Muttonbird Island

Scott-Free’s blog
Steve & Chris
Tue 10 Nov 2015 21:12

Tuesday 10th November 2015


It’s looking like a weather window for our next leg down to Newcastle will open tomorrow, so today we need to do anything else we had planned to whilst here, and then get the boat ready for an early start in the morning.


So first thing we headed off to Muttonbird Island, just along the boardwalk from our pontoon. 


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Muttonbird Island from the stern of Scott-Free...                                             and from the base of the footpath.                                        


The island is a nature reserve and is home to thousands of wedge-tailed shearwaters, so called for their ability to cut or shear the water with their wings as they skim across the surface. Early settlers called them muttonbirds because of their fatty mutton-like flesh. The birds spend the Australian winter in southeast Asia, travelling back to Muttonbird Island in August each year. Amazingly, the birds return to the same burrow every year. A pair of birds share the responsibility of keeping one single egg warm and then share the raising of their chick. During the day they forage for food and return to their burrow just after dusk.   We were not lucky enough to see any shearwaters, but there were plenty of burrows visible, and one or two looked recently excavated.


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There were many burrows plainly visible.                                                              This one had fresh earth at the entrance.


We did catch sight of a tiny bird with a long wagging tail and distinctive bright blue stripes on its head.  On looking it up later, we found it to be a Superb Fairy Wren, recently voted Australia’s favourite bird.


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We saw this friendly little bird several times.                                                        It seemed completely unfazed by our presence.


We also saw a white egret intently stalking something we could not see.



This white egret was intently going about its own business.


There were magnificent views from the top of the island.


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Looking down over the marina and the old jetty.                                              Looking out towards the Solitary Islands.


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Across Coffs Harbour to the coastline running south beyond.                      Looking out across the outer breakwater.


Muttonbird Island is a sacred and significant site to the local Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal people, who call the island Giidany Miirlarl, meaning moon sacred place. The moon is the island's protector, guarding the muttonbirds as a food source and protecting them from over-harvesting. The island was also once a ceremonial site. 

After the island was joined to the mainland by the breakwater in 1924, the bird population declined as a result of predation by rats and humans.  Now the birds are protected from human harvesting, and the level of rat activity is monitored and controlled with bird-safe poison.


After a pleasant couple of hours on the island, it was time to get some jobs done.  We paid up the bill at the marina office and put a load of washing in to do while we filled a couple of jerry cans with diesel.  Back at the boat we hung the washing out to dry, topped up the diesel tank and made the boat ready for sea.


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We watched this crane being assembled while at the fuel dock.                  The marina office.          



A ray was swimming around in the marina.


By evening all was ready, and as we were planning an early start in the morning, we headed off to bed early, alarms set for 0530.  The passage will be about 185 nmiles, and we should be able to make it in 36 hours, but there are only light winds forecast and we may not be able to sail at the speeds we need.  So we need every hour of daylight and probably the engine to make sure we get there before nightfall on Thursday.  As there is also a low arriving down that way on Friday, we certainly do not want to hang around.  So an early start it is.  Night night.