Saturday, 2 April 2011

Lady Elliot Island - 1

I am just back from a family holiday on Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef. A great venue for snorkeling, with wonderful coral, fish, turtles and the star attraction - manta rays.  

As we flew in we had a good overview of the island and its reefs. In 1805 an industry started up collecting and exporting sea-cucumbers to Asia, then a guano industry began and almost the whole island was stripped bare of vegetation as that was collected. Three feet or more of guano covered the island then. Now the island is largely regenerated, since a programme was began in the 1960s. The light house is the obvious man-made landmark on the island and there have been numerous shipwrecks in the past.

Now there are thousands of white-capped noddies nesting in the trees, and they roost on clear sunny perches like old tree branches over the beach as below. There are also large colonies of common noddies which nest on the storm beaches, especially at either end of the runway. Other sea birds which nest there include Red-tailed Tropic Birds, Bridled, Black-naped, Crested and Roseate terns.

And there are nesting Green and Loggerhead Turtles. The green turtle below was marooned on the reef platform at low tide so I lifted her into the water and she swam off gratefully. It was a tremendous experience to swim with these animals. They are used to humans and allow close contact and some individuals actually swam towards us to be scratched, probably using us as cleaning stations, but I didn't mind helping them at all. 
I will cover other wildlife of the island in subsequent blog-pages, but for now here is a shot of a white Eastern Reef Egret, there is also a dark grey morph. They forage along the reef and roost and nest in the trees.  

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