Dingo Pups And Paperbarks Make Their Mark On Our Fraser Summer...

Fraser Island has many unique natural values and the diversity of our flora and fauna continues to wow first timers to our sandy shores. Another wow factor comes when guests spot a purebred Fraser Island dingo (Canis dingo) - the apex predator that keeps our sandy ecosystem in balance. At this time of the year, young dingoes become playful and more independent and can be spotted out and about as they learn the fundamentals of hunting from the pack – much to the delight of our guests down on the western beach (outside the dingo fence) and on our Beauty Spots off-road day tours – particularly around Central Station in the heart of the island.

Puppy Love! @Gregorsnell has captured this beautifully
DID YOU KNOW Fraser Island’s dingoes are part of the island’s ecology and are protected by law?  Their survival relies on three management factors—education, engineering and enforcement.

Both Kingfisher Bay Resort and Eurong Beach Resort are surrounded by dingo fences to keep our famous dingoes from being loved too much (that’s the engineering part).  If you’re new to the island, please check out these few simple tips to help you remain DINGO SAFE when you’re in the Great Sandy National Park (education in action) and please don’t feed these animals as heavy fines apply (you guessed it, enforcement!).

A little closer to the resort, recent rainfall has been welcomed by the team and indeed by all across drought-stricken Queensland. On island, it has hardened up the tracks nicely as we head towards the busy Christmas holidays on Fraser. Summer also means blue skies and plenty of sun, which provides the perfect conditions to head out on our Ranger-guided canoe paddles or on our guided walks to spot some of Fraser’s weird and wonderful critters, including our Acid Frogs.  Creek Lilly Pillies (Acmena smithii) are also fruiting this month – their branches weighted down with the mass of berries which is bringing in many fruit eating birds and a few resort rangers.

Paperbarks make for stunning shots at Lake McKenzie
Another iconic Australian species that attracts attention is the Paperbark Tea Tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia), which is commonly found around the resort and on the island.  This species is easily spotted by its paper-like bark – hence the name - and can literally be pulled away from the tree in sheets (not that we advocate this).  You might recognise the shot of Lake McKenzie with the iconic paperbark taking centre stage (pictured left).

The Paperbark was a staple in the Butchulla medicine cabinet - tea tree oil (from the leaves) is a fantastic antiseptic; powder contained in the bark can be used as an antiseptic powder; and the sheets of bark themselves can be used as bandages.

Paperbark is also used in cooking - replacing aluminium foil for dishes like baked fish (just ask our Chefs in our signature, Seabelle restaurant, who have perfected a bush-inspired baked barramundi in paperbark on the menu).

Stonetool Sandblow. Picture: Peter Meyer Photography
RANGER FACT: Nectar from the bottlebrush-like flowers can be mixed with water to make a natural cordial. 

December is also the time that we welcome our visiting “sand man” and one of the country’s leading geomorphologists, Dr. Errol Stock, back to the resort for a series of guest presentations on how earth scientists use their magic to reveal the secrets of Fraser’s dunes.

According to Doctor Errol, it’s easy to fall under the spell of Fraser Island’s dunes. In pulses linked to geological and climatic cycles, and for more than two million years, sand has accumulated on a hard basement of sedimentary and volcanic rocks so that only a few headlands and small outcrops remain visible to hint at nature’s cloaking magic. It’s fascinating stuff – especially for us tree huggers - and we’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks on our blog.

As you can see, it’s been an action-packed few months here on Fraser and we are looking forward to a bright new year filled with plants, animals, beach and sun!  Merry Christmas everybody, cheers Ranger Bec.

It’s Been An Historic Month For Fraser Island’s Butchulla People

What a month we’ve had on Fraser Island. Whilst Sydney hosted the World Parks Congress (a once-a-decade landmark global forum for protecting areas of conservation), this month in our own biosphere/backyard, we’ve been enjoying fantastic swimming weather and some wonderful photo opps on our guided walks and talks thanks to the flowering of our Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea johnsonii).  We've also witnessed some historic events in our island's history, including the handover of Native Title rights to the Butchulla tribe and the discovery of indigenous burial sites on island.

Rainbow Lorikeet feasting on a Grass Tree. Pic: Peter Meyer
Those that have visited recently will know that our Grass Trees have been in full flower at Kingfisher Bay Resort this month which in turn has brought a whole host of animals in close to our bark covered walking tracks for rare photo opportunities while they feed on the tall flower spikes.  Squirrel Gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis) have feasted as have our Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus - pictured left), our White Cheeked Honeyeaters (Phylidonyris nigra) and our Blue Faced Honeyeaters (Entomyzon cyanotis).

