birding-aus Lord Howe, Ball's Pyramid trip report

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Subject: birding-aus Lord Howe, Ball's Pyramid trip report
From: Rohan Clarke <>
Date: Mon, 6 Sep 1999 11:39:53 +1000
Hi all,
Returned from Lord Howe Island on Saturday after a blissful week there. Most
summer breeding seabirds were just starting to arrive so numbers were down a
little (only 20 or so Red-tailed Tropic birds for the week instead of
100s-1000s) and no Black-winged Petrels (arrive in Nov?) but did manage to
see both the winter breeders (Little Shearwater and Providence Petrel) so
the timing was still pretty good. The land birds were all easily located and
most were breeding including the Woodhen (two small chicks).

In regards to Balls Pyramid can confirm Chris Lesters comments (see the
Birding-aus archive and an article in Aust Birding Mag autumn? last year)
that most skippers appear to string you along. There was only two of us so
we didn't have the ability to charter a boat on our own and thus initially
tried to get on anything that was going. On day one (Sunday 29 Aug) every
booking office/Skipper that I spoke to said they were taking bookings and
were likely to head out in the next couple of days but two days later when I
checked back with each of  them a suspiciously large number were sick, while
others told me they had no intention of going (but had taken my booking!),
the boat was on the slip way etc etc. The other problem I found was with so
many boats (five or six) most people interested in going only put their
names down with one charter company and thus even though ten people on the
island may wish to get to Balls Pyramid at any one time with bookings spread
across several boats no one boat has enough bookings to warrant a trip. By
Wednesday night I was down to just one boat still prepared to go (on Friday)
but they required a minimum of 6 and we were just 2. Getting desperate I
stuck notices on the notice boards at each of the stores and at the larger
'resorts' doing the charter companies advertising for them. It worked, as
less than 24 hours later the trip was over booked! Fortunately the weather
held out and our last day was spent at Balls Pyramid. It was worth going
just for the scenery: a 500+m high rock triangular shaped in one dimension
and like a knife in the other and the fishing was also top rate (80 king
fish, yellow-finned tuna, trevally, sharks etc etc) but the birds were the
highlight. The trip report follows:

Friday 3 September 1999. Lord Howe Island (LHI) to Balls Pyramid (BP) and
return aboard the Luluwai, Skipper Lance ..., Deckhand Andrew...
Rohan Clarke, Karren Beattie with eight others mostly fishing.
Departed 0930 arrived at BP 1125 left BP 1420 docked 1635 at LHI
Weather; clear skies till the pyramid then half hour heavy rain squall,
patchy overcast conditions for remainder of day. Wind 5 to 10 knot south
easterly increasing to 20 knots and swinging round to the north in the late
afternoon. Seas 1.5m swell with 1 m chop increasing to 2.5m swell and 1.5 m
chop in late afternoon. No one seasick. This was the only time during our
one week stay that I encountered Kermadec Petrel and White-bellied
Storm-petrel. All other species were seen during sea watches from the
various points on LHI.

Great-winged Petrel 10 (3)
Providence Petrel 25 (6)
Kermadec Petrel 30 (10) 1 light phase, 2 intermediate phase remainder dark
phase (all around BP)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 170 (120)
Fleshy-footed Shearwater 120 (80)
Little Shearwater 3 (2)
White-bellied Storm Petrel 3 (2) Over deep water halfway between LHI and BP
Red-tailed Tropicbird 6 (3) all at BP
Masked Booby 20 (15)
Sooty Tern 6000 mostly at BP
Common Noddy 1500 mostly at BP
Black Noddy 40 mostly at BP
White Tern 1 over deep water 40 in lagoon at LHI
Grey Ternlet 20 over deep water 4000 at BP
Welcome Swallow 2 at BP

Bottle-nosed Dolphins (large oceanic form) 8

Would be happy to provide additional info if anyone so desires

Rohan Clarke
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