Kalkadoon to Kermadec part 5. Lord Howe Is. seabirds

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Subject: Kalkadoon to Kermadec part 5. Lord Howe Is. seabirds
From: "michael hunter" <>
Date: Fri, 7 May 2004 13:39:34 +1000
Kalkadoon to Kermadec  part 5 Lord Howe Is. Seabirds   long

(Add Australian Kestrel to self- introduced breeding landbirds and
substitute Swamp Harrier for Spotted Harrier in part 4)

    On our first drive in from the airstrip, Lagoon Rd., with dark branches,
meeting overhead, studded with pure white fairytale WHITE TERNS, black eyes
and black pointed bills, was an indelible and classic image. Some were
feeding late chicks, holding three or four small fish at one time, caught
separately and kept in by a notch on the tongue until the bill was filled.
Ian shows a great video about the Island on Sunday nights at the museum,
with clips of these terns settling on their single egg which lies on a bare
branch. Also known as WHITE NODDIES, for obvious reasons when you see the
black ones. All through the Settlement area, audible all day. Fallen
abandoned chicks are fed by the kids at the bike hire place on lagoon Rd
    BLACK NODDIES have established a breeding colony in introduced Norfolk
Island pines at North Beach, far end, picking up seaweed for their messy
little nests on horizontal branches almost down to ground level and
occassionally swooping at us when too close. Small and very shiny black with
more defined white caps than COMMON (BROWN) NODDIES, both were loafing side
by side on the rocky spit near the pines, their differences very obvious and
making ID of flying birds almost easy. Both common patrolling just offshore
and in fluttering groups over shoals of small fish.
    Oceanic Islands without land predators are usually favoured for breeding
by seabirds, fourteen sp. breed on Lord Howe and its associated islets.
Since rats and cats have been controlled, several seabirds which had
previously nested on the main island, including LITTLE SHEARWATERS, have
returned to it. As one of our twitch targets, it was gratifying to scope
them off  Neds Beach in the late afternoon, small, flying low with fast
wingbeats, their dark grey above and white below pattern very
the settling sun. Ian Hutton produced an adult from a burrow near Blinky
Beach one night, and a few also nest behind Neds, flying in about an hour
after dark when they were difficult to see except in moonlight.They also
nest in numbers on Roach Is. which has always been free of mammalian
       BLACK-WINGED PETRELS, another tick, also nest at those and other
beaches. Beautifully marked, seen rapidly wheeling in ever decreasing
circles in front of the south cliff at Neds, then crashlanding  into shrubs
and disappearing into their burrows, at around 3.30 pm on. Also easily
'scopable patrolling just off Neds late afternoon, closer around cliffs
elsewhere (eg. the Clear Place) during the day. Ian found us one of their
dead-set cute melon-sized fluffball chicks with its clapping bill barely
sticking out, at Blinky. They share at least some burrows with Little
Shearwaters, the Blackwinged season just ending and the Littles just
       Each side of the road in forest just before Neds are FLESH-FOOTED
SHEARWATER burrows, the birds would fly in at dusk, crash, toboggan on their
bellies off into the darkness; that they find their burrows is remarkable.
Some don't, every night a few were crawling across the nearby roads, easy to
pick up for a close look at their diagnostic pale bills and flesh-coloured
feet. Most of the many Shearwaters off Neds and seen from the boat to Balls
Pyramid were these.
        Also returning to the now cat-free Lord Howe Is. itself, but
breeding in numbers on several islets including Blackburn, which is
accessable by hired canoe or perhap swimming  from  Lagoon beach,
WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATERS were not conspicuous while we were there, probably
at sea fishing, but one crashed near its burrow and spreadeagled on a bare
sandy cliff-face at Neds, nicely showing its wedge tail. Ian is studying a
few nesting near Flagstaff, showed us fledging chicks, their weight
see-sawing dramatically, up after  feeds, down during the intervals which
may be of many days.
        PROVIDENCE (SOLANDERS) PETRELS once nested in prodigious numbers on
Norfolk Island, providentially for its settlers  who survived on them when
the supply ships didn't show up. It was catastrophic for the birds,
effectively wiping out that population, but they have returned to Gould, an
offshore islet at Norfolk. Perhaps hundreds of thousands nest on Lord Howe's
Mts. Gower and Lidgbird, swirling around their peaks, some descending in the
        The amazing phenomenon of "calling them in" was easy to effect at
the saddle on Gower. Any loud unusual noise in the vicinity of their
burrows, eg. "Whoo Whoo Whoo" etc kept up for maybe 30 seconds, and they
literally crashed into surrounding vegetation or flopped at our feet,
grovelling about, indifferent to being picked up and examined, (but beware
of their claws). Their white and speckled faces are unforgettable.A birding
    .   SOOTY TERNS had finished their nesting and mostly departed, but I
saw a pair in synchronised flight high over Roach Island and another single
close-up at North Beach. Very black and white, graceful angled wings.
         Another beautiful bird which soars around the cliffs, sometimes at
eye-level at Eliza Lookout between Neds and North beaches, the RED-TAILED
TROPICBIRD nests on the cliffs. Magnificent.
          The largest of all, like white spots on the exposed faces of Roach
Is., and busy flying to and from their nests there, the mating/bonding
antics of MASKED BOOBIES, seen in the scope were worth watching when
following petrels and shearwaters on the sea below began to pall.

         THE BOAT TRIP.
         "Kermadec" was the boat's name, and KERMADEC PETRELS were its aim.
Dosed up on the new Travacalm, this mini-pelagic to Balls Pyramid was a
breeze for me, although others on board were burleying over the side. Poor
b's, I knew how they felt. The Petrels nest on this magnificent and
monumental rock, we easily identified two dark phase by the dorsal white
arcs of the bases of their primaries, and almost dumpy look, less flapping
flight compared to Providence's which have  a simlar underwing pattern. I
also scoped one off Neds, and Penny saw one among the Providence Petrels at
the top of Gower, where the odd one nests. Kermadecs skipper pulled in a
metre-long Kingfish just past the Pyramid and cooked it (lightly grilled
with butter) on the spot for lunch - gourmet birding by any standard, it was
          Large groups of GREY TERNLETS, also a tick, fluttered on the water
around the Pyramid, a dainty visual dish. They also nest on cliffs adjacent
to a blowhole cave just north of the Gulch on Lord Howe itself, The Kermadec
took us alongside during the round-the -island tour on our way home. The
Gulch is accessible on foot behind North Beach, at low tide the Ternlets
would be visible from the outer edge of the ledge.
           WHITE-BELLIED STORM-PETRELS were easy on the way out  and back
from the Pyramid, close enough to visibly exclude any trace of black on
their bellies. Another dainty, they nest on Roach Is.

            One of the great things about seeing these birds up-close from
terra firma, and getting  good repeated looks at their patterns, is that it
makes identifying them from small boats at sea much easier.

            Ian Hutton's website is, his e-mai



Mulgoa Valley
50km west of Sydney Harbour Bridge

Michael Hunter
Mulgoa Valley
50km west of Sydney Harbour Bridge

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