Posted on 15/12/2022 by Phillip Island Nature Parks
Know Your Nature Parks - Summer Edition
Summer is a wonderful time on Millowl (Phillip Island), with wildlife in breeding mode and migratory birds feeding and breeding on our shores. Read on to find out about what is going on behind the scenes at Phillip Island Nature Parks, including tips for living with our amazing wildlife.
In The Skies - Birdlife
Hooded Plovers are busy breeding along the Island’s beaches. Rangers monitor the nests daily and provide signage and refuge for the birds to give them the best chance of survival. So, at this time of year, please check for signage at your beach which will give you an update on the birds and how you can help to share our beaches with wildlife. To learn more please visit the “Sharing Our Shores” webpage.
Migratory birds are feeding and breeding on our shores including sandpipers, curlews, godwits, plovers, knots and stints. Pacific gulls bring their chicks from the islands off Wilsons Promontory to feed. These large gulls reach maturity at approximately four years of age and are listed as significant fauna in the Nature Parks because of their colonial nesting habits.
Crested TernThalasseusbergii cristatahave returned and begun nesting at the Nobbies after a few years of breeding out on Seal Rocks. Their move back to Phillip Island is testament to predator management of foxes and feral cats. The colony has about 400 nests but may increase in size as the season progresses. Once eggs hatch and chicks mature, they often form into creches. From the boardwalk the parents can be seen plunging into the sea off the coast to catch small fish, which they then carry in their bills back to the colony to find and feed their own chick. Crested Tern lay one, sometimes two eggs which take 25 to 30 days to hatch. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks.
Short-tailed Shearwater Honeymoon
After completing their journey from Alaska’s Bering Strait and returning to Phillip Island to renovate their burrow and mate, the Short-tailed Shearwaters have nowcompleted another epic feeding trip to waters around Antarctica. This two-week “honeymoon” is important to build up fat reserves before the female lays one egg and the male takes the first incubation shift. They then share the approximate eight-week incubation duty in their sand dune burrows, swapping shifts that go for about 10-14 days each.
On The Ground
Echidnas are out and about. Please be careful when driving as they may sometimes cross a road! Keep your distance and make sure your dog is on a leash.
Echidnas have been spotted on camera accessing the ‘echidna gates’ installed along the rabbit exclusion fence at Surf Beach. The six ‘echidna gates’ are specially designed for the weight and power of an echidna and are too difficult for a rabbit to push through. This forms part of a wider project to help protect significant coastal vegetation and cultural heritage in the area.
The Moonahs at Forrest Caves, Scenic Estate and Churchill Island are covered in lemon-coloured bottlebrush flowers, and just over the bridge onto Churchill Island the yellow flower sprays of the Australe Sea Lavender line the roadside. In the grassy woodlands, hidden amongst the swaying seedheads of tussock and wallaby grasses are tiny bottle daisies and the occasional Sun Orchid.
Coastal beard heath, Coast Wattle, Kangaroo Apple and Bower spinach are developing fruit or seed pods and Coastal saltbush has stunning red berries. Insects such as brown butterflies and leaf skeleton beetles become more active and the air sings with the sound of crickets and cicadas.
We are very proud to continue to be able to declare our island fox-free, however if you do think you may have seen a fox, please let us know. Any possible sighting will be investigated by our specialist team. Please report any suspected sightings by calling 0419 369 365. Injured foxes should be taken to the nearest veterinary clinic on the mainland, it is imperative that no foxes be brought to the Island for any reason.
Cliff Risk Awareness
Phillip Island Nature Parks has issued a warning for residents and visitors about the risk of rockfalls from fragile cliffs along the island’s southern beaches this summer.The alert comes after a geotechnical assessment earlier this year raised concerns about the potential for landslides and rockfalls along the southern coast of Phillip Island, particularly at the Colonnades and Surf Beach.Recent heavy rainfalls have added to the fragility of these cliffs.
Signage has been installed at the areas of most concern, so visitors are alerted to the risks, but we urge the community to remain vigilant and take adequate steps to avoid the likelihood of an accident. It is important that people using the beaches avoid being in close proximity to cliff edges, did not stand or sit under coastal cliffs and refrained from being stationary within 10m from the base of coastal cliffs on the Island.
In The Trees
The koalas at the Koala Conservation Reserve are currently in the midst of the breeding season. The males in the boardwalks have been very active, with lots of bellowing keeping the visitors amused. A new breeding area that now is home to three females and one male will open in early December! The male, Wirra, is only three years old and not yet fully grown and is meeting his match with the females in the area, often backing away after an encounter.
As the weather warms up, the koalas will tend to sit lower in shady spots and dangle their limbs to cool off. Look for koalas in the wattles around the Koala Conservation Centre as they offer plentiful shade.
