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Friends of Lord Howe Island
Newsletter No.17
Summer 2006
Calling names for 2006 weed trips
Several of the winter 2006 weed weeks are full
already. If you haven’t booked yet and are
interested in a trip please contact Ian Hutton as
soon as possible as we need to finalise numbers.
Phone 02 6563 2447 or
Dates available
June 10-17
June 25-July 2
July 22 to 29
Aug 19 to 26
Aug 26 to Sept 3
Friends President Des Thompson elected
to the new Board on Lord Howe Island
In the recent LHI Board elections held in
February 2006, Friends of LHI President Des
Thompson stood for nomination, and was
successful in being elected as one of the four
Island representatives on the seven person Board.
Participation in valuable contribution to the
weed problem on Lord Howe Island... Groups
working to remove Asparagus fern from Transit
Hill and the settlement area.
Other Island members elected are Barney
Nichols, Stan Fenton and Gary Crombie.
Mainland member Helen Clements stood down
after years on the Board, and Jeff Angel from the
Total Environment Centre was appointed a
community environment representative.
Des hopes to see continuing care of the
environment as one of the key focuses on the
OAM awarded to Ian Hutton
In the Australia Day honours list for 2006,
Friends of LHI vice president Ian Hutton was
awarded the OAM for services to conservation
and tourism on Lord Howe Island.
During the weeding weeks the afternoons are
spent exploring the island, discovering the flora,
fauna, geology, marine life in the company of
good friends.
The conservation contribution was mainly for the
promotion of the awareness of weeds as the
biggest environmental threat to the Island; and
along with Rymill Abell, the development of the
Bush Regeneration tours to Lord Howe Island.
Presidents Report
Congratulations to Ian Hutton for his award of
OAM announced on Australia Day. I have talked
to Ian and he is very appreciative of the
opportunities the Island has given him and the
support from all those involved in the Friends of
I put my name in the ring in the recent LHI Board
election and was successful in being elected by
the community. I see some very important issues
facing the Island in the coming years and will do
my best to ensure the Island community views
are put forward as strongly as possible. I believe
for the Island to flourish it must have the
community participating in
decisions as they are the people who know and
treasure the Island and their way of life.
$21,335.91 in our regular account. We have just
pledged $5,000 to support a permanent display on
weeds at the Lord Howe Island Museum.
Hopefully this will be completed for members’
inspection during the weeding trips this year.
The funding for this has been made possible by
your generosity in supporting the Friends. Your
continued support is appreciated in supporting
weed eradication into the future. All donations
over $2 to the FLHI are tax deductible; we
welcome these on their own or with subscription
renewals to P.O Box 155, Lord Howe Island,
I will also be committed to the environment of
Lord Howe Island, particularly the imperative of
continuing the fight against weeds. I also hope to
be able to encourage more local participation in
the Friends of LHI.
Good work continues on the weed front at Lord
Howe Island, with the LHI Board’s weed teams
now covering large areas on the ground removing
the worst of our weeds.
Des Thompson
Treasurers Report
Here we are again at the end of summer. As the
heat fades and autumn approaches my thoughts
turn to Lord Howe. Our winter escape to paradise
and the satisfaction that comes with helping to
preserve it. You may have noticed the additional
trip at the start of Spring- this is an exciting
addition to the line up of weeding trips and an
opportunity to witness a different phase of the
islands bird life.
We have been a little delayed this year in getting
membership renewals out. Indeed some of you
may have just received yours. Many thanks to all
those who have pre-empted this and sent in their
cheque. Please remember to let us know if any of
your contact details change. Don’t forget to take
advantage of our multiyear renewals- Buy 4 years
of membership and get the fifth year free!
Our accounts are currently healthy with
$3,994.02 in our gift fund account and
Steve Gale
Friends to fund weed display at Lord
Howe Island Museum
At the February meeting of the Friends of Lord
Howe Island, the committee agreed to fund to
$5000 for a display at the LHI museum on weeds.
