Norfolk Island - April 2011

Yvonne and I visited Norfolk Island for seven nights from the 1st to 8th April 2011. With direct flights available from Melbourne, Norfolk Island is easy to get to, has some great accommodation choices and wonderful scenery.

Anson Bay, Norfolk Island

The choice was between Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island. We felt that Norfolk had more to offer and was better value than Lord Howe. As Norfolk is further east than Lord Howe and sits between New Caledonia and New Zealand, there was also the possibility of more interesting bird sightings.

We made our own travel arrangements and stayed at the Jacaranda Park Holiday Cottages which were excellent. The cottages are situated on a ridge which has lovely valley view’s through to the ocean at a distance. A rental car was provided as part of the accommodation package which is a necessity on the island.
Sunset from Jacaranda Park Cottages

The weather was good for April, with some showers in the early morning, generally clearing up during the day. Most days were warm and very pleasant. The sea was calm the first few days and became rough as the winds increased during the week. We were not able to get out to Phillip Island and the only available charter service appears to operate on an ad hoc basis, with fishing trips taking priority.


Nepean Island (foreground) and Phillip Island

We explored most of the areas accessible by road and walking tracks. The views of the rugged coastline are spectacular and the cliffs make access to the island very difficult, with the harbour facilities being rudimentary.
Kingston Jetty

Even today, ships anchor about 1km offshore with the cargo being unloaded onto lighters which are then towed ashore by motorised launches. On the jetties a mobile crane with a 16 tonne lifting capacity is used to handle cargo into and out of the lighters. Due to the small size of the lighters standard shipping containers cannot be handled at Norfolk Island. Lighterage operations take place at either Cascade on the northern coastline, and Kingston on the southern coastline, depending on the direction of the wind and swell.
Some of the areas visited:

Kingston Military Barracks
 
Cresswell Bay
 
Emily Bay
 
Bird and Elephant Rocks

Norfolk Island has three endemic bird species:
  •    Norfolk Parakeet - Generally difficult to locate although it's call is distinctive
  •    Norfolk Gerygone - Very common throughout
  •   Slender-billed White-eye - Relatively common in the forests
Norfolk Parakeet

In addition, there are a number of subspecies endemic to Norfolk, these being the Pacific Robin, Grey Fantail, Norfolk Island Whistler, Norfolk Island Sacred Kingfisher and Norfolk Island Boobook.
 
Pacific Robin

The other endemic, the White-chested White-eye has recently been classified as being extinct. The decline began with the introduction of the Grey-breasted Silvereye which displaced the White-chested White-eye from its breeding range.

From the 1940's introduced rats destroyed the nests and clearing of the forests led to a severe decline in the population to only 50 individuals in 1962. In 1978 only four individuals were monitored and a sighting of only a single bird was reported in 2000. An extensive survey by ornithologist Guy Dutson in 2009 failed to find any birds.
Another bird close to extinction was the Norfolk Island Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae undulata) which was endemic to Norfolk Island. The population of these birds declined with the clearance of its forest habitat and by 1986 the population had been reduced to a single female bird.

As part of a program to attempt to conserve at least some of the genes of the subspecies, two male Southern Boobook of the nominate New Zealand subspecies, Ninox novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae, were introduced to the island as mates for the female. The males were sourced from the New Zealand subspecies rather than one of the Australian subspecies as it was discovered that it was more closely related to the Norfolk Island taxon. Not surprising given the location of Norfolk Island.
One of the introduced males disappeared a year after introduction but the other successfully mated with the female with the pair producing fledged chicks in 1989 and 1990. The original female disappeared in 1996 but, by then, there was a small hybrid population of about a dozen birds. These birds and their descendants continue to exist on the island.

