-barred King Mackerel (Scomberomorus semifasciatus) and young Golden Trevally (Gnathanodon speciosus) have been hanging out under Kingfisher Bay Resort's jetty.

In the resort grounds, Shepherd's Crook Orchids (Geodorum densiflorum - see left) are “going nuts at the moment” and are displaying flowers along long curving peduncles.  This species - which is listed as vulnerable as it is sensitive to disturbance - is easily identifiable by its pale pink lateral petals with crimson veins and a splash of bright yellow in the centre.

The Shepherd’s Crook Orchid is actually a terrestrial herb – which lays dormant in the winter and burst into life in January/February here on Fraser – and is a fixative for ochre painting in Aboriginal culture on the mainland.   Butchulla women kept a ‘mental map’ of the location of these plants so they could dig up the nutritious tubers in winter when no leaves or flowers were visible above ground.

A raucous Rainbow Lorikeet (Source: Leighton Wallis, Flickr)
The tail end of summer on Fraser has brought with it a little rain which has, in turn, hardened the island’s tracks 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 tree-huggers like myself, we’ve noticed many bird species flocking back to our shores.

The island’s exuberant Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) and other parrots species love this time of year and spend their days getting drunk on fermenting Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) blossom.  This is a really important food tree for heaps of species (from insects to fruit bats) and current research suggests that perhaps the nectar and sap are particularly high in nutrients.

DID YOU KNOW: On the Butchulla Aboriginal bush calendar, the arrival of Lorikeets was thought to signal an increase in fish species of good eating size - such as Mackerel (Scomberomorus spp) to the region?
Butchulla Butterfly nets were very effective on Fraser
Here on Fraser Island, the Butchulla people used to catch them in butterfly nets made of native hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) string and young bendable sapling.  With a net in each hand, Butchulla hunters would 'shepherd' the fish (with a movement much like a butterfly’s flapping wings) into shallow water, towards their mate with a fishing spear.

In the skies above, Fraser Island Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) - which nest in treetops on the western beach both to the north and south of the resort -  are taking advantage of the sunny conditions by making use of the thermal pockets.  Our Whistling Kites (Haliastur sphenurus), however, are extremely territorial and put on impressive aerial exhibits if the Osprey dare to invade their territory.

Our International guests and Junior Eco Rangers are fascinated by the arrival of another winged-species – the large colonies of Grey-headed Flying Foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) which fill the night skies at dusk over Fraser and use their incredible sense of smell and the lights from nearby townships to navigate their way to and from their feeding grounds.

As well as favouring fig and palm fruits, these fruit bats love the pollen and nectar of native hardwoods such as our Eucalypts and flock to Fraser to feed at night before returning to roost in Hervey Bay during the day.  Believe it or not, these little critters actually play a vital role in maintaining the health of our environment by pollinating and dispersing the seeds of native trees and contribute directly to regenerating our forest ecosystems.

Fraser Island's famous beachside residents
DID YOU KNOW: that mainland Australia has four species of Pteropus (wing-footed) flying-fox, all of them found in Queensland? The species are the Black, Grey-headed, Little Red and the Spectacled Flying Fox.

And, as we wrap up this blog, we’re pleased to report that Fraser Island’s most famous (or should that be notorious?) resident, the dingo (Canis lupis dingo) has been spotted on the western beach by guests enjoying a tipple at our Jetty Hut on dusk.

At this time of year our dingoes avoid the warm summer sun and tend to be more active at night as they hunt for food.   Well, after a fabulous February, we can’t wait to see what March brings on our guided walks, talks and paddles! Until next time tree-huggers, keep enjoying yourselves in our wonderful World Heritage-listed backyard.