Heron island ~ Queensland

Heron Island is about a 2 hour boat ride from Gladstone (500km north of Brisbane), it sits in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef and wasnwhere I spent a week whilst exploring Queensland during the COVID-19 lock down. Heron Island is only about 800m long and 300m wide and along with some amazing diving is home to about 200,00 birds (mainly shearwaters {or mutton birds}, egrets {or herons}, buff-banded rails, noddy turns, bar-shouldered doves and kingfishers). I didn’t visit during peak bird season, which starts early October, however the noddy turns had already started building (re-building) their nests so there are nests and birds in nearly every tree over the island and at night the birds would call and sing until about 10pm. The name of Heron Island refers to the Pacific reef heron which scientifically is an egret – so really the island should be Egret Island as there are only a few true herons that actually visit. Also it really isn’t an island – it is a cay – a sandy coral reef – so technically its Egret Cay! The coral sand and water around the island are absolutely stunning and so clear. Over the island there is a tropical forest and scrub and casuarina trees along the shore edge. The ecology of the island works perfectly between plants and birdlife – for example there are flowering trees on the island, Pisonia grandis, which bears sticky seeds/flowers that trap noddy turns, sadly the noddy turns eventually die trapped in the flower, however the Pisonia grandis uses the bird as fertiliser. As a human species, it makes me realise how insignificant we are but also the impacts we can have.

Casuarina trees
Inland tropical forest
An Egret chick – they can be born with either light or dark feathers (light or dark morph)
Pisonia grandis

The island is also a nesting site during November to February for green and some loggerhead turtles. The hatchlings start to emerge from January onwards. There are around 3000 turtles in the waters around Heron Island and every day that I dove I generally saw and swam with five or six. They are truly beautiful creatures to watch underwater. I also swam with a eagle ray one morning, which was a little intimidating but by the time I noticed the ray, it had swam past me. By the jetty there were also reef sharks, mantra rays and parrotfish. On the boat trip to and from Gladstone there were humpback whales and dolphins. There were beautiful angelfish, butterfly fish, clown fish and wrasse on most dives. The coral is bleached and for anyone that doesn’t believe in climate change, they should go for a snorkel and see what has happened as the water temperate rises causing the coral to expel. The bushfires earlier this year, which released so much carbon dioxide (which has to go somewhere!!!) has meant the ocean has once again taken the brunt of this disaster.

Eagle ray
Black tipped reef sharks
Parrotfish
Humpback whale

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