Jane and I have just returned from ten days on Lord Howe Island. In that time
I managed to get out to Ball's Pyramid on a fishing boat. On Lord Howe itself,
things of note included:
* the biggest change I noticed since my previous visit there nearly seven
years ago was the increase in Buff banded Rails. Last time we had to seek them
out on our last day by walking through long grass. This time they were all
through the settled parts of the island. One morning I saw six as I cycled
* The Black Noddy colony can now be found in the tall pine trees behind the
beach at North Bay. There were at least thirty on nests. They could also be
seen off Ned's Beach flying around the bay, particularly in the evenings.
* As well as seeing Grey Ternlets at Ball's Pyramid I saw one perched on
cliffs near the Old Gulch and quite a few could be seen off Ned's Beach late in
the day with a telescope. They were a long way out though.
* On our final evening, 2 November, at least three Black winged Petrels were
seen around the headland at the southern end of Ned's. This is slightly
earlier than they are apparently normally seen there.
* Woodhens could be seen easily on the Little Island track. In two visits I
saw at least five. They were quite curious and eventually came quite close to
* In a seawatch off Blinky Beach I saw one Wandering Albatross fly past.
According to the list in Ian Hutton's book they have not been recorded on LHI
since before 1940. Has anyone seen them there since the book was published?
* As well as the usual summer waders for Lord Howe (Bar tailed Godwit,
Whimbrel, Pacific Golden Plover and Ruddy Turnstone) I saw one Red necked
Stint, a Lesser Sand Plover, and three Wandering Tattlers. The tattlers were
at the southern end of Ned's Beach on 3 November. I could clearly see the
brown cap separating the supercilia, the supercilia faded to nothing behind the
eye and the call was similar to that described for the Wandering in HANZAB
(pity their call isn't on the BOCA tape series). Also they gave the impression
of being very dark birds compared to tattlers I have seen in the past.
* I had no luck finding Little Shearwaters. I don't know if it was because
they are hard to find or because I was right at the tail end of the season for
them. I suspect mainly the latter. The skipper of the boat that took me to
Ball's Pyramid said he couldn't recall seeing any for several weeks.
* Based on the number of rats I saw near Kim's Lookout, the success of the
rat eradication programme may have peaked. If anyone wants to find something
else to eradicate out there, Blackbirds would be a good candidate. They seem
to be everywhere. Some have white splotches all over them, and I saw one with
a very deformed beak.
* Speaking of eradication programmes, does anyone know the current status of
the (Tasmanian) Masked Owls on Lord Howe Island? I know a lot were shot a few
years ago. Is this still happening?
Unlike some other people who have posted to birding-aus I had no trouble
getting someone to take me to Ball's Pyramid. In the end I went with Jack
Shick (who leads the Mt Gower walks) aboard the Sea Raider. He would be a good
choice for other birders as he only takes a maximum of four people on his boat,
and will go with three. Also he concentrates on Ball's Pyramid trips whereas
some of the other operators only go there when they can fit it in around their
normal schedule. But nevertheless I agree with other people who have suggested
on birding-aus that you should put your name down with all the boat operators
as soon as you get there.
I was charged $80 for the trip (it would have been $100 if I fished). There is
also a high speed catamaran, the Blue Peter, which goes out there too but as
the whole trip only takes about three hours the birding opportunities would be
Full details of the Ball's Pyramid trip are as follows:
27 October 1999
Departed Lord Howe Island at 8 am; travelled to within about 1km of Ball's
Pyramid. Returned at 4pm.
Seas 1m or less. A southerly change came through at about 1pm and it was quite
windy after that.
Species seen (maximum number seen at once in square brackets)
Black browed Albatross 1
Providence Petrel 12 
Kermadec Petrel 4 
Wedge tailed Shearwater 80 
Fleshy-footed Shearwater 500+ 
White-bellied Storm Petrel 60 
Masked Booby 6 
Sooty Tern 25 
Common Noddy 10 
Black Noddy 1 (may have been a couple more; could not always tell if they
were Black or Common)
White Ternlet 5 
Grey Ternlet 100 
Red-tailed Tropicbird 5 
Humpback Whale 2
Bottle nosed Dolphin 5
The Black browed Albatross is not listed in the checklist of Hutton's book. Is
this the first LHI record? I suspect they actually occur reasonably often -
apparently a couple of albatrosses were seen there the day before.
The Kermadecs were clearly four separate birds; one dark phase, two
intermediate and one pale. Like so many petrels they just came in, circled the
boat once (if that) and kept going.
The total number of White bellied Storm Petrels was difficult to estimate.
Every time we stopped we seemed to have at least half a dozen around us, but
they never seemed to be following us when we weren't moving. One bird was of
the totally black bellied form. Unlike the black bellied bird illustrated in
HANZAB it had a clearly defined white rump. Also it was noticeable that it had
chocolate coloured greater and median coverts (particularly on the inner part
of the wing) and therefore looked quite different above to the normal birds.
At least two of the birds were of the intermediate form, with a bit of white on
the belly and underwings, and only a bit of white on the rump.
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