A wild male koala was recently rescued from Ventnor. He underwent surgery on a wounded eyelid and was successfully released in the Oswin Roberts Reserve. He has been spotted by walkers on a couple of occasions since.
On Our Shores and In Our Waters
Huge swells change the coastline almost daily and wash up treasures along the high tide line and Goose Necked Barnacles are found on beach-washed cuttlebones and timber.Southern Right Whales approach the coast on their migration south.
Sharing Our Shores
Over the busy summer months, Phillip Island Nature Parks is thrilled to be running a new community campaign, “Sharing Our Shores”. This campaign aims to raise awareness of our precious wildlife who call our shores and beaches home, and awareness of what we can do to help protect wildlife during the busy summer period. Local primary school children are being invited to submit an entry in our poster competition.To find out more about the campaign and what you can do to help, please visit our website here.
Penguins First Fledging
A record number of Phillip Island’s little penguins have crossed the Penguin Parade beach during their nightly journey from the ocean to their burrows. Rangers counted 5,440 little penguins making the journey from the ocean to their burrows on Saturday 22 October – beating the previous record of 5,219 in May 2022. Penguin counting began at SummerlandsPeninsula back in 1968, and during the 19080’s the more formalised counting methods came into effect, with these methods being used every day since to count our Little Penguins!
The breeding season is well underway, with Nature Parks research staff closely monitoring the breeding colony. Unfortunately, while conditions were looking great back in October, in November conditions for penguins took a turn with the adults having to make longer foraging trips at sea to fish, resulting in quite a few breeding failures. The good news is as we head into summer the conditions are improving and some of the adult breeding pairs who failed at breeding a few weeks ago, are now back and attempting to breed again. Shortly it will be time for the chicks to leave their burrows and enter the great big blue world of the ocean for the first time. These fledglings are only taught what to do once they're in the water and there is a natural high mortality in their first year of life. If you find a dead penguin on the beach, you can record the details here.
Seal Rocks News
Australia’s largest fur seal breeding colony is right on our doorstep at Seal Rocks. Late October marked the beginning of the annual breeding season with huge bull seals arriving, bulked up andready to fight to protect their territory and harem of females. Females have weaned their pup from last summer to prepare for the birth of their new pup.
From November through December, around 4,000 pups are born on Seal Rocks and many die in the first month of life, some from being washed off the rocks. Before females have their new pup, they typically wean their pup from the previous year, called a yearling being one year old. From birth to weaning the pups have been nourished by their mothers' milk as well as learning how to catch food for themselves. Weaning is a difficult time for yearling seals because not all are able to survive when they leave their mother and become independent. So, over the next few months, you are more likely to see live or dead (mostly young) seals on our beaches. If alive, the best thing we can do is let it rest. Regulations state that, if you encounter a seal on a beach or in the water that you must keep 30 metres away and if you have your dog on leash, you must keep 50 metres away – thank you for doing your part to share our shores.
Salps on Beaches
It’s common in spring to notice glistening scatters of tiny, diamond-shaped clear objects along the high tide line. Many people think they are jellyfish, but they are a kind of sea squirt known as a salp.Salps are marine animals that feed by filtering plankton and algae and move using one of the most efficient examples of jet propulsion in the animal kingdom. They also have a complex life cycle, growing so fast that they can grow to maturity in 48 hours and are thought to be the fastest-growing multicellular animal on Earth, increasing their body length by up to 10% per hour. This quick turnaround time enables salps to take advantage of algal blooms, increasing their population size rapidly when there is a sudden abundance of food. These animals play an important role in cycling nutrients through the different depth zones of the ocean and also provide food for Phillip Island’s birds along the shores.
Our Wildlife Clinic has been very busy over the past weeks. We received over 290 calls from September through to November relating to over 30 different species. The onset of spring saw a number of call outs to baby birds across the island, and as we headed into some unusual weather patterns, we had an increase in the number of juvenile penguins into the clinic as penguin parents travelled further distances to fish, leaving their growing chicks sometimes requiring assistance. A successful surgery followed by a period of rehabilitation saw the release of a kookaburra who had a break in its wing.
We also saw construction and completion of a new small mammal pen, and our team oversaw the implementation of new software, Animal Care, to help monitor animal rehabilitation.
As always, the greatest thing you can do for wildlife is to keep it wild. These animals are very different to domestic animals, and have developed very specific diets, behaviours and habitat needs over thousands of years.
For more information, or if you find injured wildlife, you can call Phillip Island Nature Parks on 03 5951 2800 or Wildlife Victoria (24 hours / 7 days a week) on 03 8400 7300.
Share Your Nature Parks
Don't forget to share your Nature Parks images with us on social media by using our hashtag #phillipislandnp.