It is the height of summer and seabird activity is frenetic. Chicks of the early breeding species, Sooty Terns, Brown Noddies and Masked Boobies are fledging. A colony of Sooty Terns breeds in the spectacular setting of Mt. Eliza’s summit and endemic cicadas emerge in the lowland forests.
Black-winged Petrels lay their eggs in the first week of January. The first of the Red-tailed Tropicbirds hatch. Fleshfooted and Wedge-tailed Shearwater eggs hatch. The tiny White-bellied Storm Petrels lay their eggs late in the month. Kermadec Petrels are breeding on Ball’s Pyramid.
Coral is spawning. Mutton bird and black winged petrel chicks are hatching. Common noddies and red tailed tropic birds continue to hatch.
One of the Island’s most distinctive trees is flowering – the buttressed scalybark, Black Grape, bloodwood, Mountain Daisy, Brachycome, Moorei Orchid and Blue Plum are also in flower.
Breeding cycle of the summer bird colonies is drawing to a close, but a most dramatic event takes place in the southern mountains. Tens of thousands of Providence Petrels arrive for their winter breeding season. Their dramatic courtship flights and calls make the ascent of Mt. Gower a memorable experience. These birds show a curious response to human calls, crashing to the ground and allowing themselves to be picked up.
The White Terns lay their single egg on a bare branch. Laying season is spread over a long period from October to April. Autumn is the time when mature visiting shorebirds assume breeding plumage before their long migration north. Four species breed above the Arctic Circle, in Alaska and Siberia: Bar Tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Pacific Golden Plover and Whimbrel. Another regular visitor is the Double banded plover, which breeds in New Zealand in summer.
See the departure of the muttonbirds and black winged petrels flying back to the Northern Pacific. Red-tailed Tropicbirds, Brown Noddies and White Terns also leaves the area for milder climates. Winter breeding Providence Petrels and Little Shearwaters lay their eggs.
Hopwoods flower May to July.
The seabird colonies are mainly quiet now but at Muttonbird Point the Masked Booby can be observed. They have a prolonged breeding cycle June to December.
An endemic tree known as Island Apple produces a floral stalk directly from the trunk, often near ground level.
Providence Petrel chick hatch in their burrow on the mountain summits. Little Shearwaters are still sitting on their eggs.
On Roach Island, little Shearwater chicks are hatching in deep burrows. By the end of the month the terns are landing at night on the Admiralty Islands. In the last days of August, the first of the Muttonbirds arrive.
The Muttonbirds (Flesh-footed and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters) return. The grey Ternlet is the first of the summer breeders to lay – a single egg in early September.
Lord Howe Island’s landbirds start nesting in the spring. The most numerous of these if the tiny Lord Howe White-eye. The English Blackbird and Songthrush are found in most gardens. The local subspecies of Golden Whistler is a conspicuous and confiding bird.
The Red-tailed Tropicbird is breeding along the cliffs. Lord Howe Island has the largest breeding colony in the world. Migrant waders returning from Arctic breeding grounds.
By the end of the month the first of the summer flowers are in evidence – Sallywood, Mountain Rose, Pumpkin Tree, Island pine and the Boar Tree. Flowers of the Wedding Lily only last a single day. This plant is endemic, from a genus otherwise found only in Southern Africa.
Masked Booby chicks are present in all stages of growth. Grey Ternlets have fledged. Providence Petrel chicks have fledged also. The Black Winged Petrel is one of the last summer birds to arrive. Muttonbird colonies are relatively quite as many birds leave the island after mating for a short honeymoon period before returning to lay their single egg in the last weeks of the month.
One of the reasons for Lord Howe’s inclusion in the World Heritage list is its unique vegetation. There are about 160 species of native flowering plants and 57 species of ferns.
Many of these plants are best seen in summer while in flower. The Giant Heath known as Fitzgeraldii is a spectacular endemic tree common on the mountain summits. In the sheltered forest the extraordinary Pandanus Tree is beginning its flowering period.