Weeds are the biggest environmental threat to the
World Heritage values of Lord Howe Island. In
the past ten years great advances have been made
in dealing with the weed problem – the volunteer
Friends of Lord Howe Island was set up, weed
mapping has been done, a weed strategy has been
drawn up, major grants have been available for
employment of local and offshore workers to deal
with weeds in a systematic way and a quarantine
strategy has been completed for the Island.
This is a start but the effort will need to continue
for ten to twenty years. To outline the successes
plus the task ahead, a display at the museum is
seen as a tool to educate and enthuse the residents
and visitors to the situation.
The weeds display will be incorporated into a major
section of the museum dealing with alien species and
their effects on the Island,
LHI Board to commence Owl culling
LHI Board Manager Nick Rigby has advised that
a program will commence to cull Masked Owls
from Lord Howe Island. Nick also said “I would
rather see an eradication program in place, but in
the short term the Board will cull Owls.”
Masked owls are an introduced species that are
having an impact on the birds of Lord Howe
Island. They are known to take Woodhens, White
terns, Black Noddies, Black-winged petrels,
Providence Petrels and probably other bird
species on the Island as well.
Seabirds are vulnerable to predation by owls,
because they are used to breeding on this and
other islands that are free of predators and thus
they have no instinctive behaviour to avoid
predation. White terns are particularly vulnerable
because of their white colour, and are easily
observed at night when owls hunt. Black-winged
petrels are vulnerable because their habit is to
come into breeding colonies at night and sit on
the surface, outside their burrows.
Black-winged Petrel attacked by Owl.
Owls could also be implicated in the demise of
breeding populations of Kermadec Petrels and
White-bellied Storm Petrels on the main Island in
the 1920s. This is often attributed to rats arriving
on the Island, but the introduced Owls may be
also involved.
Masked Owl Tyto novaehollandiae
Masked Owls were brought to the Island by the
NSW government in the early 1920’s to combat
the rats that were accidentally introduced in 1918.
Most of the Owls were Masked Owls from
Tasmania (Tyto novaehollandiae ssp castanops)
but colour variations amongst the Lord Howe
Island birds indicate some from mainland NSW
or Victoria were also shipped over.
While the Owls did and still do eat rats, they also
prey upon birds including Woodhens, White
terns, Black noddies, Black-winged petrels,
Providence Petrels and probably other bird
species on the Island as well.
Ornithologist Dr Ben Miller lived on the Island in
1978 and 1979 and was convinced that the Owls
were a major predator on Woodhens, and
recommended that Owls be removed from the
Island. For many years throughout the 1980’s
LHI Board staff did shoot the Owls.
Masked Owls are not and never have been part of
the natural ecosystem of Lord Howe Island and
should be regarded as feral pests, just the same as
cats, goats, pigs and rats. While the Owls may be
a protected species on mainland Australia the
birds are they are killing on Lord Howe Island are
listed as vulnerable or endangered.
LHI Board to set up laboratory to test and
monitor ground water.
The LHI Board has put out expressions of interest
from suitably qualified Island persons to set up a
water quality test system in the Island Research
laboratory. This will be to test for Biochemical
Oxygen demand, suspended solids, pH and
presence of coliform and E-coli. It will also
involve setting up a computer generated database
to record test results.
Barrie Rogers, the LHI Board Technical Services
Manager said “This work will identify problems
with the Island’s groundwater and go a long way
towards developing a groundwater strategy.”
Formosan Lily
Most Friends of LHI would be aware of the
presence of Formosan lily on the Island. The LHI
Board has committed funds to research into the
weed and ways to control it.
A beautiful invader is threatening one of
Australia's most precious and beloved natural
wonders - the World Heritage-listed Lord Howe
A Taiwanese native bulb, Formosa lily or tiger
lily (Lilium formosanum), has spread across the
island from the coastal dunes to the high
mountain slopes, raising the spectre of previous
invaders like the rat which had catastrophic
impacts on the unique Lord Howe ecology.
