Ashmore 2: The day that keeps getting longer
On East Island this morning doing vegetation mapping and collecting dead seabirds. The map is now complete except for the island’s high-tide line and the stick-stacks that most of the Red-footed Boobies roost and nest on. The dead seabirds will complement my molecular records from Middle Island – we’ll trim a wing off each to use in analysis, except for the specimens that are fresh enough to offer to museums – those will be frozen whole until we get back to land.
In a somewhat-rare observation, I picked up an Australian Pelican skull and long-bones from East Island. This is not the first observation of the species on Ashmore Reef, but they are rare here, so it is possibly the first specimen. I have GPS co-ordinates of the rest of the skeleton.
New island tick: Splitgerber Cay (a small vegetated cay out to the East of East Island, where we collected two of the Shorebird Team en route to the Diversity at the end of the day).
Have cut up and vaccuum-packed/frozen one foot and one wing each from one Masked Booby, two Red-footed Booby, four Brown Booby, four Sooty Terns, four Bridled Terns, four Lesser Frigatebirds, and five Lesser Noddies, in varying states of decomposition. AH and RM assisted with vacuum-packing and labelling, although few others chose to be on-deck for very long.
At the same time as I was cutting up my prizes, one of the ship’s tenders made a trip out past the reef-edge to dispose of food-scraps outside of the marine reserve. It returned with an empty chicken-feed sack and a ‘ghost net’, a discarded or lost fishing net that has been drifting the ocean. It was full of crabs, mostly too small to be entangled. Apparently it is standard practice to hand retrieved ghost nets to Customs, who are ever-present.
Took a ship over to West Island – the twitchers have spotted an Asian Brown Flycatcher (or some other small brown bird with a similar name), and I piggybacked on that tender with JL and JC to go and play with Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. The colony here is small – tens of burrows, maybe around thirty? – but it was my first chance to handle Wedge-tails. Regrettably, we didn’t have gloves, so when I was neck-deep in a burrow and had my hand bitten, I flinched and failed to extract it. It was eventually extracted by JL, who has much more shearwater-wrangling experience. All up, we extracted two wedgies tonight – one with a data-logger, which we retrieved, and one new bird, which we banded.
In other news: JL and JC have found Jesus. He is about 7 cm tall, and made of plastic. Similarly, they have found a T-rex skeleton and a whole chicken.
We will head out to Middle Island for night-work tonight. The only thing I have still to do on Middle is look for Lesser Noddies, which is a team activity, so I will switch between helping other groups in exchange for some help Noddy-hunting. I imagine we’ll be back on the falling tide, slightly after midnight.