DID YOU KNOW Grass Trees are terrifically adapted to suit the Australian environment?

In Australia, especially in areas occupied by Aborigines, fires are a frequent occurrence and as such many Australian plants have evolved to tolerate and sometimes even rely on fire. Grass Trees flower best after exposure to gases released during fire and the old bases of the leaves help to insulate the vulnerable growth points during these extreme temperature events. The trunk of the grass tree appears black from old ash and tends to grow very slowly (only around a centimetre a year).   Here at the resort, we conduct regular mosaic burns to reduce the fire load and to help our native plants propagate.

The end of October saw in an historic day in Fraser Island’s history as the Federal Court of Australia conducted a special on-country sitting at Kingfisher Bay to award Native Title over the land and waters of Fraser Island to the traditional owners of the land – The Butchulla.

Young and old joined in the celebrations. Pic: Jocelyn Watt
More than 400 Butchulla people from Hervey Bay and surrounding areas were in attendance as Federal Court Justice Berna Collier gave out copies of the native title determination to Elders during the event. Traditional music and dance demonstrations took place near a campfire; kids celebrated on the beach; and the smell of the smoke from the ceremonial smoking ceremony added to the atmosphere which really was quite remarkable.

This decision is a significant achievement for all of the local Butchulla people who have worked for many years to be recognised as traditional owners of K'Gari, as the island is known to them.   This ruling allows the Butchulla people to hunt, fish and camp on the island as well as conduct traditional ceremonies (but doesn’t affect existing rights on the island in terms of freehold land, National Parks and conducting tours).

Traditional dancing at Kingfisher Bay.  Pic: Jocelyn Watt
The team at Kingfisher Bay is very supportive of this recognition of a very important aspect of the island’s history and are excited to see what the future brings.  The decision should also see Butchulla opinions on island management and protection having a heavier weighting, and open up opportunities for them in terms of economic development on the island.

Back in our July blog, we mentioned Queensland scientists were searching for a century-old Aboriginal burial ground.  This month, in another significant milestone for the Butchulla people, 70 indigenous graves were discovered on Fraser.

The graves were likely dug during operation of the island’s ill-fated Bogimbah Creek Mission (1897-1904) where many drug or alcohol dependent Aborigines, and those that lived in areas sought after for agricultural development, were relocated into an area on the western side of Fraser Island under a government-run scheme. Tragically, conditions were appalling and many died from disease and malnutrition.

Radars towed behind a research vehicle Pic: USC
Soil scientists used Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to locate the graves and we understand there is no plan to excavate them. The discovery of the site will enable its protection and whilst showcasing a tragic part of the island’s history, the process has had a healing effect on the Butchulla Tribe and Rangers who helped with the search.

As you can see, it's been nothing short of remarkable here on the world's largest sand island and we’re looking forward to a great summer ahead where we can soak up the relaxed beach atmosphere and the phenomenal environment around us.  Hope to see you soon, Ranger Bec.

SPRING: We Farewell Our Holidaying Humpbacks And Welcome Our Pups

Springtime is beautiful on Fraser Island as our wildflowers, including the rarely seen and aptly named Fraser Island Creeper (Tecomanthe hilli) – with its clusters of pink tubular flowers – bloom on island.  Lesser Swamp Orchids (Phaius australis) have also been in full bloom near the pool at Kingfisher Bay Resort much to the delight of guests including Cheryl Byrne, who sent us in this great picture (below).

Cheryl  Byrne has perfectly captured this delicate orchid
This particular endangered species exhibits fantastic clusters of colourful purple, white and russet flowers that typically stand around waist height. The natural range of the Lesser Swamp Orchid is the eastern coast of QLD and coastal areas of NSW as far south as Port Macquarie in NSW, but the species is under threat from industrial development where swamp areas are cleared or drained, and also by the illegal collection of the species for horticulture and cut flowers.

At Kingfisher Bay, our Head Gardener, Pete, has been lovingly propagating the species in our nursery and several of the plants have been placed around the resort providing our guests with a rare viewing opportunity.

Spring is a time when we farewell our migrating humpback whales and welcome this year’s dingo pups (Canis dingo) from their dens on island! The annual dingo breeding season is from April to June with pups being born around nine weeks after conception – it’s a very short gestation period)

It's a dingo's life on Fraser Island. Pic by Troy Geltch
The pups are typically born in early spring and begin to emerge several weeks after this. Litters usually range from four to six pups but can be as large at ten pups. The alpha pair in each pack are the only successful breeders and subordinate animals help to rear the young.

Subordinate females actually suckle the alpha pair’s pups which enables the maximum chance of survival for the newest generation of the pack.

