During winter Thornleigh hosted an unexpected guest: A White Tern named Chickpea. Chickpea is the most adorable thing in the world.
Chickpea was found on the ground near Thompson’s Store. At the time, she was a little grey ball of fluff, a baby only a few weeks old. White Terns lay single eggs on horizontal branches with no nest. If they fall off before they grow up, they are usually done for.
Not Chickpea. She was rescued by a kind islander, and had various homes before ending up with Brenden and Kira at Thornleigh. Her friends and family had all migrated north by the time she was able to fly.
Chickpea loves squid, baitfish, and cuddles. She sat on my hand as I worked at my laptop, making soft melodic contented noises. Each morning she flew away to fish and explore, and each evening she came home to the farm to sleep.
One day, Chickpea did not come home. White Terns instinctively fly north in the cold weather. While she grew up very late in the season, Chickpea no doubt felt pulled by those instincts. We think she most likely flew off to find her friends.
She left behind many melted hearts, and we hope she will come back to visit us in summer.
Question: What is the most prolific and successful creature on this beautiful Island? Answer: The black rat – rattus rattus. And no, they are not meant to be here. They are an introduced species and they are not welcome.
Rats are baby making machines – a single female can mate up to 500 times in six hours and produce up to 2000 offspring per year.
They are omnivores – they eat everything. And their front teeth are always growing – up to 14cm per year – so hungry or not they have to chew and gnaw constantly to keep their teeth under control.
Rats are bad news for the Island’s flora and fauna, bad news for tourism, and bad news for our reputation as a World Heritage Area.
The Island was once a predator free zone – until the arrival of humans was inevitably followed by rats and mice in about 1930. It is time to bring the destruction caused by rats and mice to an end.
Robert’s grandmother, Minnie Dignam, used to say that people had no idea how many birds there were before the rats – ‘The sky was thick with them’ she would say. Well here is proof in the form of photographs taken in about 1912 by photographer Roy Bell.
Quite apart from the damage they are causing to the environment, no human being wants to live in the company of rats.
White turns are gorgeous, elegant birds. Their crisp white wings dot the skies above Lord Howe Island as they return from the sea to feed their young. We had the pleasure of capturing a turn feeding its chick near the Pro Dive Lord Howe Island boatshed. The dive team had affectionately named the little birdie Mr Floofster. Enjoy: