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Lord Howe Island, pt. 1

Discussion in 'Field Trips (Natural Habitats)' started by moloch, Mar 16, 2010.

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    My wife and I spent a week at Lord Howe Island in October, 2009. Wow, what a place! It was a superb site for those who enjoy cycling, hiking, snorkelling, birding or those who just wanted to be awed by natural beauty.

    I imagine that not many of you have heard of this island since it is small and remote. Lord Howe is an Australian-owned island that is situated about 700 km northeast of Sydney. It is located between New Caledonia to the northeast, New Zealand to the southeast and Norfolk Island to the east. As a result, the flora and fauna is very interesting and includes a blend of life from these different areas. It seems surprising but the islands were uninhabited when the Europeans arrived in the late 1700s.

    Lord Howe Island once was huge but now, it has nearly been reclaimed by the sea. All that is left is the small island of Lord Howe (11 km long), the adjacent Admiralty islets and about 23 kms to the east, Ball's Pyramid. This is a photo of a drawing of the island at the island's museum:
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    The main island of Lord Howe was dominated by the cores of an extinct volcano. These cores have formed the mountains known as Mt. Lidgbird (777m) and Mt. Gower (875m).
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    This is a shot of Ball's Pyramid (550m) from "The Goat House" of Mt. Lidgbird. Ball's Pyramid is the tallest stack on the planet. It is an ominous looking place but is a refuge to both of Lord Howe's native reptiles.
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    Ball's Pyramid was also the site where the huge phasmid known as the "Land Lobster" was rediscovered in 2001. Prior to this, the insect was thought to be extinct as the result of the accidental introduction of Black Rats to Lord Howe in 1918. While I was on the island, I was lucky to meet a former ranger who was on the survey team that found the phasmid. He and others climbed the pyramid at night and found 5 on their first visit. They later returned and collected a few to establish a breeding colony at the nursery on Lord Howe. I cannot imagine climbing on that place especially at night due to the nearly shear slopes and unstable substrate! It is possible to view the captive animals at the nursery but I did not have time so had to settle for photos of specimens from the museum:
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    About 80% of Lord Howe has been set aside as a permanent preserve. Most of the island is forested.
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    Lord Howe Island is bathed by the East Australia Current so water temperatures range between 18C in the winter and 25C in the summer. These mild conditions have allowed coral reefs to develop and Lord Howe has the most southerly of all reefs. The reef was a mixture of both hard and soft corals. It was colourful with many blue, purple and green outcrops. Fish diversity was much greater than I expected and I saw a number of fish that I have not encountered further north at the Great Barrier Reef. Butterfly Fish were particular diverse.
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    Ned's Beach
    Ned's Beach was just a 10 minute walk from our accommodation.
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    The fish in this bay are protected and extremely tame. Meter-long Kingfish would swim right up to my feet in the shallows.
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    Bluefish are normally grey but they flush this lovely sky blue when excited. This one (left) was definitely excited by bread that I tossed to it. The other fish is a Surge Wrasse and it was an absolute rainbow of colours. These were common and I saw many when I snorkelled.
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    This morning glory was common on the dunes surrounding the beach. Ipomoea pes-capre (Convolvulaceae):
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    Sallywood (Lagunaria patersonia, Malvaceae) and a fern.
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    Sacred Kingfisher was a common native of the lowlands.
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    Ned's Beach is the area where Lord Howe Island Horned Turtle (Meiolania platyceps) fossils are found. These turtles are thought to have become extinct about 40,000 years ago. They were huge and almost the size of the Galapagos Tortoises.
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    Offshore Islets

    Offshore Islands are a refuge to a number of animals that have otherwise become rare or extinct on the main island due to Black Rats. I visited one of these to see some of these rare animals.
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    Lord Howe Island Gecko (Christinus guentheri): These geckos were numerous on an offshore island. I also saw a single animal near accommodation right on Lord Howe itself. Christinus is a genus of cool-adapted geckos within Australia that are mostly distributed in the southern portion of Australia. It is surprising that this genus of gecko somehow managed to reach Lord Howe. There aren't any of these geckos north of Lord Howe on the mainland and the EAC flows south along the coast ... so how did they get out there?
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    These little geckos exhibited an unusual behaviour. They would curl like this and place their toes over their head and eyes. When postured like this, they were inconspicuous and the blended well with rocks and leaf litter of the forest floor. This behaviour was odd since I don't believe that there were any non-avian predators on the island before europeans arrived. ... someone on another forum suggested that the geckos were saying "NO MORE PHOTOS!".
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    A small red mite lived on the geckos.
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    Lord Howe Island Skink (Cyclodina lichenigera): I saw three of these skinks. This species is about the size of an Eastern Water Skink (Eulamprus quoyii) in eastern Australia. It is thought to have reached Lord Howe from New Zealand via Norfolk Island.
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    Wedge-tailed Shearwaters mostly nested on the offshore islands. They were in their burrows when I visited the islet. They moaned continuously and the sound that they produced was eerie and almost human-like.
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    Lord Howe Island Bush Cockroach (Panesthia lata) -- common on an offshore island. These roaches are apparently extinct on the main island of Lord Howe due to predation by Black Rats.
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    Flat Spider (Hemicloea sp.) and a centipede
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    Brown Noddy