Please remember to follow our simple Dingo Safety rules when out and about in the Great Sandy National Park.

DID YOU KNOW that Queensland Parks and Wildlife have installed wildlife cameras on Fraser Island? If you’re headed our way, be sure to check out the brand-new dingo interp (featuring fabulous footage of our new dingo pups) at Central Station.  Parks have also installed rhyming dingo signage on Fraser and it’s quite the talking point.

Fifty shades of green. Pic by Peppergrass.org
Back at the resort, we’ve spotted Green Paddle Worms (Phyllodoce novaehollandiae - see right) on our Ranger-guided Beach and Mangrove walks on the western side of Fraser at low tide.  These curious little creatures that inhabit the intertidal zones of eastern Australia and, as the name suggests, are fluorescent green and have thousands of tiny paddle-like appendages along each side of the body. These paddles beat rhythmically and help propel the worm through shallow layers of water above the sand at low tide.

Our resident Green Paddle Worms are a great hit with the kids on our Junior Eco Ranger program as they shine iridescent colours in the sun and, if allowed to travel over the skin, provide a tickling sensation. Little is known about the species and they are certainly one of the wonders of the intertidal zone.

Geoff Cameron had a prime viewing spot to capture the action
This month, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the ‘blood moon’ eclipse in the clear night sky on October 8th. Total lunar eclipses such as this occur when the sun, earth and moon from a straight line and the earth blocks all direct sunlight to the moon.

While the earth’s shadow is cast over the moon it is still visible as sunlight refracted by the earth’s atmosphere falls upon it. The moon appears red because shorter wavelengths of light (such as blues and violets) are scattered by dust particles in the atmosphere to a greater degree than the longer wavelengths of red light.

Total lunar eclipses can typically be seen from any given location every few years, but of course cloud coverage can devastate viewing opportunities.

Thankfully the night was clear and (with the lack of bright city lights in our World Heritage-listed backyard) the Kingfisher Bay Jetty was the perfect vantage point with many guests snapping spectacular photos.  One of our regular resort guests (and one of our island's bridal alumni) Geoff Cameron, managed to shoot some spectacular shots of the moon turning blood red from Kingfisher Bay Resort.

The weather on Fraser is gorgeous at the moment and set to get even better as we head into summer.  Fishermen are still catching Tailor on the eastern beach and, with the rainfall we’ve had, the tracks are not as dry as we’d normally expect at this time of year.  All in all, it’s boding well for a fantastic November and we’ll be here to keep you updated with all things wild and wonderful in our island paradise.  Cheers, Ranger Bec.

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. 

It’s Winter On Fraser: Fishermen Are Flocking, Wedding Bushes Are Flowering And Dingo Pups Are Exploring…

The Wedding Bush is one of the most unusual plants on Fraser Island in that it can produce both male and female flowers on the one specimen.  At this time of year, when our Wedding Bushes (Ricinocarpos pinifolius) begin to flower their small, snowy white blossoms, we know it heralds the start of the annual running of the Tailor (Pomatomus saltatrix) on island. Winter was usually a prosperous season for the original inhabitants of Fraser Island - the Butchulla tribe - and one of the most important doctrines of tribal life was “if you have plenty you must share”… consequently many visitors would brave the Great Sandy Strait to share their bounty of fish.

Tailor season on Fraser. Pic: Cody Doucette, Matador Network
These days on Fraser, hundreds of fisher folk flock to Fraser hoping to catch Tailor (size limit is 35cm and there is a species’ limit of 20) and Jewfish (Protonibea diacanthus) off the eastern beach.  

Whilst it is still early days in the season, the Tailor have been keeping out wide to feed on huge schools of bait fish, but we expect them to head inshore as the north-westerlies blow.  South of Eurong, they’ve been landing some big Jewies in the gutters near First Creek.

A Dugong in the Great Sandy Strait Pic: The Gympie Times

Back to the western side, one species that we have welcomed back to our shores with open arms is the Dugong (Dugong dugon - pictured right).  These large herbivorous mammals with paddle-like forelimbs and a broad, horizontally flattened tail are on the endangered species list.  

Dugongs are closely related to the extinct Sea Cow (Hydrodamalis gigas) and feast on seagrass meadows - there are seven seagrass species in the The Great Sandy Strait (which separates Fraser Island from Hervey Bay on the mainland) and they are very sensitive to human influence.

Dugong numbers declined locally after muddy waters from the 2011 Queensland floods impacted their food supply by cutting sunlight to the seagrass pastures.  Although Dugong population sizes are hard to determine, due to the large scale movements along the coastline, scientific evidence suggests a long-term decline. 

