Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fraser Island

It's been a couple of weeks since I put up a blog post. My son has been visiting from Seattle and I wanted to just enjoy the holiday! We've had a great time and done some things I hadn't done before and filled in the rest of the time with things I regularly do but he hadn't done.
We took a trip over to Fraser Island with the Fraser Explorer Tours. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and a National Park as well as on the world heritage list. We left from Rainbow Beach about 8am and returned at nearly 6pm. The tour bus was a 4 wheel drive vehicle and part of the time we traveled on the beach on the eastern side of Fraser Island.

To see the sights in the interior of the island we traveled over sandy tracks which had been logging tracks many years ago. There hasn't been rain on Fraser Island for about 6 weeks and so everything was extra dry and the sand on the roads/tracks was dry, very soft, and piled in deep wheel ruts. We certainly needed the 4 wheel drive ability on these tracks.
We went first to Lake Mackenzie. The water is clear and cool and feels great on your skin.

From Lake Mackenzie we traveled on to Central Station which used to be the center for the logging. It is surrounded by rainforest and is very beautiful. Platycerium ferns were growing all up the trunks of some of the trees. The common name for these ferns is Stag Horn Ferns. (I hope I have this right! There are also Elk Horn Ferns and I find them very easy to confuse!)

The water in the creek in this valley is crystal clear. The sand underneath is very white. It is only where the water is obstructed by something in the stream that it becomes visible because of the ripples.

We then traveled back to the Eurong Beach Resort for lunch and later continued the drive up the beach. We went as far as the Pinacles - sand cliff formations in varying colors.

As we traveled up the beach there were notices about watching out for planes landing. Finally we came to where one was sitting on the beach. The pilot came and climbed into the passenger side of the bus and asked if anyone would like to go up for a short joy-ride. He said that the plane would then meet the bus at the next stopping place along the beach. He quickly had a plane-load of six people - and when he met us at the next stop another six people took a similar flight to the where the bus next stopped.

We stopped on the beach to see the wreck of the SS Maheno. This steel hulled ship was in service from 1905 to 1934. This included service in WWI carrying wounded soldiers from the various battlefields back to hospital. The ship wrecked on the island while it was partly disabled and under tow. 

This White-faced Heron flew down the beach and then perched high on a piece of the steel superstructure.

I was watching some Crested Terns beside the sea...

...when suddenly they all disturbed! When I looked over my shoulder I saw this White-breasted Sea-Eagle flying off with a large fish which it must have just picked up and a Pied Oystercatcher quickly taking off in the opposite direction.

Of course, no post about Fraser Island would be complete without some photos of the dingoes which are often seen on the island. There are notices everywhere warning people that those these may look harmless they are definitely wild creatures. They seldom bother large adults but a few years ago one attacked and killed a small child who was walking through the bush by himself. Another one recently attacked a woman who was sitting down at the edge of the surf by herself. We saw these first two dingoes in the morning. They were resting close to fishermen apparently hoping for a hand-out. It is forbidden to feed the dingoes!

Then we saw this one in the afternoon close to another fisherman.

We had a great day! It is a good way to see part of Fraser Island but I think one of the longer tours (2-3days) would have let us see more in a more leisurely way.

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds go to Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Few Birds!

I was going to put - No Birds! - because I didn't find the large flocks of migrating shorebirds I expected! Migratory shorebirds have been arriving around the bay for the last week or so. There have been 400+ Godwits reported at one site and 70 Eastern Curlews at another so I expected to see similar flocks at Inskip Point which seems to be used as a staging roost for most of the migratory shorebirds. So where were they? I hope I can time it right to see the expected big flocks next time I go out there!
With the changes that have happened to the Point over the last few weeks (see post for August 20) I knew I had to be out there at high tide and before anyone else was there to disturb the birds. That meant sun-up before there were any vehicles driving around and before the barge to Fraser Island started operating. There has been a lot of burning off over the last few weeks and the haze over the sea made spectacular colors as the sun first appeared. These colors disappeared as the sun rose higher.

I walked along the point to where I could see a few terns and gulls roosting. The barge was just leaving Bullock Point where it ties up for the night. I watched it come down the bay and passed a yacht anchored for the night on the far side of the sand island and closer in a few pelicans roosting on the sand spit.

As it moved passed the island I could see a line of Eastern Curlews and Bar-tailed Godwits roosting out there - but no large numbers!  There were also some smaller shorebirds with them but I could not make out details without a spotting scope - and I can't carry camera gear and the spotting scope!

There were a few small shorebirds roosting at the end of the point with the terns and gulls. There were still a few Double-banded Plovers in breeding plumage. There were also a few Red-necked Stints. Some of these birds still had faint washes of breeding colors and all of them were busily feeding on the wet sand as the little waves came in and then  retreated. It was good to see them but half a dozen birds are not the flocks of 100s which will soon be here.

All the time I was out there I could hear a juvenile tern "whinging" for a parent to feed it. There are always a few juveniles that refuse to take responsibility for their own food and follow a parent bird with these constant cries to be fed. At this age and size these juveniles are quite capable of looking after themselves! I eventually saw this Caspian Tern with the juvenile begging.

Caspian Terns are the largest terns we see here and the wings are really massive. This one was just stretching.

There were also numbers of Crested Terns - most of them still looked "scruffy" with plumage half way between breeding and non-breeding.

There were one or two looking very sleek with almost full breeding plumage.

This is a Gull-billed Tern in non-breeding plumage and the only one out there that morning.

For more photos from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more bird photos visit Wild Bird Wednesday.