It's been an amazing, wet winter with plenty of whales being sighted along Booderee's shores.
Whales migrate to their breeding grounds in the warmer Queensland waters in early June. They make the return journey around September to November and it is possible to spot the young calves making their first journey to the Antarctic.
The best time to spot a whale from a terrestrial position, such as at the Cape St George Lighthouse, is in the late morning or early afternoon, on a clear and calm day. The glare from the sun will be lessened at these times allowing for clearer viewing.
This spring we're looking forward to running our popular school holiday program for kids. From bush tucker and medicine tours, Koori games, campfire yarns and guided walks we've got something for everyone. Check out our school holiday program online today.
Humpback whale | Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Eric, the bird who flew far and wide
Australasian gannet | x-oph (Flickr)
If you've ever sat on the beach at Booderee, or watched the ocean from a cliff, you may have seen birds diving like arrows into the water. The birds are Australasian gannets and they are highly adapted to their life on the wing. A wing span of two metres allows the birds to glide for long periods, patrolling the surface for shoals of fish. To catch fish they suddenly plunge into the water with their wings folded back.
During July, a senior elder of the Wreck Bay community Phillip McLeod found an Australasian gannet washed up on the beach at Summercloud Bay. Phillip, known to his mates as Garbs, noticed that the gannet, who we named Eric, had a band on his leg. Garbs brought Eric into the park office where we recorded the number on the band and told our colleagues at the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme.
They were able to tell us Eric had been banded at Wedge Light, off Queenscliff, in Victoria - that's over 630 kilometres from where Garbs found him. Eric had been banded on 14 November 1990, making him at least 20 years old.
Recording information about birds like Eric is important because it helps us understand and protect bird and bat species. For more information about the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme click here.
Do-it-yourself makeover improves study sites
Artificial habitat for surveys
In a major 'refurbishment' of animal survey sites, Booderee researchers have placed artificial cover at each of 130 study sites.
Why is this important? The study sites are part of a collaborative research project between the park and Professor David Lindenmayer's team from the Fenner School of the Environment, based at the Australian National University.
The project is studying the response of animals to Booderee's fire regime. Research has already produced a wealth of information about animal recovery and resilience after our extensive wild fire back in December 2003.
In the past we've used pit-fall bucket traps to monitor reptile and frog populations. This technique is useful elsewhere but can be a challenge at Booderee where heavy, coastal rain floods the buckets or causes them to float out of the ground. Some of our reptiles are just too large and can get out of the buckets too.
So the Fenner team have taken a new approach. The new artificial cover is made of corrugated iron, old railway sleepers and roof tiles. Reptiles, frogs and some small mammals use these for refuge. The structures are then surveyed in autumn, spring and summer, with all species identified and counted. We're hoping this new method will provide a greater chance of identifying more reptiles and frogs.
We love our visitors
We always love to hear what people think of Booderee. So it was great to hear the following from regular visitor and orchid enthusiast Gay from Canberra who loved her walk around the Telegraph Creek Nature Trail.
“Congratulations and thanks to everyone involved with the design and maintenance of the Telegraph Creek Nature Trail, it's just brilliant. This visitor felt welcome and encouraged to relax and enjoy everything rather than feeling I was failing some test to complete the walk as quickly as possible. Almost anyone would be able to manage this short, easy walk to the heath area where the mass of pink, white and yellow creates a beautiful spectacle. The longer you sit and the slower you go the more treasures there are to be found, like the tiny lilac fairy aprons hiding in the undergrowth. I urge every visitor to the park to take some time to investigate this magic walk - definitely a 'do not miss'. I'll be back to see what changes the next month or so brings, a wonderful experience, as is every aspect of Booderee.”
The flotsam and jetsam of Steamers Beach
Arthur McLeod with bags of rubbish collected at Steamers Beach
Booderee staff Arthur McLeod and David Brown visited Steamers Beach last month to pick up rubbish and check on the coastal weed sea spurge.
Steamers Beach is one of the more remote beaches at Booderee and its south-facing aspect makes it a magnet for all sorts of flotsam.
It rarely has many visitors but those who make the journey find the scenery more than worthwhile.
Unfortunately some visitors also find it easier to leave rubbish behind rather than do the right thing and carry it out. A lot of the rubbish is plastic bottles which we then recycle. Recycling is one of the many ways that we are trying to reduce our carbon footprint - but we'd love our visitors to help us out by putting their bottles in our recycling bins!
We also visit the beach to check on sea spurge, a coastal weed we've subjected to intense control measures since 2008.
Over the past three years, hundreds of hours have been spent removing sea spurge and we're happy to report that little is found now on Steamers Beach.
Left: sea spurge photographed in 2008. Right: after lots of hard work the beach looks much better.
Booderee Botanic Gardens enjoys the wet weather
Like most of eastern Australia, Booderee has had its fair share of rain this year.
While we bemoan those grey wet days when it keeps coming down, it has been great for the gardens and the park in general.
Lake McKenzie, a perched lake within the gardens, is one of several waterholes and lakes throughout the park. Thanks to the rain there's more water in the lake than there has been in five years!
The lake is important to the local ecosystem but also provides water for the gardens' irrigation system. Our vast collection of plants is highly dependent on artificial watering during the warmer parts of the year, so the increased water is very welcome news.
Food for thought - the gymea lily
Gymea lily, Doryanthes excels | Murray Fagg, Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Like so many other plant species at Booderee Botanic Gardens, the gymea lily is native to the New South Wales south coast.
In the gardens you'll find planted specimens in full bloom in August and September, some flowering close to the Waratah Lawn. It really is a striking plant with its long leaves and a five-metre long central spear supporting a large crimson red flower. The flowers can grow up to six metres tall and produce a beautiful big cluster full of nectar, attracting birds and insects.
It's also a useful plant. Traditionally the roots were harvested, roasted and made into a cake. Young flower spikes could also be roasted. The leaves create a tough, durable fibre used for weaving, brush making and matting.