Dugong are generally solitary or they travel in pairs or small groups – so passengers aboard the Kingfisher Bay Ferry to River Heads were thrilled to see three surface to catch a breath beside the boat late last month.

At this time of year, the Fraser Island Creeper (Tecomanthe hillii) is also in full bloom around our Awinya hotel wing and main pool areas at the resort.  If you’re visiting us, keep an eye out for clusters of bright pink tubular flowers, which create bright splashes of colour among the foliage of the trees they climb up. The creeper is only found in a few small isolated areas of eastern Australia, so the flowers are a real treat for visitors from both Australia and overseas.  Rangers are more than happy to point them out on our Ranger-guided walks in and around the resort.

In last month’s blog we mentioned that White-cheeked Honeyeaters (Phylidonyris nigra) were nesting around the resort. This month, their super cute fledglings are out of the nest and begging for food from their parents.   Our resident White-bellied Sea Eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster) have also been putting on a show during our Ranger-guided canoe paddles - you can imagine our excitement when we saw two eagles fighting in mid air, locking talons and spiralling out of control!

A Dingo in repose at Eli Creek. Pic: Troy Geltch, Air Fraser Island
Winter time in our neck of the woods also marks the time that female dingoes give birth and consequently protect their young and their territory. Interestingly, an American Bear Researcher (Dr Hank Harlow from the University of Wyoming) recently told ABC News that the dingo management practices on Fraser Island are similar to what is used in the Yellowstone National Park for Grizzly Bears.

Dr Harlow says that unlike bears, convincing people to stay away from dingoes can be difficult. He says that you can tell a Grizzly Bear has mischief on his mind whilst people thought that because dingoes looked like pets, there was no danger.

A recent incident on Fraser (and continuous posts of human/dingo selfies on social media) serves as a reminder that dingoes most definitely aren’t pets and there is a need to follow the 'DINGO SAFETY' rules when out and about in The Great Sandy National Park.  Queensland Parks and Wildlife currently imposes hefty fines on visitors who feed these animals and encourage socialisation with humans. Resorts, like Kingfisher Bay and Eurong Beach are surrounded by fences to keep the dingoes from being loved too much by the general public.

Fraser’s totally wild and that's why we love it. Who knows what we’ll see next month - catch you then.

July: Close Encounters Of The Animal Kind On Fraser Island

It’s always really interesting, when you live and work on Fraser Island, to see people’s reactions when they start exploring for the first time.  Fraser Island the only place in the world where rainforests grows in sand (at elevations of 200 metres) ; one of only two places in the world where Humpbacks whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) take time out of their migration schedule to socialise in calm waters; and sports the world’s largest and highest perched dune lakes.

It’s also a place of incredible beauty… where something as simple as four-wheel-driving through sandy tracks and out ontothe gazetted 75-Mile Beach Highway can make a visiting tourist’s entire Aussie holiday.

Here on Fraser, we’ve been seeing whales galore this month, including a Southern Right Whale mum and calf (Eubalaena australis) just metres off the resort’s jetty and our Humpbacks have been putting on plenty of impromptu shows on the eastern and western side of the island and for our Fraser Island ferry passengers.

We've even had a fur seal pop by for an extended holiday on the eastern beach. It's very difficult to tell the difference between the two species - New Zealand Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) are slightly smaller than their Aussie counterparts (Arctocephalus pusillus) and are best distinguished by their much darker colouration.

Everything you need to know about our Humpback holidaymakers... and more!
DID YOU KNOW: For their first time since 1946, Japan will not hunt whales in the Southern Ocean?  This follows a ruling by the International Court of Justice in March this year.

Humpback Whale displays close to shore on Fraser Island
With just hours until we start our daily Humpback Whale Watching tours from Fraser Island, there’s been an exciting development for the tourism industry.  Today, it was announced that a select group of whale watching operators will host immersive whale tours on a trial basis – allowing visitors to swim with the whales in the calm waters off Hervey Bay.  Under the Nature Conservation Act, strict guidelines will be in place to ensure the safety of both whales and swimmers.

To say that we’re excited is an understatement!  And, if you've ever wondered what it's like to hear a Humpback sing, here's your chance!

For those out and about on the western side of the island, you might also be lucky enough to see a group of scientists from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USQ) who are using ground-penetrating radar to located disturbed ground, human remains and artefacts for indigenous burial sites. We'll keep you updated with any developments.

Guests venturing to the eastern side of the island may see smoke in the skies above Waddy Point and at Orchid Beach this month.  Fire is a really important element for Fraser Island’s ecosystems. Many of the tree species that grow in our wallum (coastal heathland) and eucalypt forests require fire for their seeds to germinate.  To help these environments to flourish and to prevent an unexpected wildfire, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service will be conducting controlled burns around Fraser Island right up until the end of the month.

