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Summer Tales from Kangaroo Island

Summer on Kangaroo Island is a time of change and opportunity. The long days, warm sun and persistent southeasterly winds have dried the last of the winter and spring rains and the seasonal wetlands have reduced in size - forcing many waterbirds such as Grey Teals (one of our ducks) and Black Swans to move from fresh water to the protected saltwater marshes and marine shallows of the north east coast.

The damp lagoon floor is now sprouting green succulents and grasses which are grazed upon by Kangaroo Island Kangaroos and Tammar Wallabies - a welcome change now the pasture grasses on farmland are all cured and dry. The occasional summer rains, often a legacy of tropical systems which come right down through the deserts of central Australia, bring a welcome drink for the animals in an otherwise hot and dry environment. To say that these rains are life-giving events is no exaggeration, as January rains bring a friskiness to Tammar Wallabies with courtship and mating behaviour often being observed. A wrestle between adolescent kangaroos was interrupted when one discovered the water on the fur of his sparring partner was cool and delicious and a boxing match quickly morphed into a licking and grooming session!

In the deep sand dunes and limestone ridges which dominate the south of the island, water is very scarce. Animals survive on what they can extract from the food they eat. Boobialla (Myoporum insulare) has thick, fleshy leaves full of water and these are sought by kangaroos and wallabies to the point where stark browse-lines are visible from a distance and aggregations of droppings are testament to the amount of time animals spend feeding on these leaves. 

This is also the time that Boobialla fruits ripen - lush, bright purple berries the size of a small pea. These are sought by Grey Currowongs and Brushtail Possums, the seeds being very obvious in their droppings. These fruit are also sought by our Island gin distillery - the other common name for Boobialla is Native Juniper and this adds a truly local flavour to our gin!

The hotter weather also stimulates many of our Eucalypts to flower. The beautiful smell of the nectar is sometimes obvious from a distance and attracts a range of honeyeaters, lorikeets and even nectarivorous pygmy possums to an easy feed. The competition for pollinators is intense, as evidenced by the huge investment the plants make in pollen and nectar production.

Another obvious area of production over the summer is in the Long-nosed Fur Seal colonies. Pregnant mothers seek out smooth rock ledges with access to small pools to cool off in. Being dressed in a thick and dark fur coat on dark rocks is a challenge so a house with a pool is a must! The big males have worked this out so they compete vigorously for the best breeding spaces hoping to attract the females into their sphere of (genetic) influence.