Gould's Petrel Conservation

To: <>
Subject: Gould's Petrel Conservation
Date: Tue, 17 Dec 96 16:10:23 +60000
I've just returned from working 13 to 16 December on Cabbage Tree Island (Port 
Stephens just north of Newcastle, NSW), on the Gould's Petrel Conservation 
program, with the National Park and Wildlife Service.
Gould's Petrel is an endangered species and since December 1994, I've been 
going to the island each December and March.  The whole island is the "John 
Gould Nature Reserve" and unauthorised entry to the island attracts a $20,000 
fine and/or a year imprisonment.

My part in the program in December consists of transecting the north and south 
gullies of the island where the main breeding colonies are, thoroughly 
searching all possible nooks and crannies looking for new birds and new nests. 
 At this time of year, the Gould's are all adults.  If an existing nest lies 
on the transect we also "do our stuff" with those birds.  What we actually do 

*grimace and grunt
*stick your hand down the hole, while lying on spiky cabbage tree palm leaves 
and very hard rocks
*offer a finger in sacrifice
* let the adult bird bite you (and the tip of their bill comprises a very 
efficient sharp hook)
   (alternative is to hold the bird by the tail and wing tips, if that happens 
to be the part of the bird   presenting itself to you)
* pull out the adult - if unbanded, then band and weigh the bird
* check for an egg (sight only, or very carefully feeling around in the 
nesting hole)
* record all information on band numbers, eggs etc.
* return the adult to the hole - it's all over in a minute or two.  The nest 
mites have also had a bite of you by then.

Between the biting birds, slipping on the rocks on steep surfaces, and the 
fierce thorns of the cabbage tree palm leaves, it's tough going.

We also go out at night when adults come in to take over from sitting adults.  
It's an alternative way of finding more birds, particularly unbanded ones and 
checking on weights of changeover birds.  This is the time too when the 
Wedge-tailed and Sooty Shearwaters and Little Penguins come out at night.  
It's quite a concert at 3am when all the braying starts and the birds rev each 
other up in chorus.

It is hugely satisfying work and in addition to the work I do (with Ken Booth 
and others), other research work is being undertaken to study in detail the 
birds' breeding biology.  For example, the nesting adult loses quite a lot of 
weight (some 40%) as it sits for some 16 days before the adults change over.

Other parts of the conservation program include a rabbit eradication program 
planned for the island.  Rabbits were released on the island many years ago 
and unfortunately whilst they stay on the island, no undergrowth or new 
cabbage tree palms can grow.  The eradication process will be long, tedious 
and costly to ensure success - absolutely 100% of the bunnies will need to be 

We will be returning to the island next year to check on hatching success 
(March each year).  Interestingly, it is still not known where the Gould's 
Petrels go after leaving the island.  Can anyone contribute $25,000 towards 10 
transmitters? -  transmitters are now finally small enough to be carried by 
birds as small as these petrels.

Volunteers contribute varying amounts of time of one or two week stretches.  
However NPWS staff are on the island constantly and particularly I'd like to 
pay tribute to Nicholas Carlile who has amazing amounts of energy and 
commitment to the Gould's Petrel conservation program and Cabbage Tree Island 
over extended periods, keeping up a rigorous program of work related directly 
to the birds themselves or indirectly, through the study etc. of plants and 
related issues such as the rabbits on the island.

Other birds on the island over the four days were White-bellied Sea-Eagle, 
Whistling Kite, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Common Koel, Eastern Yellow Robin, Pied 
Currawong, Australian Raven, Silvereyes, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Grey 
Shrike-Thrush (which have developed their own "accent" or range of calls), 
Sooty Oystercatcher, Buff-banded Rail, Tawny Grassbird, Welcome Swallow and 
Peregrine Falcon.  

Once again, very satisfying work.

Cheers and Happy Birding
Irene Denton
Sydney    NSW   Australia

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU