Kalkadoon to Kermadec part 3 Lord Howe Island Landbirds and Waders.
The only unpleasant thing about Lord Howe Island is it's
Ornithological history; nine endemic species or subp. extinguished by man,
rats, cats and pigs since the virgin Isle was set upon by sailors from the
"Supply" two hundred years ago. Those birds included the iconic WHITE
GALLINULE, about the size and shape of a Purple Swamphen, but all white with
red beak, casque, legs and feet, a pigeon, a parrot, possibly a booby, and
most of the songbirds. An owl was wiped out by Masked Owls introduced to
control the rats.
Saved from oblivion at the last minute by captive breeding from
three remaining pairs found in the "lost world" cloud forest on top of
Mt.Gower, and by eliminating the cats and most of the rats, the LORD HOWE
ISLAND WOODHEN has repopulated suitable habitat on the island, which is most
of it. Exciting to see because of their rarity, but not particularly
exciting to look at, we saw them at several places. One had pale ear spots.
They have territories, said to be about 300 sq.m, around most lodges and
houses, (where I suspect they are fed) Most are banded, but three
bare-legged juveniles were in a family behind the Milky Way units. They
sometimes respond to loud clapping with a high pitched double "ark-ark".
During a thunderstorm on our last night they reacted to thunder-claps with
shrieks and screams most of the night.. Next morning after much needed rain
they were visibly more active probing the earth all around the units. One
presumably parent bird under a shrub "growled" when I approached its chick
outside the White Gallinule restaurant at Capella South. If you are really
stuck for a sighting, take Jack Shick's guided climb up Mt. Gower for a
guaranteed close-up look.
The LHI WHITE-EYE, the other surviving endemic species, is
common, in small vocal flocks, mostly up in the foliage, where its yellow
chin and vent are apparant.
On the ground along roadsides under trees and shrubbery, the
female and juvenile LHI GOLDEN WHISTLER, endemic subsp., are also common,
the young males have very brown backs, females grey with white below. Adult
males are higher up in the branches. Behind Ned's Beach Two males displayed
at their territorial border, both elevating their bills vertically and
puffing out their white throats, making soft sub-song noises. One also
puffed out all his body feathers, effectively almost doubling his size. He
I was sitting under a small tree on the saddle 5/8ths of the
way up Mt. Gower and six LHI CURRAWONGs (subsp.) flopped in and perched
within a metre, crooning and cooing, looking me in the eye, nibbling my
shoes and watch. The attention was quite flattering until it dawned; they
wanted my lunch. They have very large and threatening beaks, so I gave them
a soggy tomato sandwich. Thousands of Providence Petrels circle and soar
around Gower, and the Currawongs turned on a vaudeville performance in
imitation. A rough group flew out like black and white clowns, flapping more
than gliding in the updraught, legs hanging down, calling out (probably
laughing). The petrels would wheel effortlessly alongside then off again in
Climbing Gower is not for the corpulent, the unfit or the
fearful of heights. I made the saddle, Penny to the little lost world
plateau at the top, There are ropes on the scary steep and vertical bits,
but the climb is worth it they say, for the views. "They" were the group of
twenty, mostly middle-aged tourists, and the compulsory guide, Jack Shick.
No one has fallen to their doom but broken bones are regular, with one fatal
heart attack in fifteen years according to Jack.
Part 4 to follow. Non-endemics and seabirds. Cheers
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