Celebrate the start of the 2018 muttonbird nesting season with a ranger-guided educational tour of Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve in Coffs Harbour by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
The award-winning evening tours offer the chance to see one of the most spectacular wildlife events of the year – the return of the migratory Wedgetailed shearwater (Puffinus Pacificus), or muttonbird, to the island for the breeding season.
Thousands of Wedgetailed shearwaters have recently arrived back on the island after their amazing long-haul flight from winter feeding grounds around the seas of Southeast Asia.
NPWS Ranger and respected Gumbaynggirr elder Uncle Mark Flanders, said every night at this time of year, Muttonbird Island magically transforms into a bustling seabird rookery.
“Thousands of sleek, well-travelled seabirds emerge from the ocean twilight and awkwardly search out their nesting burrows. We use special red filtered lights to spot the birds and often have to give way to them on the track,” he said.
The birds spend the Australian winter in southeast Asia and travel back to Muttonbird Island in August where a pair of adults share the responsibility of keeping one single egg warm, and then share the raising of their single chick, typically on the island.
“The cultural importance of Muttonbird Island and its birds to the local Gumbaynggirr people extends back many thousands of years,” Uncle Mark Flanders said.
“The island was called Giidany Miirlarl by the Gumbaynggirr people, meaning ‘moon sacred place’. The moon is the island’s protector that guards the muttonbirds as a food source and protects them from over-harvesting.
“This is a great opportunity to join us on one of our evening tours over summer and experience the unforgettable haunting calls of these beautiful seabirds”, he said.
The first of the guided Muttonbirds By Moonlight tours will be held at 7.15pm on 23 November, with additional tours at 7.15pm on 19 January and 16 February 2019.