Sir Joseph Banks Group
The Sir Joseph Banks Group is an archipelago of about 20, mostly small, islands, with a collective land area of 1275 ha, lying in Spencer Gulf about 20 km off the eastern coast of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. It is an important seabird breeding site.
The islands were named by Matthew Flinders on 23 February 1802 on his voyage of exploration in HMS Investigator. The group is named after Sir Joseph Banks, who was a sponsor of the Investigator voyage. Many islands in the group are named after places in Flinders’ home county of Lincolnshire, England.
The islands are low-lying, with the highest point on Spilsby of about 50 m. They consist mainly of a granite base beneath limestone and are usually capped with calcrete or sandy soil. Reevesby and Spilsby are the largest islands in the group. Eighteen of the islands are protected in the Sir Joseph Banks Group Conservation Park, while the surrounding waters are protected in a 2627 km2 marine park. Spilsby Island is privately owned and continues to be grazed by sheep, as well as holding a few holiday cottages.
Flora and fauna
Most islands are vegetated with low shrubland dominated by Nitre Bush or African Boxthorn. Some support tall shrubland dominated by Coastal Boobialla or Coastal Daisybush. Areas of sandy loam may support Marsh Saltbush. The larger islands retain patches of woodland. Islands previously used for grazing sheep have introduced grasses and Burr Medick.
As well as the native Death Adders, Tiger Snakes, and several species of lizard including goannas, many of the islands have introduced mammals such as feral cats, House Mice or Chinchilla rabbits. The archipelago has Australian Sea Lion breeding colonies. Greater Stick-nest Rats were reintroduced to Reevesby Island in 1990/91.
Important Bird Area
The archipelago has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports over 1% of the world populations of White-faced Storm Petrels (with up to about 180,000 breeding pairs), Cape Barren Geese (up to about 1200 individuals), Black-faced Cormorants (from 3000 to 5000 breeding pairs), and, probably, of Pacific Gulls. Other seabirds which breed in the archipelago include Little Penguins, Silver Gulls and Greater Crested Terns. Fairy Terns and Eastern Reef Egrets have been recorded.
Little Penguin colonies
A holiday-maker visiting the Sir Joseph Banks group in 1923 noted the presence of Little Penguins, commenting that "On every island there are hundreds of nests,or rather roosts, of the fairy penguins, with their meek faces poking up under the barest shelter." As of 2011, several penguin colonies in the group are believed to be in decline.
As of June 2011, the colony of Little penguins on Spilsby Island is believed to be in decline. In 1935, the population was described by a visitor: "All around the shores of Spilsby the quaint, pretty little fairy penguins have their burrows. Sitting bolt upright, their short, hair-like plumage dark blue, with white fronts, they look at human beings with eyes which hold no fear, only a mild wonder at the appearance of the intruder. You can walk among them: they do not move, except to follow you with their eyes."
In 2006, the Spilsby Island population was estimated at 2000-3000 birds. In 2010 the population was estimated to be less than 100 birds. In 2011, the population was described as 'few'. Landholders and conservation groups report that numbers in Spencer Gulf have crashed since the early 2000s.
Little Penguins have been recorded on Reevesby Island. In 1907, the colony was mentioned by Douglas Mawson from the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science: "The cavities in the limestone, which have been hollowed out by the sea, were found to contain a very large number of penguins." In 2009 the population was estimated to be 1,857 breeding birds. The colony is believed to be in decline, based on unpublished data and declining results of pitfall trap surveys.
Visits to the islands are only possible by boat, with the closest mainland access point the coastal town of Tumby Bay, 22 km to the north-west. Some islands are not open to the general public because of their environmental sensitivity.
- Flinders, Matthew (1966) . A Voyage to Terra Australis : undertaken for the purpose of completing the discovery of that vast country, and prosecuted in the years 1801, 1802, and 1803 in His Majesty's ship the Investigator, and subsequently in the armed vessel Porpoise and Cumberland Schooner; with an account of the shipwreck of the Porpoise, arrival of the Cumberland at Mauritius, and imprisonment of the commander during six years and a half in that island. (Facsimile ed.). Adelaide; Facsimile reprint of: London : G. and W. Nicol, 1814 ed. In two volumes, with an Atlas (3 volumes): Libraries Board of South Australia. p. 234. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
- BirdLife International. (2011). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Sir Joseph Banks Islands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 2011-10-10.
- "IBA: Sir Joseph Banks Islands". Birdata. Birds Australia. Retrieved 2011-10-10.
- "Victorian's Discovery. Attractions in South Australia. Spencer's Gulf for a Holiday." The Register, South Australia (1923-02-27).
- Wiebken, Annelise "Conservation management priorities for little penguin populations in Gulf St Vincent" SARDI (2011-06). Retrieved 2014-02-12.
- Lindsay, H. A. "Seeing the islands of the SA coast" The Advertiser, South Australia (1935-04-13)
- "A Scientific Cruise. Return of the Governor Musgrave. A week among the islands." The Advertiser, South Australia (1907-01-19). Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- "Marooned for 12 days. Three men on an island." The Advertiser, South Australia (1916-07-25). Retrieved 2014-03-14.