To: birding-aus <>
From: Richard Baxter <>
Date: Thu, 22 Dec 2011 04:14:41 -0800 (PST)
       Christmas Island and Cocos-keeling Islands Birding Trip Report
                                        Nov-Dec 2011.
Arriving  on Home Island, we walked to the Clunies Ross mansion and as we 
entered the grounds, three light brown passerines flew off the ground into the 
nearby trees.  We surrounded the trees and had only fleeting glimpses as they 
flew from tree to tree.  Following them was another smaller passerine, possibly 
a flycatcher.  After thirty minutes of frustrating views in the deep foliage, 
one of the birds finally landed in front of me long enough to identify them as 
EYE-BROWED THRUSH. Over the next hour we all had good views of the three birds, 
watching them fly back to the ground and forage amongst the fallen leaves.  
During the week we found a further four thrush on West Island and another two 
on Direction Island.  

Without delay we moved off to find the smaller bird that we saw earlier with 
the thrush.  We soon spotted it nearby but were only able to obtain one 'out of 
focus' photo and poor views.  Despite these difficulties we had enough to 
confirm we had a flycatcher.  This bird was very cryptic and wouldn’t leave the 
deep foliage of the large trees that dot the mansion grounds.  

Over lunch we took the time to regroup andexamine the photo, compiling our 
views and notes. We eventually decided our bird had to be either a Mugamaki or 
Narcissus Flycatcher.  After lunch the rest of the group visited the banana 
plantation area where a few people saw  WATERCOCK. Damian and I went back to 
quietly sit under the tree where we first saw the flycatcher and waited.  It 
wasn't long until we saw it again.  A few minutes later and we had the full 
frontal views we needed of the bird, showing the orange breast of Australia's 
first MUGAMAKI FLYCATCHER.  Despite repeated attempts to gain photos, this bird 
remained cryptic in its habits all week and the shots we obtained were 
generally poor.
By Tuesday the tides were right for a trip to South Island but a few rose early 
and conducted a dawn vigil at the wetlands, where they saw Grey Wagtail, Asian 
House Martin and Oriental Cuckoo.
Once on South Island we saw six SAUNDER’S TERN roosting on the last remaining 
sand bar yet to be covered by the incoming tide.  The terns were sharing the 
sandbar with several species of wader and amongst these we found a probable 
LITTLE STINT, which we managed to photograph before the tide finally covered 
the islandand the birds flew.  We finished the afternoon with a swim and lunch 
on one of the nearby deserted lagoon islands.
Our next trip was to Horsburgh Island for the day. The morning started off well 
whenwe found a dark phase WESTERN REEF EGRET, race schistacea with diagnostic 
long legs and ‘saber’ shaped bill in a tidal pool near the jetty, whilst 
waiting for our boat.  We departed in our zodiac and half way across the lagoon 
Tony, Damian, Pat and I all jumped in with a pod of very friendly spinner 
dolphins who allowed us to swim with them for around 20 minutes.  Landing on 
Horsburgh, we walked the island finding White Tern, Red-tailed Tropicbird and a 
few Fork-tailed Swifts.  With a storm building to the north we decided to do a 
quick sea watch on the island’s northern beach and were rewarded with a Masked 
Booby cruising the coastline, finishing off the full suite of Australia’s 
regular booby, frigatebirds and tropicbirds. After lunch we headed out to the 
ship wreck in the middle of the lagoon for a snorkel.
By Thursday the tropical low had circled around to the south of us and had 
approached to within 285nm of Cocos.  It was now cat 3 Tropical Cyclone Alenga. 
  Despite this, the wind had only increased a small amount and we still had 
blue skies and an occasional rain front passing over the islands.   There was 
no doubt the consistent northerly winds contributed to the continued arrival of 
new birds to islands.  
On Thursday we returned to Home Island in an attempt to get better photos of 
the Mugamaki Flycatcher.  Most in our group were able to gain more conclusive 
views but it remained imponderably and frustratingly evasive.  Also seen on the 
island was Watercock, Oriental Cuckoo, White-tailed Tropicbird and of course 
the now familiar three Eye-browed Thrush, which spend their day turning over 
leaves under the Frangipani Tree near the entrance gate.
While we were on Home Island, Helen and Jeff Larsen spent a relaxing day on 
Direction Island, locating two more Eye-browed Thrush and a small warbler sized 
passerine which we never had a chance to follow up.  Later that afternoon we 
found an Asian Koel, then near our accommodation on West Island we spotted a 
large long tailed cuckoo with heavy barring on the tail and flanks diagnostic 
of LARGE HAWK CUCKOO.  Another returnee from last summer.
Richard Baxter 

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