Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Lord Howe Island - Part 2: Search for the Woodhen

Following the boat trip to Balls Pyramid and photographing the birds around our accommodation, the one bird I was determined to see and photograph while on the island was the Lord Howe Woodhen, an endangered species brought back from the brink of extinction in the last 30 years. It is most commonly seen at the southern end of the island so one morning I took a walk along the main road past the airport and golf course.

Sacred Kingfisher were everywhere as they seem to have taken on the Kookaburra role on the island - frequently seen perched on almost anything.

Sacred Kingfisher, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO400, 1/640 @ f/5.6
Sacred Kingfisher, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO800, 1/8000 @ f/4 
Sacred Kingfisher, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO800, 1/4000 @ f/4
The only bird more common was the Magpie-lark, seen and heard anywhere there was open pasture or mown grass.

Magpie-lark, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO800, 1/4000 @ f/5.6

White-faced Herons were commonly seen on the beaches and in the pasture.

White-faced Heron, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO800, 1/1600 @ f/8
A small flock of Pacific Golden Plover was foraging in the pasture on the grassy hillside next to the airport. They were a long way away (this shot is heavily cropped) but it was good to see them.

Pacific Golden Plover, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO800, 1/4000 @ f/5.6

The only ducks I saw while on the island was this pair of what look like Northern Mallard-Pacific Black Duck hybrids.

Northern Mallard-Pacific Black Duck hybrid, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO800, 1/4000 @ f/5.6

I spotted Buff-banded Rail foraging in the mown grass along the road into the airport so took a detour to see if they were more photo-friendly than their Milky Way relatives. They were!

Buff-banded Rail, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens +1.4x adapter, ISO800, 1/4000 @ f/5.6

Roadside signs past the airport confirmed what the locals had told me about the most likely place to find woodhens



but, after an hour of unsuccessful searching, I gave up and headed back (a 6 km walk) to civilisation. My son and son-in-law passed me (riding bikes) on the road on their way back from a hike up to Goat House Cave on Mt Lidgbird and we agreed to meet up at Thomson's Store (self proclaimed best burgers for 600km) for lunch during which they told me (and showed me video evidence) that they had seen woodhens on a side road about 500m from where I had stopped searching. So, I borrowed my son's bike and rode back to the Goat House track. I walked the first few hundred meters along the track listening and looking for woodhens - to no avail - and gave up and decided to check out further along the main road, where I managed to find two birds right by the side of the road, one of which stood still long enough for me to get off one shot. Fortunately, I had already changed to a 24-70mm zoom lens while in the rainforest - a long lens would have been useless here.

Lord Howe Woodhen, Lord Howe Island
Pentax K-3, Pentax 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO1600, 1/800 @ f/5.6

So, after a 13km walk and 13 km bike ride I managed to see and photograph my target species - tired but happy :-)

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