On our very special flight over the bay and beach area Sarah and I asked our pilot Rod if he would make sure to fly over the Patterned Fens that are just south and west of Rainbow Beach. We had both heard and read about this special landscape and wanted to see it for ourselves. These Patterned Fens can only be seen properly from the air so this was a perfect opportunity.
Patterned Fens were first discovered on Fraser Island in 1996 when a group of scientists were flying along Fraser Island after a trip out to Lady Elliot Island. These scientists had been here for a Ramsar conference and included specialists in peat bogs and fens. As they flew along Fraser Island they recognized the patterns of potholes in the fens below them. Over the next couple of days these scientists examined these fens from the ground. Up until this time such landscapes had not been seen or described on Fraser Island. Some time later similar fens were found close to Rainbow Beach and also further south on the Cooloola Coast. These Fens are unique in that they are in the sub-tropics and almost at sea level. On the sea-ward side they merge with mangroves.
When we flew over the area there was not very much water to be seen in the potholes. We had been in drought for months and everything looked like it! However by the end of the month we received 260mm+ in a period of a week. (That is between 10 and 11 inches.) The distinctive patterns were still able to be seen. From the air it looked a bit like an area of "crazy paving"!
(All photos enlarge when clicked on.)
This first photo shows where the fens are very dry.
This photo shows some water in the potholes.
This is the area of the bay with mangroves growing very close to the fens.
For more detailed information on the Fraser Island Fens there is a very good pdf here.
I have no bird photos to show to go with these Patterned Fens but instead decided to post some photos of Pied Oystercatchers. I tend to ignore them because they are here all year round - or else I am happy with just record shots to show they are still there. (For the technically minded these are Haematopus longirostris.) There has been a pair of Pied Oystercatchers on the airport roost site for as long as I have been here. Mostly I catch distant photos of them at the far end of the beach...
...but sometimes I get close enough for a good photo.
In this area the Pied Oystercatchers seem to keep the same territory. When I arrived here the first ones I saw were on a little rocky island on the way around to the Mullens roost. This pair was here for years but have now disappeared. I photographed them first with my little Kodak 3mp camera.
There was another pair that had a territory just up Mullens Creek in a grassy patch that went underwater on high tides. This pair has disappeared as well and no other pair has taken up this territory. I don't know if the habitat has become less suitable for these birds or if there are just too many people disturbing them now.