Bird Week on Christmas Island
Day 3 - Sunday, 3 September 2006
Another one of Don's full breakfasts at the Golden Bosun Tavern fortified us for the day's activities to be led by Nic Dunlop. Nic did his Ph.D. in the area of Terns. On finding this out I just had to ask him if he knew of the philosopher who was caught throwing rocks at seagulls. When he replied in the negative, I told him that the philosopher's explanation was that, in his search for the meaning of life, he intended to leave no tern unstoned. From this I learned that you do not crack jokes to experts in the area of their expertise because they know them all. I was seriously outgunned on tern jokes.
Today we were scheduled to go to Lily Beach again and spend the morning banding Common Noddies but birds, in the natural sense as well as in the colloquial sense, are somewhat less than predictable. A problem with eco-tours is that animals and birds resist schedules where the conditions are not favourable. For some reason the Noddies gave Lily Beach a miss. One of the features of the planning of this week was contingency plans. Perhaps it was just emergency improvisation but from my point of view it looked seamless. Plan B was implemented and we went off catching and banding Island Thrushes. Once the nets were set, there was a short circuitous walk through the forest where surreal trees were featured.
A little while later we checked the nets to find a couple of Christmas Island White-eyes and an Island Thrush. Why I did not take a picture of the birds being removed from the nets, measured or banded I do not know but alas! I do not have any. Such is life.
However, at the end of proceedings I was lucky enough to come across this chap who held his position long enough for me to snap him. It is really a pity that I did not take more photographs as it was a 'hands on' exercise where the participants would remove the bird from the mist nets, handle the bird and assist with measuring. Of course this was all under the supervision of Nic Dunlop, an old hand.
After lunch, tasty wraps, a drink and a chin wag, it was off down the road a bit to a Silver Bosunbird (or red-tailed Tropicbird) nesting colony where Julia, a Masters student from Hamburg University, was conducting research. This was another hands on operation. The birds were plucked from the nest by Julia, placed in a bag and brought back to a central location for banding and measuring.
Here Nic is banding a bird. Apparently in order to be qualified to band birds, one has to do it under supervision for about 2 years. The result is that overseas students cannot realistically get qualified to do it themselves. While it does take a bit of care and skill to ensure that the band is on properly and the bird is not harmed, it is certainly not rocket science. One might suspect that somewhere, some time ago, there was a bit of empire building going on here.
Here Julia the Masters student (right) becomes the teacher and tries to instil the basics of bird handling into a kindergarten grade student (left), the author of this webpage. Photographs courtesy of Gary Morgan.
After the Bosunbirds had been returned to their nests we got ready to move down to the Casino. And above us the birds still soared. A Silver Bosunbird at left and the ubiquitous Great Frigatebird at right.
The reason for visiting the Casino was not gambling. The casino was decommissioned a few years ago when the Asian economy melted down. Rather it was to visit a beach where a spring-fed fresh water stream flowed into the ocean. Frigate birds come to this place to drink on the wing by swooping down to the surface and scooping up water with their beaks. The problem was that they outclassed the photographer for speed. I tried a dozen times to get a good shot of them just touching the water but it was Birds 12 Photographer Nil. This is as close as I got.
There was, however, a delightful rock pool nearby which was constantly being fed by waves which got through a rock wall. If I lived here I would have a marine aquarium.
From there, there was one further stop before returning to the lodge.
Christmas Island has produced its own supply of waifs and strays and 4.20 p.m. is the time for feeding them. Some of them are even provided with their own personal chairs. It was a wonderful photo opportunity and for once I was up to the task.
The birds on the chairs and above are juvenile Christmas Island Frigatebirds. The black and white lady below is a Great Frigatebird while the bird with the hose is a Common Noddy.
This is also a Common Noddy
The picture of the birds in flight at left, in my opinion is my Photo of the Week. Note the juvenile male Great Frigate Bird on the chair. He looks like he is expressing frustration and outrage at not being able to join in with the flying birds.
The flying bird behind is a Christmas Island Frigatebird but I am unable to say what sort of Frigatebird the leading bird is.
< --- Why does this bird remind me of a politician?
With all Frigatebirds and a Noddy replete, it was back to the lodge for a shower before beer o'clock ticked around. After a couple of welcome cold beers, we dined at the other tavern on the island on a selection of roasts. I enjoyed the meal but I heard comment that it was not up to the standard of the other evenings. I thought it was just a different style. Ah well! Everyone's taste is different.
After dinner the activity was spotlighting Christmas Island Hawk Owls. I did not go but I wish I had. The enthusiasm with which people talked about it the next day made it apparent to me that it was a major highlight of the week. Grrrrrr.
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