Bird Week on Christmas Island
Day 1 - 1 September 2006
Up with the lark, so to speak, and off to breakfast at the Golden Bosun Tavern. A full breakfast smorgasbord of poached eggs, bacon, sausages, cereal, coffee, tea and fruit juices was on offer.
An introductory tour was on the agenda today conducted mainly by Tim Low and David James. In the morning we used a bus, the only time in the week when we did so. Almost immediately we were honoured by several Imperial Pigeons.
One of our first points of interest was Margaret Knoll. We had a short distance to walk after alighting from the bus and on the way we were introduced to the concept of the land crab in the form of the Red Crab.
A termite mound was seen against the buttress root of one of the trees. I was rather puzzled by the presence of quite large stones in the mound. I came to the conclusion they were probably the work of biped insects rather than six-legged ants.
Margaret Knoll has a couple of informative signs:
The view from the lookout.
(Montage Courtesy of brenn1 of brenn1 designs Houston, TX)
From there it was off to another lookout overlooking part of the settlement where it was possible to look down on some flying birds which makes for great photography.
I am not sure whether the first and third pictures are of Christmas Island Frigatebirds or Great Frigatebirds or one of each. David James only taught us to identify seabirds from below :). The middle picture is of a Golden Bosunbird otherwise known as a White-tailed Tropicbird. Christmas Island is host to a mixture of the standard white Golden Bosunbird and the yellow morph Golden Bosunbird in the ratio of about 10 : 90. At least that is the ratio we were given and from my limited observations it seemed about right.
Lunch was at the Cove Gazebos just along from the settlement but en route we said hello to some more Imperial Pigeons.
Apparently the Bird Week was anticipated on Christmas Island and school students went to work and prepared papier-mâché bird which were to be seen at strategic spots all over the island. They added considerably to the pleasure of being there.
The children were also apparently aware of the nesting habits of the birds. Red-footed boobies and Abbots Boobies nest in trees whereas Brown Boobies are ground nesters, eschewing the tree-top heights for Christmas Island's ancient terrain.
Thank you girls and boys!
Lunch at the Cove was attended by the usual soaring Frigatebirds.
In the afternoon we wandered off past the old governor's residence while David James dispensed his seabird identification knowledge (underside only).
We came upon a gun emplacement. Apparently half the Japanese war fleet turned up off Christmas Island in 1942 and shelled it on March 31. I am told that the mainly Sikh Police Force mutinied after the shelling and surrendered to the Japanese. 900 troops then came ashore. However, I have also been told that most of the Europeans were evacuated to Australia prior to that time in anticipation of a Japanese occupation. One wonders if the Sikh Police Force was expected to commit mass suicide resisting an attack under these circumstances. I am not a historian and what is in this paragraph is merely repeated comments. Please do not cite it as fact. I have included it in these pages because there is a certain mystique about WWII remains. The gun covers the only practical landing site on the island, the rest being cliffs.
On the hillside above the gun and its magazines, there is a craggy path. Some of us climbed it and were rewarded by the site of some Christmas Island Frigatebird chicks and fledglings.
There were also a couple of Red-footed Boobies. (Below)
As a palaeontologist I am not a bad cook but I do have some idea that limestone is generally laid down under the sea although there are fairly rare examples of Aeolian deposits. In marine limestone, fossils are relatively common but that about exhausts my knowledge.
I spotted this one on the right in a rock while climbing the path. It would be about 25 cms across. If you have any idea what it might have been please feel free to email me.
Onwards and upwards and we were rewarded by meeting a Brown Booby and his/her Chick.
I continued upwards and the path was steeper and rougher. After a few minutes I looked behind to find nobody was following. This was because we had been asked not to but the request hadn't registered with me. Nevertheless, now wishing to create a rescue risk I turned around and descended.
All that remained to be done on day one was to return to the lodge, scrub up a bit and adjourn to the Golden Bosun Tavern for a couple of icy cold ales before heading off to Muggz Cafe for a welcome pizza and pasta dinner followed by an informative talk courtesy of David James.
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