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  • Writer's pictureKaia Colestock

Day 2: Michaelmas Cay & Great Barrier Reef

Updated: Jan 6

Twenty-four hours in and we had to take a catamaran to see the Great Barrier Reef and nesting birds on Michaelmas Cay. The cay is a small spit of sand, lightly vegetated, in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. Common inhabitants include great- and lesser-crested terns, frigatebirds, sooty and bridled terns, brown boobies, brown noddies, and occasional shorebirds. We embarked on a day trip to the cay, which included snorkeling on the reef. First order of business upon reaching the cay was to document the wildlife.

Brown booby perched on a snag, surrounded by brown noddies (foreground) and terns (background).

To protect the birds, an area the size of a conference room was fenced off nearest the landing site. The catamaran anchored and a small outboard boat shuttled us to the beach.

Lesser-crested tern banking above the cay.

Brown booby adult (left) with larger chick (right).

Brown booby adult

Brown noddy on a nest with egg. Most individuals were incubating eggs or feeding very young chicks.

A silver gull trying to blend in with the noddies. (Safety in numbers!) A small ruddy turnstone walks along the surf.

Great Barrier Reef surrounding the cay.

We couldn’t resist multiple visits to the Cairns Esplanade, a world-class shorebird hangout near the harbor. High tide pushed the shorebirds into the mangroves, but low tide was extremely productive. Acres of mudflats uncover and shorebirds abound here. Highlights were terek sandpiper, greater and lesser sand-plover, common greenshank, bar-tailed and black-tailed godwit, tattlers, black-fronted dotterel, great knot, and Far Eastern curlew. Far too many species to post, but worth mentioning!

In foreground, bar-tailed godwit and great knot.

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