"Since establishment it has spread across the
island, colonizing virtually every ecosystem and
habitat from the beach, to the forest, to the upper
slopes of Mt Gower and Mt Lidgbird," she says.
"It has become well established over large areas
both in the open and in the forest, displacing
native plants."
The lily has also naturalised along the east coast
of mainland Australia and could emerge as a
major problem there too.
"Although Formosa lily is perennial, during the
winter it dies back to an underground bulb whose
size varies with the age of the individual. On
Lord Howe, aboveground growth begins in July
and plants produce a single shoot between then
and mid summer.
"Around January, this shoot produces multiple
large white flowers tinged with purple, and each
of these gives rise to a large capsule containing
many hundreds of tiny seeds which are easily
scattered by the wind."
Lord Howe faces a number of threats from
invasive plants including Crofton weed, bitou
bush and cherry guava, and in 2004, the Lord
Howe Island Board secured a NSW
Environmental Trust Grant to tackle some of
the island's environmental weeds. Susie Warner's
PhD project is one component of this work.
Formosan lily Lilium formosanum
Lying 700 km north-east of Sydney, Lord Howe
has a global reputation for its spectacular native
flora - including its famous cloud forest - and
the fact that over 40 per cent of its 241 native
plants are found nowhere else on earth.
However, this unique assemblage of plants and
animals that has arisen from both Australasian
and Pacific island ancestry over millions of
years is under threat from invasive plants. Over
300 introduced plant species have been recorded
on the island - exceeding the number of
native species.
The Formosa lily is an emerging problem, says
Weeds CRC doctoral researcher Susie Warner.
The bulb is native to Taiwan but has been
widely cultivated as an ornamental around the
world. The first herbarium record for the plant on
Lord Howe was in the early 1970s and is another
of Australia's now-notorious "garden escapes".
"My research is examining key aspects of the
population biology of Formosa lily, including its
germination requirements, soil seed-banks,
seed production and habitat requirements.
"I'm also exploring the possible impacts the lily is
having on native Lord Howe plant species with
the aim of providing some recommendations
about how best to control it."
The challenge is enormous. As a bulb, the lily
hides most of its mass safely underground where
it is hard to get at with physical or chemical
control - successfully enabling it to compete with
native plants for nutrients and water. Its tiny,
light seeds mean it will be almost impossible to
prevent it from spreading.
More information:
Susie Warner, Weeds CRC and University of
New England Phone: 02 6773 5213
Report on August 6 to 13 2005 weed trip
Elizabeth Brown was leader on this trip and we
had a mix of regulars including Gwenda Lister,
Peter and Joan Brown plus Ian and Margaret
Parsonson. We also had quite a few first timers,
including Judith and Bruce Tressider. Bruce said
he and his wife were not fanatical weeders, but
had heard of the program and just had to come
along to see what it was all about.
At this time of the year the Lignum vitae tree
Sophora howinsula is in flower and it put on a
good display for the group. Highlights of the
week were the Boat Harbour walk, North Bay
AND we got a round island cruise in.
Report on August 28 - September 4 trip.
Bill McDonald from Queensland Herbarium led
this trip and quite a few Queenslanders did join
him including Keith and Jo Weir, Mike and
Elizabeth Russell, and Jim and Jennifer Peat.
Also farmer John Zyla from Goulburn on his 8th
trip! We also had two international visitors –
John Millett and Maureen Young from New
Zealand who were most impressed by the Island
and the weeding program.
August 6 to 13 2005 group
Sue Stevens enjoyed the week immensely and
Little did I imagine, when I gazed down at this
magic Island from Air New Zealand 32 years ago
that I would one day be getting up close and
personal digging asparagus fern under a
beautiful rainforest canopy with a bunch of
dedicated Lord Howe Island Lovers whose dream
is fulfilled with so much fun and hard work.
The sandwiching of work, environmental
adventures, food and bonhomie is a perfect mix
for each and every day.
