There's Plenty For Night Owls To See On Fraser Island This Autumn

As the sun dips below the horizon on another autumn Fraser day, all sorts of wonderful creatures go about their business in the bushland surrounding the resort.  The diversity of the island’s habitat supports a wide range of animals including many nocturnal species.

Nothing upsets this little Pacific Black Duck!
At the moment Black Flying Foxes (Pteropus alecto) are commuting nightly to Fraser Island from daytime roosts in Hervey Bay and at the mouth of the Mary River on the mainland; and our Villa guests are starting to see our resident marsupials – the Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) and Squirrel Gliders (P.norfolcensis) and the smallest gliding marsupials in the world – the Feathertail Gliders (Acrobates pygmaeus) –  gliding between the branches and treetops in search of nectar and insects. We expect to see more of these little guys on our Ranger-guided autumn night walks.

This month two of our regular resort visitors – in the form of Pacific Black Ducks (Anas superciliosa) - have returned to their Wallum Wetlands (just a stone’s throw from Kingfisher Bay’s Centre Complex) after an absence of several months.  These birds have a fairly dull brown appearance with some mottling on their side and chest, but have vivid splashes of colour on a spot on the side of their wings called a speculum (see right).

Diagram credit:
If you watch as these ducks move, the wing colours switch from a dull brown to purple to vivid green and back to brown.  This is due to the way their feathers interlock, which in turn reflects different wavelengths of light.

All birds need to preen themselves, using their beak to rearrange their feathers and keep them orderly.

DID YOU KNOW that it is essential for ducks to preen and keep their feathers not only orderly, but watertight?  If they don’t, they could drown under their own body weight! 

Whilst spiders aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, there’s no doubt that intricate spider webs glistening in the moonlight are a thing of beauty.  At night time, our harmless Net-casting spiders (Deinopis sp) spin small, pretty made of thick, bluish-white cribellate* silk in bushland nooks – which we sometimes spot on our guided night walks or with our Junior Eco Rangers.

Net-casting spiders can be found along the east coast of Australia in a wide variety of habitats and have a really interesting way of ambush hunting.   At night, these stick-like spiders build rectangular webs (about the size of a postage stamp) and deposit spots of white faeces on the surface to act as aiming spots.  The spider then hangs from a thread of silk, holding the net in its front pairs of legs and waits patiently for its dinner (see picture below).

Net-casting spiders create miniature works of art
When unsuspecting insects fly into the web, the spiders - which are super-sensitive to any movement in their web - rush over, break a strand off their web and wrap it securely around their prey.

Often, whilst eating their dinner, the spider starts building a new net for its next meal.  These spiders have extremely good night vision and can concentrate available light more efficiently than owls or domestic cats making them extremely good predators in the night-time environment.

Speaking of the environment, there are many who read our blogs who care a lot about the conservation and the effects of climate change on sea levels and global fauna and flora.  As a developed society, the amount of energy we use is of concern.  Kingfisher Bay Resort's vision since opening has been to educate staff, guests and regional district – from schools through to townsfolk – about the environment and our impact upon it... so we joined the global Earth Hour community on March 23 to show what one simple idea can achieve and one person's actions can inspire.

Catch you next time, tree huggers... and if you have any fabulous flora or fauna shots that you've snapped on Fraser Island, we'd love to see them on our Facebook or Instagram pages.  And, if you're interested to know more about island life, check out our Life on Fraser blog.

*A small sieve-like spinning organ in certain spiders that occurs between the spinnerets.