Torres Strait cruises in 2002; Summary

To: "BIRDING-AUS" <>, "Bill Ramsay" <>
Subject: Torres Strait cruises in 2002; Summary
From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Mon, 14 Jul 2003 21:26:52 -0000
 Torres Strait cruises in 2002; Summary

 I have now prepared reports on the two cruises I led to islands in northern Torres Strait (TS) in 2002. The first, with ten observers, Sean Dooley, Chris Lester, Neil Macumber, Ross & Jan Mulholland, Frank O’Connor, Warwick Pickwell, Fred Smith, Bill Watson & myself, was from 21-29 August. The second, with nine observers, Richard Baxter, Barbara Harvey, Michael & Penny Hunter, Tony Palliser, John Reidy, Geoff Walker, Bob Way & myself, was from 31 August-9 September. The cruises were similar, sailing from Horn Is to Horn Is, landing at Dauan, Boigu, Saibai, Darnley and Sue Islands and briefly at Dove Islet. I applied to each island for permission to land, which was granted verbally, and we were welcomed on each. We received particularly enthusiastic and valuable support on Boigu and Saibai, where most time was spent.

Full bird lists with numbers, excepting some single observer or as yet unsubstantiated reports, and the detailed itinerary, are available. About 138 species were seen on each cruise and the total for both was around 157. Several species were added to every island list and some were new to TS. A claim of one species not previously recorded in Australia was not accepted by BARC and is therefore omitted.

Below is a summary of the more interesting sightings. There was significant visible evidence of the migration of land-birds across the Strait at a density superior to other sites in Australia and approaching that of the Northern Hemisphere. In addition to those mentioned below, migrants included Swamp Harrier, Australian Hobby, Pied Imperial-Pigeon, Horsfield’s, Shining & Little Bronze-Cuckoos, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Forest & Sacred Kingfishers, Dollarbirds, Black-faced & Spectacled Monarchs, Olive-backed Orioles & Metallic Starlings. Others, such as Fruit-Doves, Pittas, Flycatchers, Drongoes, Cuckoo-shrikes and Cicadabirds may also have been migrants. Welcome Swallows had presumably passed through earlier but some Tree & Fairy Martins were passing through.

SPOTTED WHISTLING-DUCK; 1 juv. on Boigu, 23/08.

ANTARCTIC PRION; 1 at sea at 9º40.5’S 143º32.6’E on 07/09. I believe this is the first report for TS. We had prolonged views in good conditions.

WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL; 1 at sea about 10 km west of Darnley on 06/09. This may be the first report for TS of a species which is rare anywhere in Queensland (there are only 4 records for the SE)! We had prolonged views in good conditions. As with the previous species, several photographs were taken but these have been wilfully destroyed!

PACIFIC BAZA; At least 6 apparently on passage over Boigu on 23/08 and 1 next day. One on Darnley on 27 & 28/8. Draffan et al. (1983) list only one report from TS. These observations, together with their absence 10 days later, suggest the species may be a migrant to New Guinea, not previously anticipated.

BROWN GOSHAWK; This perplexing bird, initially thought possibly a Grey-headed Goshawk but now considered by this correspondent to be a male of the NG race dogwa, was seen and photographed on Saibai on 05/09. Not previously reported in Australia, this is still under review by BARC.

GREY-FACED BUZZARD-HAWK; 1 seen on Boigu 24/09 is under review by BARC. Not previously reported in Australia.

PECTORAL SANDPIPER; 1 on Boigu 24/08 believed to be first for TS.

BLACK-NAPED TERN; Up to 52 present and nesting on Dove Islet both cruises.

COLLARED IMPERIAL-PIGEON; Up to 3 seen on Boigu and 9 on Saibai both cruises. This species is familiar to the locals on both islands. BARC submission under review.

LORIKEET SPP?; Darker, smaller and shorter tailed than Rainbow Lorikeet. 20 on 02/09 & 2 on 03/09 on Boigu.

FAN-TAILED CUCKOO; 1 on Sue on 08/09. Draffan et al. list only 2 records for TS.

RAINBOW BEE-EATER; Migrants totalling up to 300 were seen daily on both cruises, over Dauan, Boigu, Saibai and adjacent seas, and over Darnley on 06/09. At times, flocks of between 7 & 60+ birds crossed the sea and land so high as to be more heard than seen but also rarely at sea level.

MANGROVE GOLDEN WHISTLER; All islands except Dove. Abundant on Darnley.

RUFOUS FANTAIL; 1 on Boigu on 03/09, 6 on Dove on 08/09 & 6 same day on Sue. None were seen during the first cruise so this gives a clue to time of passage from NG through TS. Dove is a dry, small islet with mainly low, sparse vegetation totally unsuitable for this species so it was very evident that the birds were migrants.

WHITE-WINGED TRILLER; 1 on Saibai on 25 & 26/08 and 1 on Sue 08/09. Draffan et al. (1983) list only one record for TS but the above and recent sightings on Horn (pers. obs.) suggest that it is more regular and possibly a migrant to NG.

HOUSE SPARROW; Seen on all islands except Dauan & Dove with significant populations around the settlements. Colonisation has occurred in the last ten years. (In a Freudian slip, I originally typed ‘tears’ rather than ‘years’).

RED-CAPPED (PAPUAN) FLOWERPECKER; Seen ‘on the same twig’ on Saibai both cruises. Accepted by BARC, these are the 3rd & 4th records for Australia.

PALE WHITE-EYE; Abundant on Darnley and Sue, 4 on Boigu. Either much variation or more than one species is present.

SINGING STARLING; Up to 20 on Boigu both cruises.

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mt Eliza    VIC     3930
Ph:  (03) 9787 7136
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