Christmas Island and Cocos-keeling Islands Birding Trip Report
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
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.
Next trip to CI and Cocos
Feb/March 2012 &
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