As we mentioned last blog, our local Northern Brown Bandicoots (Isoodon macrourus) and Long-nosed Bandicoots (Perameles nasuta) dig for fungi underground - this action helps to cover leaf litter that would otherwise be a fire hazard and is just one of the many eco services provided by the bandicoots, which are commonly seen a night around Kingfisher Bay Resort.
A White-cheeked Honeyeater  in repose

In and around the resort, our beautiful White- cheeked Honeyeaters (Phylidonyris nigra - pictured left) have been nesting, and this is providing excellent photo opportunities for keen photographers. The nests are hidden well in the undergrowth and are not easy to find, so our team are only too happy to point them out on our daily Ranger-guided walks.

Off the Kingfisher Bay jetty, there have been small Spanish Mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson), Trevally (Gnathanodon speciosus) and Dusky Flathead (Platycephalus fuscus) caught through the days. Around the full moon, big Black Jewfish (Protonibea diacanthus) were caught in the evenings and, at night, our Rangers have been seeing our small insectivorous Micro-bats hunting with echolocation over the window lakes here at the resort.  Bats are classified in a single Order, Chiroptera - Order being a biological term meaning a taxonomic group containing one or more families.

All in all a great month to live, work and visit paradise, Tree Huggers. Catch you next month.

June: We’ve Sprung Into Winter Here At Kingfisher Bay

FRASER ISLAND: June 1st marked the first day of winter in our sub-tropical backyard, which means we’re in for long, sunny, blue-sky days (average temperatures sit around 22˚ during the day time) and cooler nights and mornings.

As we mentioned in last month’s blog, we’ve already started to see the first of our winter holidaymakers – the Hervey Bay Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) on their annual migration. If you’re driving or on tour on the eastern beach, keep an eye out for their water spouts and breaching!   We’re still two months away from the official start of the Whale Watch season – with cruises leaving daily from Kingfisher Bay Resort on the lee side of Fraser Island.

Fraser's resident raptor finds love in the air!
Already, a few Winter Whiting (Sillago maculate) have been reported in the Great Sandy Strait and, along with the Summer Whiting (Sillago ciliate coming off the flats), they’re feasting on live bloodworms as bait. Threadfin Salmon (Blue Threadfin – Eleutheronema tetradactylum and King Threadfin Polydactylus macrochir) have also been active feeding in the drains and the ledges along Fraser Island have been worth a look for those fisher folk looking for Jewies,

This month, we have also seen some developments in the love life of our western beach resident Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus - see above), who seems to have found a mate on the western beach. On one of our recent guided walks, we spotted these love birds swooping down on a Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius), forcing it below the water surface.

We are happy to report that the Cormorant made a daring escape, swimming about 30 metres underwater! Pied Cormorants (Phalacrocorax varius) are large coastal birds and, in all probability, way too large a prey item for raptors like Whistling Kites, so it’s likely that they were trying to force the waterbird to regurgitate its’ fish catch (which is a method they sometimes use to get an easy dinner).

A Whistling Kite nest and chick. Photo: Birdway.com.au

DID YOU KNOW that Whistling Kites are found all over mainland Australia as well as New Guinea, The Solomons and New Caledonia?  

It’s easy to confuse other kites and other raptor species, like the Little Eagle (Hieraaetus morphniodies) - you need to look to their silhouette and body shape to tell the difference.

Over the past month we have had some much needed rainfall on Fraser Island (after the lowest summer rainfall on record), which bodes well for the arrival of kite chicks (see above left).  Whistling Kites like to breed after periods of rainfall, so keep your eye out for a nest (a large platform made of sticks, generally found in the fork of a tall tree) and the arrival of eggs!

Not magical, just fluoro!  Photo: Peter Meyer
Out on Fraser Island’s sand tracks, we’ve seen, the first bioluminescent mushrooms, Omphalotus nidiformis, (commonly known as Ghost Fungus - see right) bloom at the Valley of the Giants – an out-of-the-way spot known to walks on the Fraser Island Great Walk - where giant Tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys) rub trunks with enormous Fraser Island Satinays (Syncarpia hillii).

Ghost Fungus can be seen throughout the month of June, creating an eerie green glow in the rainforests by night. This glow in the dark mushroom brings fungus enthusiasts from all around the world to Fraser Island to witness the phenomenon first hand!

Long-nosed Bandicoot on the hunt for food.  
With the start of winter thousands of native truffles have also begun to form underground. This is causing great excitement for our resident mushroom enthusiasts - the Northern-Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon macrourus) and the Long-nosed Bandicoot (Perameles nasuta - see left).

