To: birding-aus <>
From: Richard Baxter <>
Date: Thu, 22 Dec 2011 04:00:13 -0800 (PST)
       Christmas Island and Cocos-keeling Islands Birding Trip Report
                                        Nov-Dec 2011.
Dates:  26 Nov to 10 Dec (14 days)
Guides:Richard Baxter, Mick Roderick and Damian Baxter
Itinerary:Seven days CI, followed by seven days Cocos (14 days)
It had been twelve months since our incredible Nov-Dec trip in 2010, on which 
we found twenty four species of vagrants.  We returned in March this year and 
rediscovered most of the species but since then they had all left the islands 
for greener pastures in South East Asia.  On the eve of this trip I had been 
wondering if any of the birds would return this year, particularly the ones we 
saw on Cocos such as the hawk cuckoos and sparrowhawks.  Although I hoped some 
would return for another summer on Cocos, I pretty much knew last year was a 
‘one-off’, never to be repeated event.  
We arrived on a very dry Christmas Island in late November in stark contrast to 
the year before when the island's wet season started in August.  All the usual 
pools of water were bone dry and there had been very little rain for at least a 
fortnight.  On our first day of birding we stayed near the northern end of the 
island which produced several of the island’s endemic species as well as a few 
of the island's specialties.  

A bonus of visiting Christmas and Cocos is that you can see all of Australia's 
frigatebirds, tropicbirds and boobies in one trip and within twenty four hours 
we had all but one accounted for.  Christmas and Great Frigatebirds were 
abundant along the coastal strip to the casino and a lone Lesser Frigatebird 
was also seen in this vicinity.  White-tailed and Red-tailed Tropicbirds were 
seen and several golden morph WTTB's regularly cruised over our accommodation.  
Red-footed Booby and Brown Booby numbered in their hundreds, with an almost 
constant procession of both species along the island's sea cliffs. The group 
also saw an Abbott's Booby on its nest in one of the rainforest trees along 
Murray Road on the island’s plateau.  

Cave Swiftlet, CI Imperial Pigeon and CI White-eye were seen on our afternoon 
walk as well as Common Emerald Dove and Island Thrush.  Variable Goshawk was 
the next endemic sighted and we soon had both male and female goshawks showing 
well. Our first migrant was a lone Oriental Pratincole at the back of the 
Noodle House, which later departed to join the other six we found on the 
airport runway.  
An early morning search around Settlement produced EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL and 
the welcome sight of rain clouds building around the island.  The much 
anticipated rain arrived during the night and the following morning produced 
our first epic bird of the trip in the form of a PURPLE-BACKED STARLING.  We 
all obtained good views of this bird and lots of great photos were taken before 
it was chased off by an Island Thrush.  
With a large amount of rain falling on part of the island we decided to visit 
South Point Temple and search for swifts and martins.  We were rewarded with 
two ASIAN HOUSE MARTINS, Fork-tailed Swifts and a 'nest type swiftlet', which 
was too distant to identify.  Later that afternoon we made our way to North 
West Point and a location known as Swift Alley hoping to find more swiftlets.  
As soon as we arrived we were amazed to see the sky full of birds.  In addition 
to over one hundred Cave (Linchi) Swiftlets, the following two hours produced 
thirty Asian House Martins, a lone HOUSE SWIFT, four EDIBLE-NEST SWIFTLETS and 
another larger swiftlet only slightly smaller than House Swift and obviously 
larger than the nearby  'nest swiftlets'.  We obtained two photos and a video, 
helping to identify this bird as a HIMALAYAN SWIFTLET.  Adding to the flock 
which had congregated on the side of Powell Hill, a couple of Fork-tailed 
(Pacific) Swifts appeared in
 front of an approaching tropical afternoon storm crossing from nearby Sumatra. 
 It was a fantastic two hours of birding and a great end to the day.  (To be 
If you would like the full trip report with photos (PDF).  Email me directly 
and i'll send you one.

Richard Baxter
Next trip to CI and Cocos
Feb/March 2012 &
Nov/Dec 2012

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