28 Oct
Fitzroy Island Sea Kayaking Tour
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Fitzroy Island Nature Wrap – October 2016

The Pied Imperial Pigeons are back and if you have swift eyes you may be lucky enough to spot one of two before they disappear into the jungle. We have also been lucky enough to be getting regular sightings of two truly spectacular White Bellied Sea Eagles in addition to the gorgeous Emerald Doves with their stunning green plumes. The Nudey Beach track and parts of the Secret Garden trail were briefly closed earlier this month while Queensland Parks and Wildlife Rangers issued much needed repairs to the pylons and bridge structures. They are now both reopened and extra safe to use! And some sharp eyes have been lucky enough to spot Carpet Pythons, Echidnas and Grassland Melomys around the tracks this month!

Photos (Left to Right): One of the staff got up close and personal with this little cutie as she sniffed his toes on the Nudey Beach Track (photo by Gary Eaton), Gary was also lucky enough to score a rare Grassland Melomy sighting (photo by Gary Eaton), while trying to show me the Short Nose Echidna (I still haven’t seen one!) Gary & I stumbled across a beautiful Carpet Python (photo by Jen Moloney), and the Kitchen Staff were visited by a curious Goliath Stick Insect (photo by Jen Moloney)

We’ve had a few recent sightings of some Goliath Stick Insects around the property. These incredible creatures sure test your comfort levels with nature- if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like bugs the sight of one nearly 20cm in length is enough to send some into a panic! For others though they just bring out a fascination as they really look like something that belongs in a science fiction movie; like a weird race of aliens that are currently studying us and will one day invade only to be beaten back by Mel Gibson and Joaquín Phoenix swinging a baseball bat. Another form of wildlife that bolsters mixed reactions from guests is our Yellow Spotted Sand Monitors. If you’ve been following our nature wraps for a while you will know that there is a special Monitor called Franklin that has been popping up sporadically every few months ever since he was just a wee lad of a mere 10cm long. Franklin is instantly identifiable from the fact that something ate the tip of his tail when he was little so wherever we see a Goanna stalking around with 7/8th of its tail, we know that Franklin is doing well for himself! Although to be frank, I’m really not sure how much longer he will be around because he appears to have developed a bit of a death wish. There is a shipping container set up outside of one of the staff villages and for the best part of a year a Goanna affectionately dubbed ‘Russel’ (for his habit of rustling through the undergrowth) has been living underneath it. Goannas are not the cuddliest creatures and they don’t like to share- but Franklin is in the process of attempting to move in! This in spite of the fact that Franklin is half Russel’s size. He seems to have a knack though for knowing when Russel has gone exploring because you don’t see hide or hair of Franklin when Russel is around. But as soon as Russel leaves and goes who really knows where; out pops Franklin nosing around the shipping container and settling in. I’m half expecting to find the pair of them sitting down to sign a war treaty one afternoon.

And while we are on the topic of uneasy house-mates- Rinney, our beloved and neurotic Green Sea Turtle, has a tank mate called Woodson. One guest has voiced her suspicion that Rinney may actually have a form of Aspergers after I was talking about some of his quirky habits. It takes Rinney a while to adjust to new situations. Take for example when he was first moved into the front tank. I moved a block of coral ten centimetres- literally, ten centimetres- and he was ballistic. He was zooming around the tank in such a fright, water was splashing everywhere and in all directions until I grabbed the coral piece and pushed it back to its original position. Then he instantly calmed down. After that whenever we had to move a piece of coral or change something in his tank we had to make sure that he was watching when we did it so that it was not a surprise for him. It took a while before he could cope with changes without panicking. It was the same when we first introduced him to a floating toy (and the idea that the toy could be flipped upside-down). And for a long time he would only eat if the volunteer feeding him stood on one of two ‘Rinney approved’ locations around his tank. If you stood in the wrong spot and offered him food, he wouldn’t take it. He is the only turtle that can tell the difference between our scrubbing brushes (he has his own brush as he won’t tolerate the wrong brush being used on him). Apparently some dogs and other animal have Aspergers so I suppose it is entirely possible this little turtle may have it as well; I have been saying for a while that he reminds me of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. And then when Woodson was introduced to the tank- oh my Lord! What a commotion! Rinney was of course flabbergast at the intruder while Woodson was utterly delighted to suddenly have a friend. Woodson is funny little chap who likes to swim backwards on occasion and for the first day they were together Rinney was zooming around in a panic while Woodson was determinedly plodded after him (backwards). Every time Rinney stopped to rest Woodson would try to rub the rear of his carapace against him; resending Rinney into a panic.