It you look closely at the sand in and around the resort, you will see small pot holes - most commonly around the base of vegetation - where the bandicoots use their long noses to dig down and find their favourite treats.

RANGER FACT: Each truffle species has a distinctive, pungent smell (examples include peanut butter and bubble-gum), which helps the bandicoots to discover their whereabouts.  This feeding cycle also helps with the dispersal of the fungi’s spores.
Cane Toad hatchlings.  Photo: herpindiego.com

A sad development this month has been the appearance of hundreds of Cane Toad (Rhinella marina - formerly Bufo marinus) hatchlings in our Wallum Health land, and most likely throughout all of Fraser Island’s freshwater ecosystems.

Cane Toads reached Fraser Island several decades ago and have caused population declines in some of the island’s native species, including the regional extinction of Quolls (genus Dasyurus). 

So what can we do about it?

Extensive research is currently being done to find a biological solution for controlling the Cane Toad. Hopefully these will be more effective than the cane toad itself, which was initially introduced to Australia as a means of controlling the Cane Beetle (Dermolepida albohirtum)!

That’s nature folks… and on that note, I’ll say goodbye and catch you next month.
Cheers, Ranger Rach.

May: We're Farewelling Our Frequent Flyers And Targeting The Tailor

One of the things we love most about living and working on Fraser Island is that we never know what we’re going to spot as when go about our daily duties and, yes, we all still get excited when unexpected things pop up.  At this time of the year, we say goodbye to our Eastern Curlews (Numenius madagascariensis) and other shorebirds... and hello to the semi-nomadic and autumn/winter migrant species who, as part of their migratory pattern, use the island as a home base during the cooler months.

Australasian Fig Birds. Photo: rwsboa2011.blogspot.com
More than 354 different species of bird have been recorded on Fraser Island including the rarely seen Eastern Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus) and the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua - whose breeding season is about to start on island).

Ranger Luke was also super excited to spot an Australasian Figbird (Sphecotheres vieilloti - pictured) in the resort grounds recently.

DID YOU KNOW May 10 was World Migratory Bird Day?  Each year more than 5 million shorebirds migrate from Australia to breed in the Arctic?  That’s a 30,000km return journey! That a lot of frequent flyer miles.

In early May, we also welcomed competitors from the Australian Fishing Championships who were on island (and in Hervey Bay) to film recreational fishing segments for their show, which is expected to screen later this year to audiences of more than 330M people around the world.

Richard S gets up close and personal with SPIKE
Grey skies meant we postponed filming on the Great Sandy Strait by a day and headed to the eastern side to throw a line in.  Enroute to our secret fishing hole, Hobie Fishing World Champion, Richard Somerton, from Team Hobie, was lucky enough to spot one of the island’s resident echidnas on the eastern beach. Short-beaked Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus - pictured right) are rarely spotted on island, but this friendly fella was happy enough to pose for pics and became a social media sensation on our Instagram and Facebook pages.

RANGER FACT: The Short-beaked Echidna has few natural enemies, but may be killed by cars, dogs, foxes and occasionally goannas may take the young.
The first Humpback of the season is spotted from Fraser!

On the western side of the island, teenage dingoes (Canis dingocheck out last month’s blog as the Aussie dingo was given its own species status) have been spotted exploring the intertidal zone.  Breeding takes place between April and June and, as we head towards winter, females will give birth – after a relatively short gestation period - and we start to see pups spring up around the island.

At the moment, resort guests landing Mackerel (a common name applied to a number of different species of pelagic fish, mostly, but not exclusively, from the family Scombridae) and Tailor (pomatomus saltatrix - winter marks the start of the tailor run on the eastern beaches) ) from Kingfisher Bay’s jetty or those that choose to head across island for a great sandy adventure are spotting our migrating Humpback Whale holidaymakers (Megaptera novaeangliae) on their annual migration north to the warmer breeding areas in the Whitsundays.

The first of the Humpbacks were spotted a week ago off Bondi at the beginning of May – which is early – but it was an absolute surprise to see them in the Great Sandy Strait as we headed out on our guided canoe paddles to Dundonga Creek earlier this week.  You can follow all the Humpback action during the season on our dedicated Facebook page or website.

Glider antics in the night sky. Photo: hoothollow.com
As dusk falls on Fraser Island, our resident Sugar Gliders (Petaurus breviceps) - the most common of all the glider species in Australia - come out to play and they've been anything but shy in the night sky.  Be sure to listen for the distinctive YIP YIP YIP cry - on our guided night walks (or, for our villa/hotel guests, from your balconies).