The group had to tackle a particularly difficult
block on Transit Hill- one that had a fairly open
canopy and hence a lot of Smilax vine to crawl
through. Still they came to the task and
completely cleared the block.
Aug/September 2005 group
The group started work on the ground asparagus
above Pinetrees. On Wednesday, as a break we
had a group at Gai Wilsons removing climbing
asparagus, while another group tackled a Madeira
vine outbreak in Stevens Reserve sighted by the
previous group in August. This outbreak proved
bigger than first seen and this group felt
compelled to tackle this, so the remainder of the
week was taken up removing many bags of
Madeira vine, leaves, tubers and roots.
September group removing Madeira vine
Lignum vitae in bloom
Kew palm study released
In past issues of the FLHI Newsletter we have
reported on the research into Howea palms by
botanists from Kew gardens in England. Their
findings have just been published in the
prestigious Nature Magazine February issue.
Following is the press release.
Evolutionary experts have found two of the best
examples yet for cases of sympatric speciation,
which is when two species diverge from a single
ancestor without geographical isolation. This
issue has been a bone of contention among
evolutionists: many suspect that such speciation
is possible, but it has been fiendishly difficult to
prove. Botanist Vincent Savolainen and his
colleagues offer convincing evidence in the form
of two sister species of palm tree
on Lord Howe Island, a remote outpost almost
600 kilometres off the eastern coast of Australia.
As they report in a study published online by
Nature, genetic studies of the two species show
that they are indeed sisters, and diverged much
more recently than the island's creation. This
shows that the two species have always lived side
by side, making their speciation almost certainly
sympatric, the authors explain. Species generally
diverge when they become reproductively
isolated - usually through geographical isolation
(giving rise to allopatric speciation). But here the
two species seem to have diverged after they
began flowering at different times of year,
probably as a result of differing soil
25th Anniversary
As reported in FLHI newsletter 16, the Island
museum held celebrations in November 2005 for
the 25th anniversary of the first captive bred
Woodhen hatching in the Woodhen recovery
Key people involved in the recovery program
attended the celebrations. John Disney was
Curator of birds with the Australian Museum in
the 1970’s and commenced studies over a ten
year period into the surviving Woodhens on the
top of Mount Gower. He was joined by Dr Peter
Fullagar who was then with CSIRO Division of
Wildlife. The pair made treks at least once a year
throughout the 1970’s to the top of Mount Gower
where they camped and surveyed the Woodhen
population across the whole summit of the
The camp on the summit of Mount Gower
Their studies recommended that a full time
ornithologist be appointed to the Island for two
year to further study the Woodhen and make
conservation recommendations.
Bill Baker and Dave Springate on LHI
Big drought on Lord Howe Island
The Island is facing severe water shortage, and
many rainforest plants are wilting and have
leaves dying. In summer 2002 we reported in the
FLHI newsletter No 8 of a drought affecting the
plants; this current drought seems even more
severe on the forest.
The average rainfall for January to March on
Lord Howe Island is 403 mm and for 2006 the
total so far has been just 98 mm
Dr Ben Miller was the NSW NPWS Ornithologist
at the time and he lived on the Island in 1978 and
1979. Together with local rangers Paul Beaumont
and Bruce Thompson, Ben Miller continued
monitoring the summit Woodhens plus others in
more remote areas of the Island. His
recommendations included ridding the Island of
feral cats and pigs, a task done by local residents
and rangers in 1979.
Then a captive breeding program was established
on the Island, taking three pairs of Woodhen off
the top of Mount Gower and relocating them in a
special compound constructed in Stevens Reserve
for this purpose of captive breeding. New
Zealand aviculturists Glenn Fraser was employed
to oversee the project, and he successfully raised
93 Woodhen chicks at the centre, for release
around the Island. Today there are approximately
300 Woodhens on the Island.
Function at the LHI Museum for the Woodhen
None of this could have taken place without the
funding of $250,000, which was raised by the
Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. The
Foundation continues its commitment to
conservation on Lord Howe Island today –
funding such projects as rodent cost benefit
analysis, and research into Currawongs. The
Foundation also funded a new display for the
museum on the Woodhen story.