I got to see the two of them together for the first time on the third day of their pairing and I have never seen anything like it. Of all the turtles that we have paired together; these two are something else. The tide had turned and Rinney was utterly transfixed by Woodson. Not in a nice, friendly, ‘hey here’s someone to hang out with’ way but in a ‘if you come near me or near my human (he was being a wee bit possessive of me on the first day) or sit in my spot I’m coming for you’ kind of way. He literally started guarding ‘off limits’ parts of the tank to prevent Woodson from coming into areas that he regarded as his own turf. I can’t distract him at all, even with food. He was just transfixed on poor Woodson as Woodson swam around trying desperately to figure out where he was permitted to go. At one point Rinney literally pivoted on the spot as he monitored Woodson swim in a tight circle around him. If Woodson came to close to an ‘off limits’ area Rinney would swim straight up and nip him. Just as I thought Rinney would definitely be the boss, the next day their roles were reversed and it was Woodson that was chasing and biting Rinney. And then the next day- it had changed again! But inevitably as the month wore in, Rinney became the dominant turtle. They seem to have settled into their rhythm well now; although owing to his disability (he hatched with half a head) poor Woodson often accidently swims straight up to Rinney in total oblivion (since he has one eye) and receives a grumpy nip for his trouble.

It’s been a busy month at the Turtle Centre as I’ve managed to make an arch nemesis. There’s a juvenile Golden Orb Spider that loathes the sight of me to such an extent that she actually rises to challenge me whenever I walk past. To be fair I did accidently blunder into her web. Twice. But it wasn’t on purpose! I just didn’t see it and she keeps setting it up over a path so whose fault is it really? I think it’s hers and I’ve told her so on more than one occasion. I don’t think it helped to improve her opinion of me. She has taken to literally running to the edge of her web as I approach so that she can twitch her fangs menacingly as I duck around her ridiculously positioned home. Once she actually spat a dead fly at me. Seriously! I had just ever-so-nicely walked around her web (having actually remembered it was there for once) when this dried little bundle was sadistically hurled at my direction. I think it was meant to be a warning about what happens to those who cross her. However I have never seen the spiders discard their finished meals before and for me this was quite a treat. I bent down and immediately started rummaging through the loose leaf litter to find it (after all she did spit it at me so by the transfer of property it should have belonged to me) but apparently she took insult to this. She ran to the bottom of her web and started doing her twitchy, threatening dance that I have became rather familiar with. I guess no one likes someone rifling through their trash.