    There was a nesting colony of Brown Noddies at the far end of Blinky Beach.
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    Masked Booby

    Mutton Bird Point was the nesting site of many pairs of Masked Boobies.
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    The natural habitat has been most altered in this portion of the island. This is the area that was initially settled by Europeans in the early 1800s. Here, many of the exotic Norfolk Island Pines were planted and some of these are now huge trees.
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    Norfolk Island Pines are a favourite nesting site of the lovely White Tern. I saw large numbers of these nesting in the trees sometimes within a meter or two of the ground. They don't actually build a nest but lay their egg in a slight depression on a branch. White Terns would attempt to drive away other birds such as Pied Currawongs that flew near their nests.
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    Emerald Ground Doves were often seen as they walked along the forest floor:
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    At night, one of the most conspicuous birds was the Flesh-footed Shearwater. These birds nest in burrows and would return at dusk. Once it was dark, they were very noisy. Their call sounded like "PICK ME, PICK ME!". They departed before sunrise and returned to the sea where they fished.
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    Arthropods and Gastropods of the area included the following:

    ... a burrowing cricket:
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    ... wasps:
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    ... huntsman(?) were abundant!
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    ... these two large slugs were twisting around each other and slowly dropping to the ground while suspended by a thread of slime. I was told that this was mating behaviour:
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    Regards,
    David
     
  2. tarcan

    tarcan Arachnoking Old Timer

    nice shots, thank you for sharing

    Martin
     
  3. cacoseraph

    cacoseraph ArachnoGod Old Timer

    heh, those slugs are doing it




    awesome pictures and very informative. thanks!
     
  4. Thanks, tarcan and cacoseraph.

    I am just curious but have you heard of Lord Howe before? Over here, there are a fair number of people who don't know of it. Tourism is tightly controlled so there are never more than a certain number of people on the island at a time. The downside of that is that costs are fairly high and often, accommodation may be fully booked.

    Regards,
    David
     
  5. ftorres

    ftorres Arachnobaron Old Timer

    Hello,
    Great Pics wow, I really need to put this Island on my must visit list.

    Lord Howe islands become more famous when they re discover the Phasmid back in 2001.

    definately a dream destination for an entomologist, like me.

    I want some of those phasmids.
    Do you know if the dead specimens are ofered to other museums or institutions???

    regards

    francisco

    PS I love your screen name man, have you seen any in the wild????
     
  6. Philth

    Philth N.Y.H.C. Arachnosupporter

    Incredible pics! Thanks for sharing,
    Later,Tom
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. Anastasia

    Anastasia Arachnoprince Old Timer

    US
    Ah, Wonderful! Thank you for sharing
    Like a tour!, Beautiful place :worship:
    Anastasia
     
  8. Hello Francisco,
    I don't know whether dead phasmids are sent to foreign museums. At this stage, there is a breeding colony in the botannical gardens of Lord Howe. There is talk that rat poison may be broadcast across the entire island in the near future. If they do and are successful with the eradication of the rats, then then phasmids may be reintroduced. There is some worry about this, however, since their natural predator, the Spotted Owl (or Boobook) is extinct. The thought is that these may become a pest.

    Molochs are my favourite dragons. I have seen them a few times in Western Australia. Here are photos of one from Kalbarri, about an 8 hour drive north of Perth.
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    ... and a few of the park where it lives:
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    Kalbarri is a top place for spring flowers:
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    Thanks Tom and Anastasia.


    Regards,
    David
     
  9. Here is a macro view of the scales of a Moloch:

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  10. That moloch is awesome. Great photos.
     
  11. Anastasia

    Anastasia Arachnoprince Old Timer

    US
    :eek: That Moloch dragon is absolutely Amazing!
    what a colors!, so resemble surroundings
    such a neat little creature

    Anastasia
     
  12. Hornets inverts

    Hornets inverts Arachnobaron

    very jealous, Didnt see any live phasmids over there? There are 2 other endemic species to the island, hope they are not gone aswell. Hoping to be getting some lord howe phasmids shortly, shouldnt be too far off :)
     
  13. pato_chacoana

    pato_chacoana Arachnoangel

    Wow! Great pictures, wonderful places and animals! thanks for sharing your trips!

    Cheers,
    Pato
     
  14. Thanks, all.

    Molochs are incredible animals that are perfectly adapted to the desert. They have tiny groves in their scales that lead to their mouths. They can stand on damp sand and capillary action will help them pick up a few drops of water. Molochs only eat certain species of ants. Their movement is odd and they rock back and forth a few times before taking a step ... a little like the african chameleons.


    Hornets,
    I was unaware of other phasmids and certainly saw none. I would suspect that they would have had the same problem with the rats. I did not see any live phasmids at all but there are tours at the nursery every Friday.

    Regards,
    David
     
  15. Hornets inverts

    Hornets inverts Arachnobaron

    3 other genera have been recorded from lord howe, Davidrentzia Cornicandovia and extatosoma. I'm pretty sure davidrentzia have been found on the island in the past 20 or so years so i'd be hoping they are still located there
     
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