Lord Howe Island Trip Report

To: <>
Subject: Lord Howe Island Trip Report
From: "Simon Mustoe" <>
Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 22:28:58 +1000
>From what I have heard, Lord Howe is supposed to be one of the nicest holiday 
>destinations in Australia and I would have to agree. We just spent five days 
>there on a short frequent-flyer-booked family holiday. Despite two kids in 
>tow, including one who contracted chicken pox on the day of arrival, the 
>birding was fantastic. Although having kids with you limits the chance to walk 
>any of the summits, including Mount Gower, this evidently does not stop one 
>from seeing the various endemics in a relatively short amount of time. Weather 
>is your biggest constraint and we managed to luckily coincide with several 
>good days.

DAY 1. First bird of the trip was a RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD from the plane just 
before touchdown plus thousands of PROVIDENCE PETRELS as specks gathering just 
offshore before their nightly arrival at breeding sites on Mt Gower. After 
arriving at the airport mid-afternoon we were whisked off to our apartment at 
the northern end of Lagoon Road past the airfield where a few PACIFIC GOLDEN 
PLOVERS were feeding. This is a good birding spot with a small balancing pond 
also providing habitat for various waterfowl and waders. The afternoon we spent 
at Ned's Beach with the kids, feeding the kingfish. Fortunately we got there 
just soon after the Getaway crew left. There was also a celebrity chef on our 
flight...apparently. Beware of film crews on your flights. One tried to nick 
off with my tripod and had I not been so observant I would have spent a few 
days hand-holding my scope!

DAY 2. It was raining at dawn but we headed out for a family walk over to 
Settlement Bay at dawn. This is a beach infront of a cow paddock with a small 
creek running through. There were quite a few WELCOME SWALLOWS and, to my 
surprise, a martin. It took me about half an hour to get a good but distant 
view and confirm it as FAIRY MARTIN. About the eigth record for Lord Howe but 
Ian Hutton informed me later, this bird was already well known to the locals 
and had been around since March. Also at this site, as well as in our garden 
and just about everywhere on the island were GOLDEN WHISTLERS, 'lord howe 
island white-eyes' (the endemic SILVEREYE subspecies), and the ever-present 
PIED CURRAWONGS. I didn't see these all that often around the village areas but 
they call regularly and often fly over at great height.

In the afternoon, tempted by Ian's suggestion of where to see the Woodhen, we 
took the kids on the back of bikes to the end of the Little Island track. Here 
in the late afternoon, PROVIDENCE PETRELS gather on mass over Mt Gower and the 
spectacle is well worth seeing. Almost as soon as we arrived, the heavens 
opened and we all ducked for cover under the pandanus. Drenched through, I 
headed back out to get waterproofs out of bags and almost back under cover, 
Fiona my wife shouted 'I've got a WOODHEN here'. It appeared that the rain had 
brought one inquisitive bird right up to Fiona and the two kids. I struggled 
for my camera but before I could squeeze off any shots the critter came so 
close I had to back off to keep it in frame. And so, over the next half an hour 
it wandered in and out of the wheels of the bikes on the grass. We saw a 
second, not so confiding, on the way back down the track which this time 
grunted at us then proceeded to alarm call loudly.

DAY 3. Spent the morning with the kids in the glass bottom boat. There appears 
to be very little in the way of bird life around the lagoon itself at this time 
of year, save the last few WHITE TERNS breeding. A couple of juveniles had not 
quite yet fledged and would sit on the Norfolk pines. Later that day however, 
Jack Shick had very kindly offered to take me out on Nocticula for an afternoon 
pelagic in search of white-bellied stormies and grey ternlets. We left at 3pm 
with only a couple of hours daylight and Ian Hutton joined us. As we headed out 
to 6 miles past Admiralty Island we saw MASKED BOOBY, numerous COMMON NODDIES 
stopped and berleyed for a few seconds. About five minutes later the first 
WHITE-BELLIED STORM-PETRELS appeared then their numbers built along with a 
single white-bellied KERMADEC PETREL, several PROVIDENCE PETRELS, one 
SHEARWATERS flew past and shortly before sunset we counted more than 25 
white-bellied stormies around the boat! On the way in around Admiralty Island 
there were large numbers of little shearwater gathering and we were briefly 
joined by two oceanic bottlenose dolphins.

That evening we cycled to Blinky beach and met Ian Hutton who was planning to 
go out and inspect little shearwater nests. On the way past the airfield a 
MASKED OWL flew over and accommodated us with distant perched views after I 
hurried back along the road to look for it. LITTLE SHEARWATERS were in 
abundance at the nesting sites that evening and on the way back to town we 
again stumbled across the masked owl. A naturalised population since the 1920s, 
I have every intention of 'ticking' this bird, although I am told after this 
week, a shooting program under the Woodhen management plan begins and this 
unfortunate and well-known individual will probably be amongst the first to go.

DAY 4. During an early morning trip out to the airfield wetland we stumbled 
across a pair of GREY TEAL. Apparently third records for Lord Howe, these had 
also been present since March, so again my rarity-finding illusions were 
shattered. A trio of juvenile PIED CURRAWONGS added some further value to the 
trip - since we had not been on any of the walks and the species seems to be 
less common around the town areas, we had not seen many at all. Most of the 
rest of the day we relaxed with the kids, Fiona went off for a massage then we 
headed to Ned's beach for a snorkel. Great place as just 50m off the beach 
you're joined by huge four foot long kingfish, as well as Galapogas sharks and 
green turtles.

DAY 5. Last day before heading back home in the afternoon, we chartered Island 
Cruises to drop us off at North Bay. Rumours of wandering tattler drew me 
there, plus the opportunity to observe waders on the falling tide. RED-TAILED 
TROPICBIRDS flew about over Mt Eliza and about 25 DOUBLE-BANDED PLOVERS were on 
several PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER and a single stint. The stint was in peak winter 
plumage. I took copious notes and photos to further scrutinise. The bill looked 
fine and long and the overall shape and colour seemed off. Some of the 
scapulars were also quite dark centred but in full winter plumage, even if it 
were to be a little stint, it would be very hard to identify. Now I have the 
photos I am of the opinion it is probably a red-necked stint. We caught the 
flight out at 3pm that afternoon and all these shorebirds had moved on the high 
tide to a patch of grass next to the airport. This included one or two close to 
summer plumage double-banded plovers. Even the stint was there and as it 
wandered over the tarmac it at least gave me a chance to confirm there was no 
webbing between the toes... well one can only hope.

A great trip in all and not too costly. Well worth the effort and a big 
recommendation for anyone, kids or otherwise.


Simon Mustoe.


Simon Mustoe, Director

AES Applied Ecology Solutions Pty. Ltd
39 The Crescent
Belgrave Heights
Victoria 3160

Tel +61 (0)3 9752 6398
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