Offshore islands yield a seabird surprise
Tue, Jun 28, 2011
Last summer, when members of the Australasian Seabird Group (a Birds Australia’s [BirdLife Partner] special interest group) ventured onto the Broughton Islands offshore from Port Stephens on the NSW coast, they had little idea of what treasures they would uncover.
They surveyed three outer islets off the main island that had not been visited by ornithologists since the early 1970s. With landing treacherous even in the calmest of conditions, it was easy to understand why they had not been visited since then.
The undoubted highlight was the discovery of a population of (Vulnerable) Gould’s Petrel breeding at three separate sites on Little Broughton Island. One of Australia’s rarest seabirds, with populations formerly in serious decline and listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act, the species had also been discovered during the previous summer breeding on Broughton Island itself. Before that, the birds had only been recorded nesting on Cabbage Tree Island and Boondelbah Island, about 12 km to the south-west. The discovery of extra breeding islands is a boon for the conservation of the species—in the space of a year, the number of known breeding islands has doubled.
More good news from Little Broughton Island was the discovery of a thriving population of Blue-tongued Lizard, which gives a clear indication that rodents have been successfully eradicated from the island group. Gould’s Petrel have benefitted from a number of conservation interventions on their breeding islands in recent years, and their success raises the hope that petrels will be able to colonise other rat-free islands in the group.
“Unfortunately, the picture from these surveys is not all good,” said Nicholas Carlile, Secretary of the ASG. “Both Broughton and Little Broughton Islands were known as breeding sites of Sooty Shearwaters in the 1970s, but this species was absent from the latest survey”.
The seabirds of two of the smaller islets of the Broughton group are yet to be surveyed, and members of the ASG hope to do so in 2011. With their recent track record, who knows what treasures they might find?
Audouin’s Gull breeding population in Greece rapidly declined in the last ten years: here.
From Torres Strait to sub-Antarctic latitudes, nature still rules the roost on most of Australia’s 8222 islands: here.
In recent months, many of Australia’s National Parks seem to have been under siege, with proposals to allow hunting in some, while others had cattle released into their pristine habitats under the guise of ‘scientific research’. Birds Australia (BirdLife Partner) saw it as good news that plan to give greater protection to areas with high biodiversity has been announced by the government: here.
September 2011: Plans to give greater protection to Australia’s National Parks have been welcomed by Australia’s leading environment groups: here.