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
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.
ASIAN BROWN FLYCATCHER: 1 on 25-27.
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).
ORIENTAL CUCKOO: 4-5 daily.
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
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
www.kimberleybirdwatching.com.au, 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
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mount Eliza VIC 3930
Tel (03) 9787 7136
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