But not all of Fraser Island’s animals are nocturnal and a very friendly Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) has been wowing arriving and departing guests from his hangout near our boat ramp.

As you can see, it’s been a big month of wildlife spotting on island and here's another fabulous spot!  Online travel website, The Escape Lounge, has listed Kingfisher Bay and our fabulous Junior Eco Ranger program, in their Top 5 Fabulous Family getaways blog…  and we’re chuffed. Call us biased, but if you haven’t had a chance to enrol your children in the program when you’re visiting Kingfisher Bay, make sure you do – it’s the best classroom in the world!

Catch you next time, Tree Huggers.

Dolphins, Dingoes And A House Call For A Sick Pandanus Tree

As early April rolled into Easter, it’s been all hands on deck at the resort as we’ve welcomed guests from all over the globe to our sandy shores for a spot of R&R.  April signals the start of winter Myrtaceae wildflower season for us on Fraser and we’ve noticed our gorgeous Swamp Mahogany (Eucalpytus robusta), Blue Gums (Eucalyptus globulus) and Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) start to bloom over the last few weeks.

As one would expect, our Honeyeaters and autumn birds are taking full advantage of the veritable feast on offer.  Eagle-eyed bird watchers are most likely to see the easily recognisable male Scarlet Honeyeaters (Myzomela sanguinolenta) and the inquisitive Eastern Yellow Robins (Eopsaltria australis) – as the name suggests, look for yellow underparts - darting through the resort grounds.

That's what we call a ferry ride AND a show!
We’ve had a few grey days on island, but with more than 80% of the state now drought-declared and off the back of one of the driest summers the Fraser Coast has seen in decades; we certainly have welcomed the rainfall.

This month, guests on our ferry service from Hervey Bay were treated to some fun displays as pods of inquisitive Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) put on acrobatic displays in the Great Sandy Strait.  Photographer, Mark Pryor, was quick enough to capture the action – which was a highlight on his first every trip to Fraser Island and brightened up one of those aforementioned grey days.  Even the fisherfolk and resort guests enjoying a tipple at the Jetty Hut, have seen these animals feeding and playing near the end of the resort’s jetty.

Now, from dancing dolphins to Pandanus Planthoppers... 

Ranger Gordon inoculates our sick tree
We all know that if you have a sick pet, you call a vet… but what do you do when you’ve got a sick tree?  Well, this month Queensland Parks made an unexpected house call to the resort to help us inoculate our Pandanus trees against the dreaded Pandanus Planthopper (Jamella australiae) insect.

DID YOU KNOW: Pandanus trees have cultural significance to the Aboriginal people? They are virtually a one-stop-shop for shade, medicine, tools and food - their nutlike fruit tastes a bit like peanuts when it ripens to a deep orangey colour.

The Pandanus (Pandanus spp), or Screw Pine as it is sometimes called, is native to the east coast of Australia, in fact, there are 17 species in Queensland alone.  Planthopper insects, however, are endemic to Tropical North Queensland. Up in the tropics, these insect populations are kept in check by a native parasitic wasp (Aphanomerus sp.) that lays its eggs in the Planthopper egg rafts (see below). As the wasp larvae hatch, they eat the Planthoppers and the natural balance is restored.

Planthopper eggs on a Pandanus tree
In other parts of Australia – like Fraser Island - we don’t have the TNQ wasp species and these small 8mm insects can cause significant damage to our beautiful trees.  This primarily occurs when they feed on the tree’s sap and then secrete a sticky substance which in turns promotes mould growth and a generally weakening of the tree.

Rangers Gordon and Jenna have treated Pandanus throughout the Great Sandy National Park and arrived at Kingfisher to help our gardeners inoculate our trees.  Generally, there are three main control methods – chemical, physical and biological – and so the team stripped the trees of the affected/dead leaves (physical) before injecting an insecticide in the outer trees (chemical) – which forms a barrier.  Inoculation, however, is not seen by the scientific community as a long term solution, so the QPWS team are trailblazing for the region by developing a management plan and by looking to securing funding for an effective biological solution – introducing a wasp breeding program to control the Planthopper population.

Will our temperate climes be warm enough to sustain this breeding program? Watch this space!

Canoe-eye-view. Thanks to Vanessa and Matt for the share
And to round out a busy month, we end on the news that the Dingo (Canis dingo) has been given its own species status, recognising that it is not descended from dogs or wolves as once thought. Australian Geographic, in a recently published article, wrote: “Canis dingo was the scientific name originally proposed; however, as scientists struggled to establish exactly how the Dingo came to inhabit Australia, or determine its genetic lineage, other names such as Canis lupus dingo (indicating a connection to the wolf - lupus) and Canis familiaris dingo (implying domestication) were used.”

