The screams in the forest

Last time I wrote about the silence in the forest on Lord Howe. But at night in the bird-breeding season, it’s a very different story.

Mutton birds (flesh-footed shearwaters, Ardenna carneipes) in their thousands (17.5 thousand breeding pairs in 2005 – see here) descend upon Lord Howe and other islands to breed in burrows – the same burrow every year, apparently.

Move the mutton bird! Shift the shearwater!

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The silence in the forest

Walking along the tracks of Lord Howe Island’s palm forests was a strange experience. All I could hear was the wind through the palm leaves, the sea and the occasional rustle. At home when I hear rustling, it’ll be a brush turkey, a goanna, a snake, maybe a frog or three, or one of many, many birds. In the same month (November) at home, there’s also the ear-splitting stridulations (love that word) of cicadas en masse.

Lord Howe native kentia palm forest

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Abbey Medieval Festival 2012 (part 3)

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Not having a “medieval” or “historical” costume wasn’t a problem. It was interesting seeing the many “fantasy” costumes.

This fine wolf had a companion wearing a T-shirt saying “In Dog We Trust”. He couldn’t walk very far without people rushing up to get their photo taken with him … what a cuddly fellow!

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Abbey Medieval Festival 2012 (part 1)

We enjoyed the Abbey Medieval festival 2011 (which I talked about here and here) so much we thought we’d go again this year. 37,500 people went this time – 10,000 more than last year. We got there 45 minutes before opening time, but being near the head of the queue – which gets veerrry looong – has its advantages, plus we had interesting conversations with our enthusiastic co-queuers who were often in costume. Getting a weekend ticket means there is plenty of time to stroll around and see things, and re-visit if inspired, on both days.

There are many photos by photographers better than me on flickr – of fighting and jousting and such – so if you search-engine that together with the festival name, you’ll see them. There’s also some excellent ones, of the less martial sort (which I myself prefer), at Heart of a Gypsy here.

I’ll post some of my own that are different.

Lady and barn owl at the falconry exhibit

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The biggest cicada

I’d just elbowed my way through hundreds of screaming ankle-biters on school holidays determined to see the Egyptian exhibition at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane last week. The object of my search was not mummies (although there were an awful lot of them being shepherded by the ankle-biters) but the living stick insects exhibit. Having escaped with my life to outside the museum, I saw the biggest cicada I’ve ever seen.

A new species of cicada for Queensland (and possibly the world)?

It was at least as long as the buses that kept driving between me and it in the bus lane. They like to make things big in the Deep North, but this is ridiculous. Move over, Mothra!

Gull-billed tern

I’ve found out about the mysterious fish bone that I talked about in my last post. Go there for an update.


I’m a lazy birdwatcher, and don’t strive too hard to add to my “life list”. But when a “tick” comes flying along to meet me, I’m happy.

I’d never seen the gull-billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) before, and there were four on the rock platform at Flat Rock on Saturday, mixing with the common terns, which are noticeably larger. This one seems to be in breeding plumage.

Gull-billed tern

You can read about the subspecies in Australia here.

Apparently these terns don’t plunge-dive for fish like you often see other terns doing, but feed on insects while on the fly, and amphibians, small mammals, plus the chicks and eggs of other terns.

A mysterious bone

Found in a rock pool on the rock platform at Flat Rock yesterday …

Update from the Queensland Museum; many thanks to Jeff Johnson, manager of the Ichthyology section:

The jaw is from an eastern blue groper, Achoerodus viridis.

The large teeth in the front and rear of the jaws are used to dislodge, dismember and crush crabs, molluscs and echinoderms on which the fish feeds.

This species occurs between Hervey Bay, Qld and Wilson’s Promontery, Vic and attains at least 100 cm in total length.

I really have no idea what this belonged, too, except to guess a fish. I’ll be sending it off to the museum for ID and will update when I find out. Any ideas, anyone?

You can read about the eastern blue groper here. Despite being called a groper, it is actually a wrasse. You can read about its unusual jaw structure here.

Here is the beastie itself – impressive!

Eastern blue groper; photo by Richard Ling, Wikimedia Commons