a field guide to the planet - by Damon Ramsey
I have been fortunate enough to visit these islands at least once a year since 2004.
The Lacepedes are a group of 4 flat sand cay islands. They are located 30 kilometres off the Dampier Peninsular, West Australia. The closest main town is Broome, which is some 120 kilometres away.
They were named by French explorer Baudin as he sailed around Australia in 1801. Lacepede was a naturalist who had described several species offish in Australia. The islands were later mined for guano. Introduced rats were mostly eradicated several decades ago, allowing many smaller birds, such as terns, to breed there. The populations of silver gulls (that act as predators on eggs and chicks), seems to have increased.
The flat sandy islands are covered in small bushes. One of the most common plants here is 'roly poly', a tumbleweed like shrub. There are no trees on the island.
The main attraction here are the thousands of seabirds. It includes possibly the largest colony of Brown Boobies in the world (18,000 pairs spread out over the island group). It includes the largest colony of Lesser Frigatebirds in the Indian Ocean.
Species I have observed there include: Brown Booby (the most visible bird there),
Masked Booby (rare), Australasian Pelican,
Silver Gull, Crested Tern,
Lesser Crested Tern, Caspian Tern,
Roseate Tern, Great Knot, Grey-tailed Tattler, Red-necked Stint,
Godwit (bar-tailed?), Eastern Curlew, Ruddy Turnstone,
Eastern Reef Egret.
The Lacepede Islands have 'Ta-Ta Lizards' waving their arms about on the beach. And in the waters, the area are incredibly dense with breeding and laying turtles, including Green Turtle and Flatback Turtle.
Close to the shore, the waters are murky, so they are not appropriate for snorkelling. There are often larger fish visible in the waters, such as Shovel-nose Ray.
The best thing about these islands is the chance to watch sea bird behaviour close up.
There is always some breeding cycle behaviour going on, and throughout the dry season there are usually some Brown Booby chicks around....
The Lacepede islands are a long way from anywhere! However, several expedition ships go there. Check the itineraries as different departures may have different stops. And be aware the some ships that advertise this stop on their itineraries may not always get there if the weather is a just slightly windy.
Thinking of travelling again after everything settles down? The first expedition I am booked to work on after the virus is Micronesia, New Guinea & Indonesia in 2021 with Silversea. Meanwhile I am giving a lecture on the Sunshine Coast (Australia) on the "Sounds of suburban south-east Queensland".