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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Delightful Lady Elliot

There is really no bad time to visit the Great Barrier Reef (though cyclone season can be a bit tricky) but right now is the perfect time to visit one of the southern-most islands of the national park, Lady Elliot. This is because of tens of thousands of other visitors are also there. Now, I would not usually suggest this as a desirable thing, but when the other residents are seabirds and turtles coming to breed, then that changes things a bit. 

It is a classic coral cay (a sand island sitting on a coral reef).
Lady Elliot island from the air; the surrounding reef is clearly visible.
 Lady Elliot - named for a ship which visited in the early 19th century - is just outside the tropics; the nearest city on the mainland is Bundaberg. It is less than 50 hectares in area, some of which is occupied by a small resort, though even here humans must fit in with the original inhabitants. 
Bridled Terns feeding chick on the walkway connecting the basic cabins with the dining area.
Because of its status as national park, once you are there, there is little to do other than walk around enjoying the birds, and snorkel to wonder at the remarkably rich life under the water. Perfect really; let's do it.
Black Noddy colony; some of these colonies, in Coastal Casuarinas, Casuarina equisetifolia,
are immediately adjacent to the cabins.

Black Noddies with chick.
Common, or Brown, Noddy; unlike Black Noddies these mostly nest on the ground.
Black-naped Tern.
Roseate Terns with chick.
Red-tailed Tropicbird and chick; this nest was just metres from cabins.

Brown Booby; these tropical gannets are very imposing birds.
Buff-banded Rail; shy and elusive in most mainland sites, they forage under - and on - tables on Lady Elliot.
Capricorn White-eyes are equally relaxed about humans; they have been
described as a separate species from the mainland Silvereye, though that is not now generally accepted.

And when it all gets a bit much, you can just contemplate the sunsets.
You really should consider it some time...

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