The birds which we saw, based on the IOC listing, were as follows. The birds highlighted in capitals were new birds for me:
·         California Quail - Commonly seen in coveys from 5-10 birds

·         Red Junglefowl - Seen all over the island

·         Mallard - Seen around Kingston

·         Pacific Black Duck - Only one "pure breed" seen on Cutters Corn Road

·         KERMADEC PETREL (neglecta subspecies) - Four birds seen from Captain Cook memorial

·         Black-winged Petrel- Seen regularly from Captain Cook memorial

·         Wedge-tailed Shearwater - Very common in particular between Point Hunter and Nepean Island

·         Red-tailed Tropicbird (roseotinctus subspecies)- Common around the island with some birds nesting at Bloody Bridge

Red-tailed Tropicbird

·         White-faced Heron - Mainly seen at Cemetery Bay

·         Great Frigatebird (palmerstoni subspecies) - Seen on several days from Captain Cook memorial and at Bird Rock lookout.

·         Masked Booby (fullagari subspecies) - Seen at a number of places and also nesting birds at Margaret Christian's property.

·         Swamp Harrier - Seen over Nepean Island

·         Nankeen Kestrel - Seen regularly throughout island

·         Easern Australian Swamphen (melanotus subspecies) - Common on the Kingston Common

·         Pacific Golden Plover - Single bird at Burnt Pine village sports field

·         Double-banded Plover (bicinctus subspecies) - Eight birds on exposed rocks at Slaughter Bay

·         Asiatic Whimbrel (variegatus subspecies) - Seen daily at Cemetery Bay

·         Wandering Tattler - Seen at Point Hunter on a number of days

Wandering Tattler

·         Ruddy Turnstone (interpres subspecies) - Eight birds seen at Cemetery Bay, also seen at Slaughter Bay

·         Brown Noddy (pileatus subspecies) - Most easily seen from Captain Cook memorial

·         Black Noddy (minutus subspecies) - Very common around the coast especially at Bloody Bridge

Black Noddy

·         Grey Noddy (albivitta subspecies) - Seen from Captain Cook memorial and Bird Rock lookout

·         Atlantic White Tern (alba subspecies) - Abundant at this time of year

·         Sooty Tern - Seen from Captain Cook memorial and Bird Rock lookout

·         Feral Pigeon - Common

·         Pacific Emerald Dove (rogersi subspecies) - Easily seen at Hundred Acres Reserve

·         NORFOLK PARAKEET - Saw six birds in two separate groups on Bird Rock and Red Rock tracks, also heard from Mt Bates track

·         Crimson Rosella (elegans subspecies) - Common across the whole island

·         Norfolk Island Boobook (undulata subspecies) - Heard calling from Cutters Corn Road

·         Norfolk Island Sacred Kingfisher (norfolkiensis subspecies) - Common across the whole island

·         NORFOLK GERYGONE - Common across the whole island

·         Masked Woodswallow - Eight birds seen at Burnt Pine village sports field

·         Norfolk Island Whistler (xanthoprocta subspecies) - Commonly seen and heard in the National Park, Botanical Gardens and elsewhere on the island. The plumage of the male, as shown below, is significantly different to the Golden Whistler

Norfolk Island Whistler

·         Grey Fantail (pelzelni subspecies) - Commonly seen in the National Park and Botanical Gardens

·         Pacific Robin (multicolour subspecies) - Fairly common in the National Park, particularly on the side tracks off Mt Pitt Road. Female robin shown below:

·         Welcome Swallow (neoxena subspecies) - Common

·         Grey-breasted Silvereye (lateralis subspecies) - Common

·         NORFOLK ISLAND WHITEYE (tenuirostris subspecies) - Fairly common in the National Park, Botanical Gardens and Hundred Acres Reserve

·         Common Starling - Some quite large flocks

·         Common Blackbird - Common

·         Song Thrush - One bird seen in woods at Emily Bay and one or two elsewhere, not common

·         House Sparrow - Common

·         European Greenfinch - Two birds seen at Cutters Corn Road


1 comment:

  1. Hello, some very nice photos. I wonder if I can use some on my website temporarily

    ReplyDelete