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Toy Mouse Lures Global Jet-setters

September 3, 2013 DESTINATION No Comments Email Email

Deep in the Christmas Island jungle a clapped-out 4WD utility vehicle rattles down a dirt track. Dozens of eager-eyed eco-tourists wait, eyes transfixed on the plight of an oversized toy mouse tied to a piece of fishing line being dangled out the back of the ute.

535320The eco-tourists are participants in Christmas Island’s 2013 Bird’n’Nature Week (31 August – 7 September) and are assisting wildlife biologist Mark Holdsworth to catch a bird which exists nowhere else on the planet.

According the Holdsworth, “the Christmas Island Goshawk has a penchant for stuffed toys – especially toy mice and also the fluffy arm of a toy gorilla!”

“The use of lures to attract raptors is an ancient technique used for training in falconry, however, as far as I know ‘trolling’ behind the car is the only project that uses this technique”, explains Holdsworth who is trying to gain a better understanding of the goshawk by collecting basic data on its population. When a goshawk latches onto the lure, Holdsworth and his merry band of willing helpers band the bird and record its vital stats, before letting it free again.

It is unique hands-on experiences like these goshawk banding field trips that have made the nature-535323themed week a must-do for nature-lovers from all over the world. Further, Holdsworth believes the key to the success of Bird’n’Nature week, now in its 9th year is the “fantastic blend of science and conservation in a relaxed social setting.”

“There are also many laughs and everyone leaves very happy for the experience,” adds the enthusiastic Holdsworth who is part of a team of expert guides who each year lead tourists on special guided tours and 535329host nightly seminars and photography workshops.

As well as a haven for forest birds, Christmas Island is a globally significant seabird rookery and home to two of the world’s rarest and most spectacular seabirds – the Abbott’s Booby (Christmas Island is the only place this primitive bird now breeds) and Christmas Island Frigate bird (only around 1000 pairs are left in the world).

“Serious bird-watchers come to tick some of these rare birds off their bucket lists of must-sees, however, the week-long celebration doesn’t only showcase the tropical island’s stunning birdlife, it also throws the spotlight on some of our other natural wonders,” says Linda Cash of the Christmas Island Tourism Association.

These wonders include the island’s envious marine environment, which Michael Aw, editor of Ocean Geographic recently described as home to “some of the healthiest tropical reef foliage I had ever seen in my 30 years of underwater exploration around the world.”

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