Bird Week on Christmas Island
Day 2 - Saturday, 2 September 2006
Today we were led by Tim Low, a naturalist and author, on a full day of exploring the island and various places in more detail. Tim's obvious eclectic expertise, by which I mean animal, vegetable, mineral and avian and the interaction between them, coupled with his common touch and honed communication skills made him an excellent team leader for what was, in practical terms, the first day and set the standard for the days to come.
Initially we headed off to the Dales, on the Western side of the island. We left the vehicles and headed off to Hugh's Dale, one of a number of streams on the west coast of the island. The feature of this part of the island is Blue Crabs but there are also Red Crabs and the odd Robber Crab as seen in the first picture.
As usual there are informative signs around.
Although there is Basalt around here the Limestone is never far away and always the forest and more forest.
Off to another lookout and part way down a track which descends the cliffs to the gun emplacement. The forest produces some surreal trees which some people described as reminiscent of Lord of the Rings. I will have to take their word for it as I have never seen the film.
Tim told me the grasshopper was a staple food of the the numerous Kestrels on the island. The fungus on the dead wood at right caught my eye.
Lunch was at Lilly Beach, a picturesque cove. The picture at right was taken as few minutes after the one at left but the water was not to remain calm for long. A clamber through some mangrove which were off to the right of the above picture brought me out above a small rock pool which was smooth for a minute or so and I got to meet this chap who was enjoying a quiet moment. It didn't last long before another wave crashed in.
To the left of the white-water picture above was a track which looked just right for a post lunch stroll and I was rewarded by several Brown Booby nests with chicks.
Birds do not come a lot cuter than that.
In the afternoon came a walk to what must be the coolest place on Christmas Island. It was a track of 2 or 3 hundred metres and along the way I was lucky enough for one of the island's resident butterflies to pose for me.
Further down the track we arrive on top of a cliff. It was a lookout which overlooked the island golf course. Unfortunately, my inadequacies as a photographer prevented me from bringing the majesty of the Brown Boobie's mastery of the air to these pages. They would soar up and along the cliff and turn in the air within a metre or two of our observation point.
An American lady standing near me summed it up in her Californian accent with "That is soooooo cool". It was impossible to cavil with this American on this point but, sadly, my camera and I did not do it justice. In fact the only birds shots I ended up with were two Frigatebirds and one very mediocre Brown Booby shot. Returning to this place and taking some better shots was on my 'To Do' list in the time I had left on the island after the bird week but it was not to be.
The day was almost over but before retiring to the Tavern we visited the roost of some flying foxes where we had a worms-eye view of their dormitory on the way to a remarkable beach.
The beach in question is on the North side of the island and, by some trick of the currents, accumulates enormous amounts of flotsam from Java. We were told that a huge cleanup of the beach had been done a week or two before our visit but the garbage has started to collect anew. I was remiss in that I did not take a picture of it but some small debris can be seen in the background of the picture of me holding a odd rock at left.
Access to the beach is down several flights of steps. The picture at right was taken from a platform part way down.
It was then off back to the lodge for a rest, a cool down and a shower before adjourning to the Tavern for a welcome ale or two before heading off to a local Chinese restaurant for a banquet. A great meal!
The evening talk was presented by Nic Dunlop but I cannot make any personal comment because I missed it but by all accounts it was well received.
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