We’ve just had a great time at Lady Elliott, very relaxing and, as always, very interesting. This time we went a bit earlier than usual and the birds (terns) were nesting, so there was constant squawking and twittering and birds EVERYWHERE! The bridle terns nest on the ground among the small volcanic rocks that line the pathways, and they guard their babies (little balls of brown fluff) most fiercely – great squawks when anyone comes near and baby is ushered quick smart into its hidey hole in the rocks. (Talk about helicopter parents!) The chicks are SO cute! The noddy terns, on the other hand, nest in trees, particularly the octopus bushes. They have the worst nests; scraps of leaves, twigs and bark all stuck together with bird poo – the smell around the ‘dormitories’ is indescribable! Their babies look like them: black with grey or white caps. In a separate colony are the crested terns that look like little white angels when they fly overhead. There were two tropic birds nesting, and we could hear the eerie howls of the muttonbirds at night. Very few turtles coming up to lay – it’s a really low season apparently and we didn’t even see one BUT we swam with quite a few. I even rescued one that looked like it was stuck under a rock – or maybe it was just feeding, but it looked stuck! So I pulled it out, fearing it might drown if it couldn’t come up for air (which they need to do every 20 mins or so.) But the most exciting thing: we went off on a ‘snorkel safari’ and found a pod of manta rays. Absolutely awesome. We were told, if we saw one, to stay quiet and wait cos it was likely to cruise around and come check you out, but the guests (14 of them) all took off in a frenzy at every sighting which was really annoying. I got sick of being swum over and kicked in the face with flippers so eventually I peeled off and just hung in the water – and a great ray swam right at me! I remembered the advice to stay still and they’d go around you, so I did – it looked like a Star Wars spaceship with its great mandibles in front of its face (they are BIG creatures) and it was quite scary, but at the last moment it swerved and swum underneath me so I could see its beautiful satin black back. Mike got some terrific shots, including one of a ray’s belly which is how they identify them – they’re white, with markings. So his photo has been copied by Fabrice, the manta ray expert on the island who is doing his PhD on them and, if this one hasn’t been ID’d yet, we get to name it!! How exciting is that!  And if I can, I shall upload some photos to go with this!

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