It has been a busy week working full time back in my scientist role in Immuno-Haematology, so my wife and I have not been out birding as much, which is unusual for us. Lord Howe Island is one of our favorite birding places so I thought to highlight some of the birds from there, and highly recommend you visit there one day.
One unique bird only found on this island is the Lord Howe Island Woodhen, which almost became extinct because European settlers found it so easy to kill for food, as it was flightless. Notice these birds are banded on their legs. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Unbanded birds, such as the one below, are young ones born in the last two years which have eluded the banding program, but will eventually be banded to mark their progress. The woodhen is classified in the rail family.
They are generally very quiet birds, making their own unique sound, foraging in the undergrowth for insects and small figs which have fallen to the ground.
Lord Howe Island is famous for its huge banyan trees (Ficus macrophylla columnaris) which send out roots from its branches which grow into trunks of the trees. A single tree may spread itself over acres of land. These provide fruit for many birds. It is related to our Moreton Bay fig, the largest Australian fig tree.
Another common bird seen foraging here is the Buff-banded Rail, here was a magic moment seeing this young rail learning to forage with its mother. This species was sighted by us in Sydney Park in my last post.
The rails are quite tame and can be seen all over the island grazing.
One of the feature birds that many come to the island to see are found in the Norfolk Pines along the coast of Lagoon Beach, the beautiful White Tern. This bird lays its egg on the branch of the pine tree, without a nest being constructed. Amazingly the eggs balances there until hatched, but is an open target for marauding Currawongs, which these birds continually are on the lookout for.
My wife had the delight of actually feeding a young White Tern chick from her hand, which was being cared for by an islander, as it had lost its parent. Here you can see the parents caring for their single chick, as well as this special photo I caught of a parent with three small fish in its beak to feed to it baby, carrying them in a similar way to the Puffins.
However, the most sought after bird that birders like myself and my wife, come here to see is aussiebirder’s logo (avatar) bird, the Red-tailed Tropicbird. As many of you know this is the bird that drew me into birding, away from nature photography, with its amazing flight gymnastics and the ability to fly backwards when courting its mate. They can be seen flying effortlessly and endlessly over the cliffs on the northern side of the island on Malabar hill, where you can here the chicks squeaking below.
Their red tail plumes assist their flight acrobatics, and their black feet contrast to their pure white feathers. This is one of the few places you will see these birds, Lady Elliot Island is another. They inhabit the rugged sea cliffs of the islands off the north east coast of NSW and Queensland.
The beautiful Emerald Dove is also common here.
As is the very vocal and cheerful Lord Howe Island race of the Golden Whistler (race contempta), recently reclassified and differentiated from pectoris found on NSW east coast. This bird can be heard all over the island during Spring and Summer.
Another bird only seen here is the Lord Howe Island White-Eye, which is a cousin to our Silvereye. Note how tiny they are compared to the leaves. One can be seen eating a ripe fig.
Lord Howe Island is blessed as a breeding ground for many seabirds and waders, and this is another plus for visiting this beautiful island. One such bird which breeds on the island is the Masked Booby. Here on Mutton Bird Point they have their many nests. If you look carefully you may see one or two of their young chicks.
The Black Noddy and Common (Brown) Noddy, have a large nesting area on the north side of the island in the pine trees. They become quite agitated if you get too close. We had a guided tour by one of the islands most celebrated ornithologists Ian Hutton. Similar to the White Tern, they must guard their eggs and young from marauding Currawong and raptors, such as Masked Owls which are now thriving there.
One of my favorite birds which we saw nesting there on the beach near the airstrip was the Sooty Tern. I love the way this bird hovers close by out of curiosity. here are some of the parents witheir spotted juveniles on the beach among the blue grass.
You will see many signs around the island similar to these. Though there are not many cars and trucks. Most tourists use bicycles or walk.
Yes Lord Howe Island is a major nesting area for several species of Shearwater or Muttonbirds as some call them, they say they taste like mutton. The Flesh-footed Shearwater is the most common, and can be seen landing at dusk and waddling into its underground nests. If you are in their nesting area say near Ned’s Beach you need to be careful they do not land on you at night.
This Sacred Kingfisher is seen near the airstrip.
Many species of wader and shorebirds can be seen here two of which we saw many were the Ruddy Turnstone, Pacific Golden Plover and the Bar-tailed Godwit.
Lastly, this fungi is a classic inhabitant of the moist Banyan forests of Lord Howe Island . Fungi spores thrive with moisture and lack of direct sunlight. It was thought that these fungal spores were spread by gusts of wind, but more recent research shows that the mushrooms and fungi actually produce their own wind source to disperse their spores and reproduce elsewhere. How amazing is that!
“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” – Job 12:13
Enjoy your week ahead!
Check out my page on Info Tips for birding in Australia, it also has links to useful resources and links.
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