Frank & Syd emails have spurred me to write a few words about visiting
Lord Howe last week.
First morning on the island I was up at dawn to run the length of island
and get my bearings and I almost trod on 3 Woodhens near Little Island.
It was an emotional experience meeting a species which went to the brink
of extinction. The LH museum has a picture from ~1970, the early days of
the recovery effort. Confidently holding a Woodhen - one of only about
20 then - is frequent birding-aus contributor Alan Morris - flanked by
Peter Fullagar and John Disney. My daughter was less impressed by her
close encounter with a Woodhen when it tried to peck the flowers on
her floral trousers.
Close encounters with breeding seabirds was the other birding highlight:
White Terns adoring the trees around the settlement, Black-winged Petrels
in courtship flights, dodging Flesh-footed Shearwaters plummeting to the
forest floor after sunset and eye-to-eye with Sooty Terns. This photo
was taken half-way up Mt Eliza at the southern end of the island:
We couldn't climb higher because the Sooty Terns were nesting on
the track. The mountains in the background are Lidgebird and Gower.
Mount Gower is one of the best day walks I've ever done. You progress
through changing vegetation, much of it endemic, from sea-level up to
the moss forest above 800m. Here is the view for lunch at the summit
with a LH Currawong sitting on the endemic Metrosideros nervulosa.
Woodhens also joined us for lunch and Red-tailed Tropicbirds displayed
above during our descent. You must do the walk in a guided party.
Its a long strenuous day but not beyond anyone who is moderately active.
Most of our party were less than fit and all made the summit. My 9
year-old lead the way up the mountain.
The non-birding highlight was excellent snorkeling including a number of
new fish for me - Lord Howe endemics or near-endemics. My 9 year-old son
carefully inspected the shark pages in my fish field guides on the plane
over and was rewarded with close views of 3 Galapagos Reef Sharks on our
first afternoon snorkeling at Ned's Beach. My 6 year old daughter can't
really swim yet, but equipped in a wetsuit & face mask and towed around by
me on a foam board she saw lionfish, pufferfish, parrotfish, catfish,
large kingfish, stingrays, anemonefish, various butterflyfish and
wrasses and more. Coral diversity is impressive considering the latitude.
I booked a diving trip to Ball's Pyramid. - hoping to watch birds between
dives - but it was cancelled because it was too windy. Apparently this
is common event. A sightseeing trip was cancelled the previous day
but I found out after the event a sightseeing trip did go the next day.
Ian Hutton's book "Bird of Lord Howe Island - Past and Present" is the
essential. He also has small books covering plants, marine life and
walks which you should also buy at the museum. He gives evening talks
at the museum and leads walks, although not when we there because he
was looking after a birding group.
For snorkeling/diving I'd recommend Lord Howe Environment Tours - if
you don't want to snorkel their glass-bottom boat trip is great, Howea
Divers - excellent North Beach snorkeling/sightseeing trip and Pro Dive.
We stayed at Ocean View Lodge which was comfortable and convenient.
Bird list appended.
Providence Petrel - one very late fledging bird on summit of Mount Gower
Kermadec Petrel - not seen
Black-winged Petrel - courtship flights at Ned's Beach and the Clear Space
Flesh-footed Shearwater - visiting burrows at Ned's Beach & elsewhere
Wedge-tailed Shearwater - visiting burrows at Signal Point & elsewhere
Little Shearwater - not seen
White-bellied Storm-Petrel - not seen
Masked Booby - distant views in flight from the Clear Space & elsewhere
Red-tailed Tropicbird - displaying at Mt Eliza & elsewhere
Sooty Tern - very conspicuous, breeding at Mt Eliza & elsewhere
Common Noddy - breeding at North Beach & seen elsewhere
Black Noddy - breeding at North Beach & seen elsewhere
White Tern - very conspicuous, breeding around settlement
Grey Ternlet - not seen
White-faced Heron - 1 bird seen in flight
Australian Kestrel - not seen and not searched for
Black Duck/Mallard hybrid - Ned's Beach & elsewhere
Buff-banded Rail - tame & breeding at Ocean View lodge, seen elsewhere
Woodhen - Little Island walk, Mt Gower, near settlement
Purple Swamphen - several near airport
Masked Lapwing - several at airport
Emerald Ground-Dove - tame near settlement
Masked Owl - not seen and not searched for
Sacred Kingfisher - conspicuous in various open locations
Welcome Swallow - conspicuous in various open locations
Blackbird - very conspicuous in settled areas
Song Thrush - heard near settlement
Lord Howe Golden Whistler - conspicuous in forested areas
Lord Howe White-eye - conspicuous in forested areas
Common Starling - not seen, might be extinct
Australian Magpie-lark - several near airport
Lord Howe Currawong - conspicuous in forested areas
Feral Pigeon - several flying settlement & also Old Gulch
Little Black Cormorant - 1 in lagoon
Cattle Egret - 1 on farmland near settlement
Pacific Gold Plover - 20+ on airport, also other open areas
Ruddy Turnstone - 10+ on airport, also elsewhere
Whimbrel - several on airport, also elsewhere
Bar-tailed Godwit - several North Beach & 1 mud behind Old Settlement Beach
Terek Sandpiper - 1 mud behind Old Settlement Beach
Marsh Sandpiper - 1 mud behind Old Settlement Beach
Also heard secondhand of sightings of Spine-tailed Swift and Painted Snipe
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