Thursday, 8 November 2012

Nobody told us about the birds on Heron Island: doh! It is named after a bird

Two old birds join hundreds and thousands of birds.
I knew virtually nothing about Heron Island before I went there. Sure, I'd read a few blurbs that talked up the turtles and the island as a snorkelling and diving wonderland.

I expected to see turtles all over the place and to swim with them like a mermaid through an abundance of psychedelic coral populated by exotic fish.

I should have done some reading.

When Ms Fivestar and I arrived at the island (which is really a coral cay) for the Great Barrier Reef Swim 2012 the turtles were nowhere to be seen*.

Mr Turtle alone at sea near the jetty at Heron Island.

But there were lots of birds. In fact, during our group's official welcome to the island one of the staff explained that around 70,000 black noddy terns had just flown in to prepare for their breeding season from September to April.
Our friends the black noddy terns outside our apartment.

Think about it. Heron Island is tiny - only 42 acres.

The black noddy terns were in the trees tending to nests made from fallen leaves that they drape over the boughs. They make a sort of gentle "kek" sound.

Imagine it: "kek kek kek kek kek kek kek..." all day and night. They also coo and purr. It's rather relaxing and you get used to it.

What you don't get used to is the sounds made by the wedgetailed shearwaters (also known as mutton birds). Around 30,000 of these guys fly on to the island every night from September to March. Their nests are burrows in the ground.

These dark grey birds make two distinct types of sounds.

One is a ghost-like howl. It is a mournful "wooooooooo woooooooo woooooooooo". Then at around 3am, they ratchet up the volume and get really vocal with a cry that sounds like a distressed baby. It goes "wah!!!!!!!!!! wah!!!!!!!!!!!!! wah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I'm serious. It sounds like the pub has closed and all the pissed punters are outside having a street brawl. 

I couldn't believe the cacophony outside my window. Unreal.

I don't have any photos of the mutton birds because they're only around at night in their hidey-holes. Ms Fivestar almost trod on one (I think it was intentional).

On our second night on the island I went to reception and got earplugs, which made a huge difference - though I still woke up at 3am because of the huge ruckus.

 Ya gotta love nature!

 In my next post I'll write about the Great Barrier Reef Swim, sharks and bird poo. It's bound to be compelling. 

*We learned that the green and loggerhead turtles nest on the island from November to March. We were two weeks early.

Not to worry. We still got to see several turtles bobbing about in the water near the island's jetty and I saw one when I snorkelled off the wreck of the Protector, located just beyond the the jetty.


Anonymous said...

The noise of those birds reminds me of some coaches

Shayne said...

Too right!