TOUR OF THE WEEK
The tours this week were particularly busy with a variety of tours running; however the Island Discovery Tour was of great interest by all guests on the island. The Island Discovery Tour looks at how the island was formed along with the vegetation and birdlife that is encountered along the way. Guests were lucky enough this week to see a lot of birds foraging through the leaf litter along with some sitting on nests! The ruddy turnstones (Arenaria interpres) provided some entertainment for guests doing just as their name suggests turning over stones- a behaviour that is exhibited by the bird whilst feeding generally looking for bugs hiding away whilst the buff banded rails (Gallirallus philippensus) were out and about scavenging and asserting their territory to any other intruder rails that dare to enter their area. The buff banded rails are known to make a loud clicking noise and puff up their bodies in order to show their dominance and territory, after this time if the rail is still feeling threatened it will typically chase the other bird out of the area with great speed. As guests were wandering through the resort looking at the different vegetation the casuarinas were of great interest with guests amazed at the adaptations in which the tree roots exhibit- the casuarinas are the only non-legume species of tree found in Australia that contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria within their root system which can help make the surrounding soil nutrient rich.
Our two pied oystercatchers (Haematopus longirostris) were then spotted off in the distance these birds are easily identified as they are a large bird with bright orange legs, black and white plumage and a long orange beak; the pied oystercatchers are often spotted in around various locations on the island using their long beak to scavenge the shoreline.
The highlight of the tour however would have to be the beautiful red tailed tropic birds (Phaethon rubicunda) which are found on the south eastern corner of the island in front of our suite accommodation. The red tailed tropic birds are of particular interest at the moment as two of our bird have been sitting on their nest for quite some time & one has in fact had an egg hatch and the young chick was revealed this week! Red tailed tropic birds typically nest from April/May to September so this year we are lucky enough to have some arriving and nesting nice and early in the season. The tropic bird chick will be looked after by mum & dad for 11 weeks being fed every few days until it is large enough to head out and feed for itself. The chick has been named ‘Jin-Ju’ meaning pearl in Korean, and is named after one of our lovely housekeepers Jin-Ju ‘Serena’ Song.
DIVE OF THE WEEK
This week saw a number of divers on the island keen to explore the waters surrounding Lady Elliot! The dives on Wednesday were particularly interesting with a big variety of marine life spotted swimming around the island. The dives sites visited included Lighthouse Bommie, Second Reef & Three Pyramids which are all on the Western Side of the island; the morning dive was full of manta ray (Manta Birostris) action with 6 spotted being cleaned at Lighthouse Bommie. The manta rays are commonly sighted out at Lighthouse Bommie as it is a major cleaning station for them where a mixture of fish species congregate to clean the parasites & marine growth from these large creatures of the sea; each individual species of fish involved in this cleaning actually has its owned assigned area it will clean on the ray and these fish will not move into other areas- this is quite a fascinating thing to observe! The morning dive also saw a huge school of big-eyed trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) swimming in circles around one another just off Second Reef; the big-eyed trevally are pelagic or open water species that are commonly observed undertaking this circling motion. As the divers drifted towards Second Reef a large queensland grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus) was spotted off in the distance, these grouper are easily identifiable due to their large size some being known to reach up to 3 metres & weigh up to 600 kilograms!
The afternoon dive saw many keen divers heading out to Three Pyramids where they were greeted by a lovely manta ray (gliding on by feeding on the comb jellies (Bolinopsis sp.) floating in the current. The divers were then lucky enough to hear the sounds of the male humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) singing their songs to impress the females so they may just get the chance to mate this season. As the whale song continued in the background divers were drawn to a lovely bull ray (Taeniuropus meyeni) sitting on the sandy sediment completely covered with only its eyes and tail visible.
The rays will completely cover themselves in as a form of camouflage whilst also getting a great view of everything that is happening around them and picking up electric signals sent through the sand by small fish, molluscs & crustaceans. The diving this week was good on all counts with both discover scuba divers & certified divers all commenting on the great visibility and abundance of manta rays in the waters surrounding Lady Elliot!
Bond University here to study the reef & Emily Shaw finishing all her ocean acidification data collection on the island!
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK:
Red Tailed Tropic chick hatched!!!!