Christmas Island and Cocos-keeling Islands Birding Trip Report
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
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.
TO BE CONTINUED.
To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)