King Island Bird Watching
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King Island Locals Rally to Save Whales  
The first I heard of it was a from a phone call about 11pm on Sunday night March 1, 2009. The woman at the other end of the phone said she was from the Mercury Newspaper in Hobart, that there was a beached whale at Naracoopa on the east coast of King Island, and did we know anything about it. As we live right on the beach at Naracoopa my wife Rhonda and I went out in the pitch black armed with a torch but saw nothing.
Next morning about 7ish and after about a 5-minute walk along the beach from home I came across about 190 beached pilot whales with about 6 dolphins amongst them and a handful of locals helping out the distressed creatures; what a pitiful site! I could hear their crying, so so sad, those that were still alive were slowly dying.
I hurried home and pilfered as many sheets, towels, blankets and buckets as I could muster, grabbed my camera and threw everything into the car.
To take some photos was a must then into it to help out our suffering friends. There were many whales already deceased but there was hope,  many were still alive. A few whales had beached themselves onto their sides but with all their frantic squirming had managed to block or partially block their blow-holes, stopping their breathing. What needed to happen was to dig around the huge bodies of those still alive whilst trying to roll them into the shallow pools of water that were created and at the same time keep their blow-holes clear.

Truly amazing, was the local King Island grapevine; an absolute credit to the big hearted King Islanders. People came from all over the beautiful little island armed with the same sort of gear as I had. Most selflessly took unpaid leave of their regular employment dropping everything from their busy daily schedules and got involved with the life and death battle of saving these helpless mammals.
It was a balmy sunny day, the gorgeous blue ocean sparkled belying the scene that confronted us. Under the supervision of Shelley Davidson, King Island’s Parks & Wildlife ranger, volunteers set out with sheets, blankets and whatever else to cover the whale’s bodies as they are extremely susceptible to sunburn. The bucket brigade threw water continuously onto the stressed whales to keep them wet, cool and to prevent their skins from cracking. Some creative volunteers had brought water pumps mounted on tiny floating rafts to douse our sea-faring friends. Most valuable was the excavator that dug channels in order to get water closer to the whales and to make it easier to re-float the whales when the tide eventually came in.
Two King Islanders volunteered their runabout boat and jet ski to manoeuvre 15 whales into deeper water, they were also used to keep a new pod from swimming in. It was thought possible that they might try to help their beached relatives but in so doing become beached as well; either that or they were endeavouring to beach themselves as the others did – hard to say – who’s to know!
The order of the day? Keep the animals alive while waiting for high tide and Parks and Wildlife officers to arrive from mainland Tasmania. When Parks & Wildlife Service staff turned up late in the afternoon, their teams and some of our local volunteers  immediately sprung into action.
They were absolutely wonderful! Once the tide had come in, they just  man-handled the whales that were still alive to re-float, re-orientate and guide them back out to sea, quite the herculean task. Many came back but were sent off again. I recall three  young school girls trying to re-float a whale calf unsuccessfully but it kept returning, no doubt looking for its mother.
Eventually, later that evening all the whales that had been kept alive, 54 in all plus a couple of dolphins were rescued and put safely out to sea. They were all tagged and will be electronically tracked. It was a long day!
About 140 whales and 4 dolphins were not so lucky, mostly dying before help could arrive.  Much help was at hand, but sadly, too late for some!
A Tasmanian marine conservation expert commented that the shape of the sea floor in Tasmania’s north-west could be partly to blame for a spate of whale strandings.
There have been four stranding events in Tasmania since November 2008 involving 400 animals.
Rosemary Gales from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment said experience has shown that toothed whales such as pilot or sperm whales can become disoriented in shallow water. “With the toothed whales, they are happy to come close to shore, it’s these really shallow sloping beaches where they almost always get caught at low tide, so they come in and feed and then the tide goes out and they are trapped.” Rescue efforts continued into the next day to save the last survivor of the whale stranding.
Samples were taken from the estimated 140 dead whales in efforts to learn more about the cause of mass strandings. A mass grave was dug for an unceremonious burial.
One unfounded theory why whales beach themselves is that they find themselves in direct competition for food with dolphins and that the dolphins have purposely led them into the shallows.

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by John Nievaart
Pics of birds on King Island

Some of the wonderful birds you'll expect to find on beautiful King Island;
there are more pics in the photo gallery - and more to come.
And no!  this little girl only wishes she could fly.
We chased the little Blue Wren on the home page all around the grounds to take his picture, then he finally stopped, turned around and seemed to say (with attitude), 'come on then, hurry up and take your shot' so we did.

The cottages pictured in these pages are examples of Naracoopa Holiday Cottages.

The first story is about whales, not about birds but thrown in for general interests' sake

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