Lord Howe Island - part 2

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Lord Howe Island - part 2
From: "Crispin Marsh" <>
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2005 13:54:17 +1100

Lord Howe Island - Part 2

27 October to 2 November 2005


There is an ephemeral swamp between the end of the airport and Blinky?s beach which had a reasonable amount of water in it when we arrived (but was rapidly drying as we left).  A morning visit coinciding with high tide produced a bunch more cross-breed ducks, pacific golden plover, ruddy turnstone, red necked stint, buff breasted rail, bar tailed godwit, two latham?s snipe, a single great cormorant and masked lapwing.


After lunch Jack Schick revealed a second of his talents, skippering us on a pelagic to Ball?s Pyramid. The weather was perfect with a light breeze and slight swell. We were accompanied by the premier local birder, Ian Hutton. The boat headed around the north end of the island bringing a couple of  black noddies into view and providing my 500th Australian bird. Red tailed tropicbirds soared around the cliffs, masked boobies, common noddies and sooty terns nested on the Admiralty Islands and a small group of the very attractive grey ternlet flew by. As we approached the pyramid a white-bellied storm petrel appeared. Jack stopped the boat and produced a shark liver which soon had the boat surrounded by flesh footed shearwaters and, after a time, six white-bellies. A flock of grey ternlets feeding adjacent the Wheatsheaf had Jack trolling for the kingfish that are so often indicated by the ternlets.


Kermadec petrels were soaring around the pyramid in both the dark and light morphs. They were also attracted by the liver. On the return a great towering cloud of providence petrels circled a short way off Lord Howe. Ian suggested that this is a behaviour seen only just before the birds depart north on the migratory passage. Wedgetailed and shorttailed shearwaters were also seen on the voyage back to LHI.


We timed our walk the following day to North Beach to coincide with low tide when a large sea grass covered bank is exposed. This was very productive with ruddy turnstones, pacific golden plover, a single grey tailed tattler, bar tailed godwit (one with an orange flag on its RH leg), a white faced heron, red necked stint, whimbrel and a single red knot fed on the bank. Sooty terns and common noddies were coupling on the beach and black noddies nesting in the pines on the north side of the beach. Blackbirds, golden whistlers and silvereyes were common in the forest behind the beach.


Another visit to the swamp by the airport showed the same birds as previously with the addition of a greater sand plover and a curlew.


I was privileged to be able to join Ian Hutton for a few hours to assist in banding little shearwater chicks on the headland north of Blinky?s beach.  A number of the burrows revealed only down indicating that the chick had fledged but 15 or so burrows still held chicks. Some were pretty much fully fledged and probably ready to leave any day but a few were still partly covered in soft grey down. One burrow produced not the expected chick but an adult black winged petrel. This bird was obviously the vanguard for the returning petrels as I saw no others. Ian indicating that they are not normally seen flying at Ned?s Beach until the 3rd week of November.


On our last day a walk to middle beach revealed 6 little black cormorants loafing on the rocks at the northern end of the beach.


In summary it is a wonderful place to bird. In spring and autumn I gather one can expect a variety of migrants to pass through. Probably the greatest surprise was the number of buff banded rails and the relaxed way they stroll around the settled areas of the island ? we saw more buff breasted rails than we did silvereyes! The tameness of the birds was reminiscent of the Galapagos. 44 bird species, 8 lifers and 10 for the Australian list made for a great trip on a wonderful island. 



Peter Marsh

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