From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 16:23:18 +1100
The 2007, eight-day Broome-Ashmore-Lacepedes-Broome expedition ran from 22 to 29 October. Logistics and permits were organised by George & Lindsey Swann of Kimberley Birdwatching. Personnel were Bill Alcock, Adrian Boyle, Rohan Clarke, Lisa & Peter Cockram, Xenia Dennett, Sandra Dunglison, Nigel Harland, Richard Loyn, Peter Marsh, Carol Page, Grant Penrhyn, George Swann and Mike Carter.

Our route on Day 1 (22 October) took us NW from Broome and we spent that night and all next day and night travelling at sea. On Day 2, having reached the shelf break, we veered NNE to cruise along the continental slope around the 500 m bathymetric. Late that day, when abreast of Scott Reef, we turned to head north. As we had time to spare on Day 3, we headed out into deeper water wide of the reefs turning when at the latitude of Ashmore Reef thus approaching from the west. We entered the lagoon at noon that day. Our berth for the next three nights was at the inner mooring just off West Island. We went ashore there six times, each afternoon and early morning of our stay. Our hosts, Flying Fish Charters, had three dinghies. Over the high tide period, which occurred late morning, these were used to circumnavigate Middle Island on Day 4 and East Island on Day 5. A naval vessel was patrolling the reef and surrounding area but unfortunately, no Customs Vessel was present and therefore, on this occasion, no DEH wardens were available to escort us ashore on the islands. Nevertheless, we enjoyed close communion with the thousands of breeding seabirds on those islands. Loafing on a sandbar nearby were over 3,000 waders. We cleared our mooring at Ashmore at 08.50 on Day 6 (27th) and headed SSW until dawn on Day 7 whereafter we headed south to the Lacepedes, anchoring offshore at 19.15 that day. Next morning, Day 8, we spent 3.5 hours ashore on West Island, Lacepedes, among the abundant terns, shorebirds and breeding seabirds before commencing the home stretch to Broome. We disembarked at 18.30 (now on daylight-saving time) that day (29th). Observation effort was generally continuous and enthusiastic with the exception of the home stretch on Day 8.

Thus the equivalent of five full days were spent at sea aboard the 21 m, air-conditioned charter vessel 'Flying Fish V'. Sea conditions were generally benign with mainly rippled or flat seas, glassy at times, on a low swell. It was a little choppy on the first afternoon and wind speeds reached a maximum of 12 knots as we approached the Lacepedes on of the penultimate day. In spite of cloudless skies subjecting us to a relentless sun, gentle breezes provided relief from heat when at sea and although hot, seemingly lower humidity than last year made conditions when ashore quite tolerable.

At least 86 species of bird were recorded, including 36 seabirds, several rarities and others of great significance.

LANDBIRD highlights on West Island, Ashmore, included the following. Unless noted otherwise, all were photographed.

ISLAND MONARCH: 1 adult at sunset on 26 and again next morning. Only one previous Australian record.

MIDDENDORFF'S GRASSHOPPER WARBLER: 1 morning & afternoon on 25.


   This is the third year in succession both the above species seen here.

ARCTIC WARBLER: 1 on 24-25, 2 on 26-27.

ORIENTAL REED WARBLER: 1 on 25-26 (no photos).

    Both the above are now virtually annual here.

PALE WHITE-EYE?: Of 4 White-eyes seen, at least 2 were considered Pale White-eyes ostensibly of the nominate Indonesian subspecies known as Ashy-bellied White-eye. Although White-eyes have been seen here before, the identity of none is confirmed. Pale White-eye has not previously been recorded in Australia west of Torres Strait. Confirmation and identity of a bird with a white, not grey, belly is being researched (Rohan Clarke).

BRUSH CUCKOO?: 1 confusing individual (possible Rusty-breasted Cuckoo) seen daily resembled the barred morph female illustrated in HANZAB. To be confirmed (Richard Loyn).

GREY WAGTAIL: 2 on 25 (no photos).


Collared Kingfisher: 1 from 26 to 28. Considered to be of the nominate

race and therefore of Indonesian origin.

Yellow Wagtail: 1-4 most days.

Barn Swallow: 1 most days.

The usual local TROPICAL SEABIRDS, Masked, Red-footed & Brown Boobies, Great & Lesser Frigatebirds, Common & Black Noddies, Bridled, Sooty, Crested, Lesser Crested, Roseate, Gull-billed and Little Terns were present on one or both reefs. All, other than those in italics, were breeding. Although Red-tailed (3 nests) & White-tailed Tropicbirds were seen on West Island, Ashmore, they were again few in number and as last year, White-tailed were not breeding. None were seen at sea.

MIGRANT SEABIRDS of note included: 18 TAHITI PETRELS, 79 BULWER'S PETRELS, 11 STREAKED SHEARWATERS, 21 Hutton's Shearwaters, 23 Wilson's Storm-Petrels, 51 MATSUDAIRA'S STORM-PETRELS, 2 Pomarine, 1 Arctic & 1 LONG-TAILED JAEGER. No definite Swinhoe's Storm-Petrels were seen. These are usually encountered in the deeper water on Day 2 but on this trip, that day was remarkable for the comparative lack of seabirds and cetaceans. However, from photographs, a bird seen in shelf waters on Day 1 initially thought to be that species is now considered more likely to have been a dark morph LEACH'S STORM-PETREL. It had the greyish face often present in that species, albeit in this case exceptionally pale and extending to the forehead and fore-crown. Investigations are proceeding (Adrian Boyle).

Twenty-six species of shorebird included our first RED-NECKED PHALAROPE at sea on 24.

CETACEANS were again numerous and diverse. Six species of Whale, BLUE, Humpback, DWARF SPERM, Short-finned Pilot, Melon-headed & False Killer were seen, and three species of Dolphin, Bottle-nosed, Pan-Tropical Spotted & Dwarf Long-snouted Spinners. Most species were photographed.

REPTILES included Green and Hawksbill Turtles and numerous sea-snakes.

Observations of a Dugong, fish and other critters, encounters with Indonesian fishing boats, both legal and illegal (one our skipper reported was subsequently arrested), added interest to an exceptional trip in great company with great hosts.

Given time, a fuller report with photographs will be available from George Swann of Kimberley Birdwatching, see, or myself.

The 2008 cruise is scheduled from 20-27th October (to be confirmed). Persons should register their interest ASAP with Kimberley Birdwatching or myself.

NOTE: Based on information received from John Darnell, the suspected Wallacean Cuckoo-shrikes reported last year are now considered to have been Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes because they had white not black tips to tail feathers.

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mount Eliza  VIC 3930
Tel  (03) 9787 7136


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