Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Lord Howe Island - Part 1

It's been a long time since I was out photographing birds but a family holiday on Lord Howe Island in May this year provided the chance for some opportunistic birding and photography.

There are only about 30 species of birds resident (breeding) on Lord Howe Island with another 15 or so common visitors at different times of the year so the birding is not diverse but what it lacks in diversity it makes up for in ease of access with most species being easy to find and photograph, though some of the seabirds require boat trips or hikes to wild clifftops. My wild clifftop hiking days are over but a boat trip (around the island and to Ball's Pyramid) did prove fruitful in finding several lifers.

Red-tailed Tropicbird breed along the northern cliffs of the island. The breeding season was just finishing but there were still many birds flying around the cliffs.

Red-tailed Tropicbird, North Head, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO400, 1/800 @ f/5.6

Masked Booby breed on the Admiralty Islets off the north-east coast of Lord Howe Island

Masked Booby, Roach Island, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO400, 1/1250 @ f/5.6

and we saw many adults and immatures flying around both Lord Howe Island and Ball's Pyramid.

Masked Booby, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO400, 1/1250 @ f/11
Masked Booby (immature), Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO400, 1/2000 @ f/8
Masked Booby (immature), Ball's Pyramid
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO400, 1/1000 @ f/14
Masked Booby (immature), Ball's Pyramid
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO400, 1/640 @ f/14

Providence Petrel roost and breed on the cliffs on the western side of Mt Gower (on the southern tip of Lord Howe Island) and, during late afternoon, can be seen flying around the cliffs.

Providence Petrel, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO400, 1/5000 @ f/7.1

Several came close enough to the boat for me to capture a close-up.

Providence Petrel, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO400, 1/2000 @ f/8

We stayed at Milky Way Apartments, at the northern end of the island, nestled between Old Settlement Beach and a patchwork of rainforest and cattle pasture.

Several small passerines: Common Blackbird, Lord Howe Golden Whistler, Lord Howe White-eye, were seen almost everywhere around the accommodation gardens. I managed to get the white-eye within an hour of arriving

Lord Howe White-eye, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO400, 1/100 @ f/5.6

but the Golden Whistler remained elusive for the whole week. I could hear at least three pairs in the trees around our accommodation but none made themselves visible enough to photograph. I didn't bother trying for the blackbirds...

Lord Howe Currawong (an endangered subspecies of Pied Currawong) could be heard each morning flying from the hills north of our apartment directly overhead into the forest behind us but remained elusive until the final morning when several landed in trees just near our apartment.

Lord Howe Currawong, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO1600, 1/800 @ f/5.6

A pair of Sacred Kingfishers was seen every morning and evening flying among the palms around the apartment.

Sacred Kingfisher, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO1600, 1/1000 @ f/4.5

Emerald Dove and Buff-banded Rail were seen foraging on the ground among the palms and out in the open on the cut grass around the apartment, frequently only a few metres away from us. I made several attempts to photograph the rails, setting myself up lying on the grass near where they were usually seen coming out from the palms but all without success - they seemed to refuse to come anywhere near me when I had a camera. The doves, on the other hand, were much more co-operative; so much so that I had to remove the 1.4x adapter because they approached too close to me to get them in frame. Even then I had to frequently scramble backwards when they approached closer than the closest focussing distance of the 300mm lens I was using.

Emerald Dove, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens, ISO3200, 1/3200 @ f/2.8
Emerald Dove, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens, ISO3200, 1/8000 @ f/4

The cattle in the nearby pasture attracted several Cattle Egrets

Cattle Egret, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO800, 1/640 @ f/5.6

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