But I am starting to think she has recruited her friends across the island on her crusade because for some utterly bizarre reason, for the first half of the month random dead things keep dropping on me out of the sky. Even when I’m not standing under trees or anything that could logically explain it; I seem to get hit by tiny, minute bundles just falling out of nowhere. As the month has worn on I have come to suspect that my little nemesis has been recruiting creatures from all over the island for some grand stand. I have been observing behaviour that can only be described as various states of training this month. I first came to suspect this when I stumbled across two Geckos acting in the most bizarre way one evening. Glancing up I happened to spot the pair sitting side by side twisted around on themselves and biting their own tails. I had no idea what I was looking at. A part of me thought they may have been some of the mutant critters from half-life or some equally horrid video game. I was on the phone to my sister at the time and she requested a photo, dutifully supplied, which disturbed one of the Geckos. He unfolded, strode ten centimetres away and then snapped straight back into position. I immediately realised that I was looking at some sort of boot camp yoga initiation. My suspicions were only increased when I subsequently discovered a Praying Mantis practising Tai Chi and my favourite wasp Myrtle (we couldn’t keep calling her Antony since she was clearly a girl) has been spitting out an incredible army of wasps all seemingly to emerge from her never ending brood. I have begun to suspect that the ‘nest’ may actually be a cloning device. I am becoming increasingly suspicious that all the creatures of the island are coming together under the guidance of my cranky Turtle Rehab Spider; let’s call her Dr Evil as they seem to share an attitude. My suspicions of Dr Evil have only increased as the month has progressed as she has remained as charming as ever in my presence – but I can’t help notice that there has been a marked increase in island critter surveillance going on. We had a pair of sunbirds build a nest in the lobby- what better place to perform reconnaissance? A Rhinoceros Beetle fell out of one of the lights in Reception where he had spent the best part of his day eavesdropping on conversations and most suspicious of all- I woke up one morning to Dr Evil’s much larger sister Dr Doom had spun a colossal web across our deck right by the front door. I nearly walked straight into it!!! So far Dr Doom has been a rather enjoyable neighbour as she spins her golden web and catches a variety of creatures for me to watch her eat but I am of course aware that she is attempting to loll me into a false sense of security so that she can pounce at the most opportune moment. Dr Evil has now disappeared from the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and I am convinced she is lurking in the shrubs somewhere covered in war paint and just waiting… Forget ‘Winter is Coming’. It should be ‘the Creatures are coming’.

Photos (Left to Right): These highly suspicious Geckos are cleary working out for boot camp while this Praying Mantis worked on its Tai Chi technique. Myrtle the Wasp has constructed a cloning device and is busy spitting out a personal army- and have you ever got the feeling your being watched? This is one of many Skinks I’ve discovered monitoring my movements this month. Photos by Jen Moloney

Photos (Left to Right): More soldiers of the coming battle- this Giant Wood Moth is fooling no-one with his attempt to look inconspicuous while this Sunbird has the perfect cover for her spying activities. Dr Doom polishes off a delicious snack (evil plotting is hungry work) while this Rhinoceros Beetle was taken Prisoner – but released before I thought to interrogate him about all the surveillance going on. Photos by Jen Moloney

In the meantime I have to say that it is definitely coming into the time of the year when the colours are at their best. Fitzroy Island is just radiant at the moment. Check out these recent photographs –

And it is just as well that it all looks so beautiful because I have to say the island is a little ripe on the nose at the moment! Both the Northern Yellow Boxwoods and the Beach Almonds are in bloom- these trees have a pungent nose-hair-curling-sweet-meat stench and are sometimes called the Dead Dog Trees. They are more than proving their title. It can be a wee bit tough to take if you walk past a particularly potent one. Quite a few trees are showing growth- the Palm Cycad in the middle of Reception is sprouting an impressive ‘hairdo’ with a crop of fine new leaves rapidly growing from the top. We had such a deluge of rain one day that the creek burst with an impressive outshoot of coral and stayed open for several days afterwards!

Top Row: The Creek burst and has been ridiculously shallow ever since (photo by Jen Moloney)


Bottom Row: The gradual opening of the new Palm Cycad leaves (photos by Jen Moloney)

With my impending sense of doom rapidly arriving at the hands of Dr. Evil and her co-conspirators, I have decided that now is a very good time to take a holiday so I will be away next month. I am leaving the island in the highly capable hands of our new guide Azri who will get to test out his democracy skills. I am interested to find out whether he manages to talk his way out of the coming apocalypse; honestly with the way these animals are sometimes on this island I think it is a miracle we’ve survived this long at all! Azri will keep you up to date with his peace-keeping role next month and I will be back in December (providing the island is still here and not fallen into Dr Evil’s clutches of course.) Fingers crossed in my absence Dr Evil calms her farm and everyone goes back to acting like normal happy creatures again! See you (God willing) then!

Jen Moloney – Marine Biologist & Tours Co-Ordinator

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