September 12, 2014

Let Us Tell You About The Birds and The Bees And The Flowers….

A Tawny Frogmouth chick on Fraser Island 
It is shaping up to be a beautiful month here on Fraser Island and we are seeing some wonderful flowers and animals flourishing in the early stages of spring.  September is also Biodiversity Month in Australia and, for us, it is all about protecting the environment and conserving the species within our Great Sandy Biosphere.

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen Squirrel Gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis); Eastern Curlews (Numenius madagascariensis);, Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides - pictured left); and Bush Rats (Rattus fuscipes) among other animals and our wildflowers - including the Dusky Coral Pea (Kennedia rubicunda) and the Wide Bay Boronia (Boronia rivularis) - are beginning to blossom.

For those that like their flowers, the Woombye (Phebalium woombye) is a species of wildflower from the same family as the Boronias (Rutaceae).  Fraser Island’s Woombyes are in full bloom at the moment and the clusters of white flowers can be seen all around Kingfisher Bay Resort, particularly on the Great Sandy Strait Walk (overlooking nearby Hervey Bay) and around Dundonga Creek (just north of the resort). The small white flowers are surrounded by distinctive rusty coloured buds and the overall cluster is very attractive and is a favourite of wildflower lovers around the resort.

Native Bees are easily mistaken for small flies
The flowers are often surrounded by native stingless bees too which can make stunning photographs if you've got a quick eye and trigger finger.  

DID YOU KNOW in Butchulla tribal life, the honey bees – native bees about the size of a small bush fly – were guarded by very strict rules.  Tribe members were very selective when picking and gathering flowers, leaving the white flowers that were favoured by bees to make honey (used as a natural sweetener) and wax (used in canoe construction).  

For those that aren’t familiar with the Australian Native Stingless Bee (Tetragonula and Austroplebeia – see right), they can easily be mistaken for small flies and are one of the primary pollinators of Australian wildflowers. They also produce a honey that tastes great and is sold in small quantities (though it can be expensive since one hive produces only around 1 kg of honey each year).

There are around 14 species of stingless bees in Australia and recent scientific studies have shown that their honey has similar anti-microbial properties to that of Manuka honey - which is used as an effective ointment on wounds to prohibit infection and promote healing.

The complex hives of these bees contain a waxy substance made up of plant resins and bee secretions – called Propolis - which is it is this substance that has the scientific community abuzz as it is thought to help with anything from grazes and burns to oral hygiene issues.  We’ve spotted one of these hives near the beginning of the Sandy Straits walk. If you’re out and about, you can find them in one of two scarred White Cypress Pines (Callitris columellaris) near the beginning of the track, or just ask one of our Rangers!

An Eastern Curlew in full flight over the Great Sandy Strait
For those that have joined us on our Early Morning Bird Walks of late, we’ve been surprised to see of the first Eastern Curlews (Numenius madagascariensis - pictured left) of the season – they're easily identified by their long, curved beaks as the photo shows. 

These migratory birds are listed as near threatened in Queensland though they can be seen from September to November in large numbers. 

Through their life-cycle, they fly great distances from their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere and can  lose more than half of their body weight – so wetland areas surrounding Fraser Island are an essential habitat which allows them to replenish fat stores .

Also visible at low tide are our Rock Oysters (Saccostrea glomerata), which are a delicacy in restaurants around the world.  Unfortunately, many coastal areas are stripped of natural oysters in areas accessible to people, so it’s a nice treat to have a look at these oysters around our jetty, where they are largely untouched.

DID YOU KNOW in Queensland it is illegal to take oysters from the particular area you find them, although you are allowed to eat them on the spot?

Queensland Rock Oysters.  Pic: Queensland Country Life
Oysters are filter feeders and remove microorganisms from the sea water when they are inundated at high tide. Young oysters are known as ‘Spat’ and attach themselves to solid surfaces.  

In the spirit of biodiversity month, our team will always encourage you to leave the shell of an oyster on rocks after you consume them as it actually provides a good surface for new Spats to attach and helps sustain long term population growth.

Springtime is certainly a good season to explore the environment so, if you’re not headed our way to gorgeous Fraser Island; I’d say get out there and enjoy nature at its best!  Biodiversity month is a great time to start protecting the environment so check out this link for more information on how to do just that! 
Hope to see you on island soon, cheers Ranger Bec.