Ashmore Reef 20-27 September 2003 Trip Summary
Just back from another (my sixth)
successful expedition to Ashmore Reef aboard the yacht Jodi Anne 2. On this
occasion, the party consisted of Richard Baxter, Rob Berry, Gail D’Alton, John
Duranti, Snow Perry, Warwick Pickwell, Geoff Walker, Bob Way, George Swann (who
also organised the cruise) and Mike Carter (leader). Two non-birding Americans,
‘country collectors’, also came along to tick off Ashmore Reef. Officers on the
Customs Vessel moored at the Reef dutifully stamped their passports!
We sailed from Broome on 20
September and returned there early morning on 27 September. This is the earliest
we have run this trip, all previous cruises were in October or November, and
this affected the variety and number of birds seen.
Observations at sea were greatly aided by
good weather and mostly slight seas. Consequently most of the all-black
Procellariiformes for which these trips are noted were much in evidence. There
were two Jouanin's Petrels together, 55 Bulwer's Petrels, 34
Swinhoe's and at least 61 Matsudaira's Storm-Petrels. However, we
didn’t glimpse even a possible Leach's Storm-Petrel but Wilson's Storm-Petrels
(19) were relatively abundant. Only 1 Wedge-tailed Shearwater was seen at sea
but there was c.30 active burrows on West Island, Ashmore. We logged 7
Tahiti Petrels but no Streaked or Hutton's Shearwaters. Other birds seen
at sea included 8 species of tern, 2 Pomarine and 1 Arctic Jaegers, and most
surprisingly, a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike heading south for the summer in
The number of Matsudaira’s
Storm-Petrels seen on the second day, up to 18 at one time, was undoubtedly
because they were attracted to a slick in our wake produced by cod-liver oil and
chopped up fish. This enabled sustained and close viewing of this normally
difficult to observe species and hopefully some photographic record.
Ashore on West Island, Ashmore, we
saw 3 White-tailed Tropicbirds. 10 pairs of Red-tailed Tropicbird were breeding
there as well as numerous Eastern Reef Egrets. Among 13 species of wader were 10
Sanderling and 3 Oriental Plovers. Passerines were unusually scarce, (none of
the usual Oriental Cuckoo), but we did find our first Tawny Grassbird for the
island, 3 Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes and what, for the time being, I will call a
White-winged Triller. Whether or not this was a female White-shouldered Triller,
the resident taxon 110 km to the north where the White-winged form is unknown,
we may never know. Perhaps more on this later.
Our permit, allowed us to
circumnavigate Middle Island, Ashmore Reef. The shoreline is steep enabling a
close approach but only at high tide using inflatable dinghies. So from a
distance of about 3 m we were able to observe the vast numbers of breeding
seabirds there, including Tropicbirds, Masked, Red-footed and Brown Boobies,
Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, Sooty Terns, Common and Black Noddies. Also the
numerous waders at their high tide roost on the beach. Among these was for some,
the bird of the trip. A Little Stint in full breeding plumage.
Ashore on West Island and overlooking
Middle Island in the Lacepedes, we
again experienced large numbers of breeding seabirds, mainly Brown Booby &
Lesser Frigatebird. Common Noddies & Bridled Terns were preparing to nest
and at least one pair of Masked Booby were displaying. The Roseate Terns had
finished their breeding but the flock which assembled there at dusk was
estimated to exceed 15,000. Twenty species of wader at this site formed
large flocks at high tide.
A detailed log and report is available.