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[Ashmore Trip 1] Day 10: Partially daytime, anyway.

May 28, 2013

[This is the tenth in a series of ‘Ashmore Trip 1’ posts, essentially diary entries. Internet was unavailable at the Ashmore Reef, so they are being presented one-day-per-day now that I am back in Melbourne.]


“They call it ‘the Dreads'”, he said, and laughed.

I had woken up this morning at 02:00 with the express aim of getting to Middle Island several hours before dawn to sample Black and Lesser Noddies. Landing under cover of darkness, we startled some of the more perceptive birds into flight – although, in the darkness, they hadn’t all been able to avoid us. One member of the party had already received an unwelcome booby to the face.

The Dreads, it appeared, were the phenomenon of being flocked by angry, nesting, shrieking Sooty Terns in a co-ordinated anti-predator response. At the time, with confused birds all around everyone’s heads, it certainly seemed like they could be a real thing.

Nonetheless, we all made it to the end of the Sooty Tern colony intact and un-collided with (by Sooty Terns, in any case), and each only lightly pooed-upon. I set up my banding and bleeding gear, and my co-worker disappeared into the colony to pick out Black and Lesser Noddies for me. At this time of day, it was a simple task of grabbing them before they saw you. The half-dozen bird bags were quickly filled.

The tally for the day was 21 Black and 4 Lesser Noddies. Not bad, for some of the rarest species on the island.

By just after dawn, though, catching became very difficult. Another seven were caught in the hours after dawn. The rest of the morning was spent with the Tracking Team, trying to get more loggers back from boobies and frigates.

In the early afternoon (around 14:00), we tendered off to count shorebirds of West Island.

We have only one-and-a-half days left on Ashmore before leaving for Cartier, Browse, and Adele. Tomorrow morning, and probably the day after, will be a clone of this morning, sampling Noddies on Middle or East Island.

New species banded today: Black and Lesser Noddies.


From → Scientist

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