Backyard Buddies

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B-mail November 2017

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It’s Easy Being Green

It is certainly a pretty good life if you are a Green Turtle living in the stunning waters around Magnetic Island and feasting on seagrass and algae. Mid-October is the start of nesting season and Green Turtles make the most of the island’s pristine sandy beaches.

In Australia, there are seven populations of Green Turtles that migrate from their feeding areas to breeding beaches each year. The babies all hatch at the same time and there is a mad scramble to reach the water before they get gobbled up by birds. They then have to avoid crabs, fish and other predators. It’s no wonder only about 1 in 1000 turtle hatchlings make it to adulthood!

Green Turtles live their entire lives at sea, only coming ashore to lay their eggs. Magnetic Island’s turtles feed on the extensive seagrass meadows that surround the island, sharing the clear turquoise water with dugongs, whales, dolphins and batfish.

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Wedgies

Bird watchers are spoiled for choice with over 180 species of native birds living on or visiting Magnetic Island. If you look up, you will likely see a Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring in the thermal air currents.

Wedge-tailed Eagles like to see what’s going on and will choose the tallest tree in their area to perch on. Their excellent eyesight makes them supreme predators, with rabbits, lizards, and other birds all on the menu. They are also very useful at cleaning up roadkill and other dead animals, including feral animals. Their eyes can be bigger than their stomachs but nothing is wasted – eagles will stash uneaten food on a nearby branch for later. Wedgie couples rigorously defend their nests and will attack anything that looks like a threat, including drones, model airplanes and even hang-gliders!

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I Am Not a Bear

Our most recognised native animal is often in the news, whether facing threats from feral foxes and dogs, overpopulating an area or catching embarrassing sexually transmitted diseases. Koalas obviously need our help to keep their healthy populations balanced and protected and the Koalas of Magnetic Island are some of the luckiest in the country. They laze happily in the trees munching on leaves and may even visit the beach at sunset. The island is home to one of the largest wild Koala populations in Australia, with an estimated 800 at last count.

October is the start of mating season and normally lethargic Koalas leap into action (sort of). Males make loud grunting noises to attract potential mates. and warn off rival males by making a loud gurgling noise in their throats which can be heard from over 800 metres away. Male Koalas also attract females by letting off a powerful, musky odour that comes from a mixture of their urine and scent glands that they rub on the trees as they climb. Charming!

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A Froggy Tale

It is widely known that frog populations, or lack of, are a good indicator of the health of a habitat. No frogs means trouble in paradise. Not so on Magnetic Island, where the bright and damp Green Tree Frog is abundant.

Green Tree Frogs like trees. They like water. They like night-time. They like insects. You are more likely to hear hundreds of them than see even one unless you are poking around with a torch.

Despite popular myth, most frogs do not actually “croak” but the Green Tree Frog is a genuine croaker, making its call easy to recognise. Spring and Summer are the most active times for frogs as they start mating and laying their eggs. Green Tree Frogs lay eggs in water under a revolting tasting foamy jelly which protects the eggs from predators.

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