The Woodhen recovery program still ranks as one
of the most successful endangered bird recovery
programs of the world, and demonstrates that
captive breeding is a solution to recovery of bird
endangered bird populations.
John Disney and Peter Fullagar were overjoyed
to see Woodhens across the lowlands where they
had not seen them during their ten years study in
the 1970’s.
The LHI Museum published a book on the
Woodhen, with funding by the LHI Board. The
book costs $12 and is available from the Island
museum – Friends of LHI can order through
FLHI PO Box 155 Lord Howe Island NSW 2898.
New ranger for Lord Howe Island.
In February LHI Board ranger Sean Thompson
transferred to the DEC near Myall Lakes. The
new ranger is Meg Lorang, who commenced
work on 27 February for a one year term.
Meg has spent the last two years as a DEC ranger
in the Tenterfield area in the NSW Northern
Tablelands. Prior to that Meg had worked in the
western NSW based in Bourke. Meg also has five
years experience as an Environmental Officer for
local and State government. Meg has an arts
degree majoring in Geography from Sydney
Environmental Science from Murdoch University
and a Master of Wildlife Management from
Macquarie University. She also has a boating
license, SCUBA diving certification and a
firearms license.
Meg will be based in the Board’s Environmental
Unit and will be involved in a range of projects
including threatened species recovery, noxious
weed, pest species eradication and community
consultation and education. We welcome Meg to
LHI and look forward to working with her on the
winter weeding program.
Children from the LHI Central School made a
great display to celebrate the Woodhen storythere were posters, dioramas, poems and stories
which provided great interest for tourists through
Unusual Bird Sightings November 2005 to
February 2006
Black-winged stilt at North Bay
On 11th November 2005, two Black-winged stilts
turned up at North Bay. In a strong southerly gale
on 13th one moved off the Island, and the other
stayed around the Old Settlement creek until 15
December before disappearing. The last record of
this species at Lord Howe Island was in October
1888 when a pair was collected.
The Black-winged stilt occurs over all of
Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand at
inland swamps, lagoons and saline lakes, where
they are often found in large numbers. Some
regularly breed in swamps near Sydney.
On 10th and 11th November and again 19, 20,
21December a single Caspian Tern was on the
Moseley Park swamp opposite the airstrip.
The Caspian Tern is easily recognised by its size
- much larger than the Sooty tern; white body,
light grey upper wings, a shaggy black cap and a
large red bill. It is a widespread species around
tropics and subtropics of the world. It is known
from all parts of Australia, coastal as well as
inland, but is seldom common and usually seen in
single pairs or alone. A vagrant to LHI, with the
first record only in 2000; now one is seen most
years about the same time.
Caspian Tern
Black-winged Stilt
An immature Kelp Gull was on the Island 22nd at
North Bay, and found dead at Old Settlement
Beach on 23rd. A rare bird for Lord Howe Island,
with just four records here.
-------------------------------------------------------2006 weed trip booking form.
Friends of Lord Howe Island newsletter compiled by
Ian Hutton. Friends of LHI PO Box 155
Lord Howe Island NSW 2898
-----------------------------------------------------------Please book me on the Lord Howe Island bush
regeneration tour
Included is my deposit of $200 per person
Please send form and deposit cheque to:
Lord Howe Island Nature Tours
PO Box 157
Lord Howe Island
NSW 2898
Full price $1775 ex Sydney or Brisbane, twin
(Sole rooms subject to availability - $1930)
Deposit $ 200 (cheque made to PINETREES)
Balance $1575 (twin share) or $1730 (sole use)
45 days prior to trip.
Phone _____________________
Email _______________________
QANTAS Frequent Flyer number
I prefer to go on dates:
Caspian Tern