A Fraser Island Dingo, by any name, is still a magnificent creature, so you can imagine our delight when we came across one of these magnificent creatures whilst on a Ranger-guided canoe paddle to Dundonga Creek recently.  We’re not sure who was watching whom, but it was a great, iconic island experience that absolutely blew us away – as the photos show.

Stay tuned Tree Huggers, who knows what’s in store next month!

Here On Fraser, We're Marching Towards Autumn

Showers of rain were a welcome sight for the Fraser Coast this month after one of the driest summers in several decades here on Fraser Island. The good news is that the tracks have firmed up; some Fraser Island Great Walks have reopened; both Qld Parks and our team have been out grading the sand in preparation for the Easter holidays; and the sun is back out for visitors headed our way.

March signals the end of the turtle breeding season, but we’re still hearing reports of hatchlings at Sandy Cape and along 75-Mile Beach near the wreck of the Maheno.  The island really comes alive at this time of the year as autumn birds including Grey Fantails (Rhipidura fuliginosa) and Caspian Terns (Sterna caspia) return to our shores, blue Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa spp) are the epitome of 'busy bees' as they start burrowing in preparation for winter; Stingrays have been spotted in the clear waters off our jetty during our Ranger-guided night time walks and the skies in and around our mirror lakes in the resort grounds are awash with Dragonflies and Damselflies.

An Australian Tiger Dragonfly on Fraser
Dragonflies and Damselflies both belong to the order Odonata and all odonates share certain characteristics, including membranous wings, large eyes and small antennae,  There are also clear differences between the two groups, but you might need a magnifying glass to spot them!

Dragonflies are usually stocky and have eyes that touch or nearly touch at the top of their heads; whilst their long and slender Damselfly counterparts have eyes that are clearly separated on the side of their head.  Wing shape is also a dead giveaway - Dragonflies tend to have dissimilar wing pairs and their hind wings are broader at the base; Damselflies have wings that are similar in shape.

Fraser Island is a hotspot for both Dragonflies and Damselflies, with Australian Emeralds (Hemicordulia australiae), Fiery Skimmers (Orthetrum villosovittatum), Arrowhead Rockmasters (Diphlebia nymphoides) and Dune Ringtails (Austrolestes minjerriba) all showing regularly in the Wallum heath and across the island.

April heralds the start of the Dingo (Canis lupis dingo) mating season on Fraser Island, which takes place between April and June each year (and coincides with the Easter school holidays this year).  Litters of between 2 and 6 pups are born between July and September after a fairly short gestation period.  We’re currently hearing dingoes howling in and around the Z-Force Commando Site – which is totally the type of territorial and dominant behaviour we expect at this time of year.

Dingoes are territorial during mating season
DID YOU KNOW: As part of their public Dingo Safety Initiative, Queensland Parks and Wildlife have placed new dingo signs along island tracks and at barge departure points as a reminder to tourists not to be complacent around wild animals. 

The signs have simple rhymes -‘On Fraser never forget, a dingo is not a pet’ – which are designed to stick in visitors’ memories.

To the water, with just under four months to go until the start of the 2014 Whale Watch season – and the arrival of possibly our most watched residents - we’re pleased to report that a two-decade long research study has confirmed that Hervey Bay in south-east Queensland is the world's most important habitat for endangered Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae).

The study, published in February by Southern Cross University researcher Trish Franklin, is the first comprehensive look at how important Hervey Bay is for the survival of the species.  The research shows 95 per cent of whales return on a yearly basis – to the calm waters off Fraser Island - because the bay provides a safe haven for mature females and their calves.  Here on Fraser, the Humpback Whale Watch season runs from 1 August til the end of October with some of the most prolific calm-water whale spotting in Australia.

Humpback Whales are the most surface active
Invariably during the season inquisitive Humpbacks, referred to as ‘friendlies’, will approach whale-watching boats very closely, often staying under or near the boat for many minutes.  Half-day trips depart daily from Kingfisher Bay Resort from 0745 during the season (Aug 1 - 31 Oct) and accommodated packages are available.

It’s been a busy March – scientists even discovered a new species of spider on Fraser Island called the Reinhard’s Leichardt Spider, which was one of 221 new species across Australia - and there’s more wildlife action to look forward to in the coming months, tree huggers.

In closing, we’d like to give a big sound-out to our hard-working resort ranger team and leave you with the news that Australian Traveller magazine has named our popular Junior Eco Rangers program in their top 100 things to do with the kids in summer - but we reckon it's pretty awesome all year round.  What a way to end a great month!

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.

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.