Asmore Reef

To: "birding aus" <>
Subject: Asmore Reef
From: "Allan Benson" <>
Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 22:39:47 +1100

Mike Carter posted a report s of the second Ashmore Reef trip that detailed what we saw. I’ll attempt to flesh out some of the details that were relevant to me.

1/ The sea did not make the trip pleasant . If you think 4 hours back from the shelf at Wollongong is a long time, try 3 days back from Ashmore Reef, belting into the southerly. Neither my brother, Rob nor myself were seasick but we took Travelcalm most of the time as we were not willing to take the risk. While the sea was only a 1 metre of wind chop ie a good day out of Wollongong, it made things difficult. Sleeping was interesting, like being on a roller coaster, accelerating towards the bottom of the bunk and getting airborne over the bigger swells. However, one tended to get used to it and we slept well most nights.

2/ The southerly wind meant the key pelagic species we wanted would have tended to move north. Nevertheless, all the key species were seen- Bulwer’s, Tahiti and Joanin Petrels , Matsudaria’s, Leach’s and Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels and Streaked Shearwater However, these were seen in much lower numbers than usual . I didn’t see either of the Matsudaria’s, or any of the Streaked Shearwaters.

3/ There was a lot of water between birds and it was absolutely critical to be on the front deck when the birds were called otherwise you had Buckley’s. Its hard enough of Wollongong at 20-30 metres when the birds come to the back of the boat but at 50-200 metres when the birds have no attraction to the boat, ID becomes very problematical. Standing on the foredeck travelling south was not popular as spray and water were coming over the bow.

4/ Ultimate ID was made by Mike Carter and if Mike didn’t see the bird (eg the Joanin’s) it became a possible or probable. It would have been useful to have another person on board who some experience with these species eg people like Tony Palliser, Phil Hansbro, Pete Milburn etc. "Jizz" is vital in ID’ing these birds and you cannot learn jizz from a fieldguide.

5/ The Jodie Anne is a sensational boat. Mick the cook produced some terrific meals and the boat is very comfortable with hot showers, proper toilets, even air conditioning on the lower deck. The cabins are a bit cramped to say the least so that minimising baggage would be a good idea. The crew fished continually and hooked a beautiful, biggish Blue Marlin (which they released), a good sized Spanish Mackerel (which we ate) some tuna and a couple of Dolphinfish

6/ What a buzz seeing a new bird for Australia on West Island at Ashmore Reef. We got such sustained and close views that I could just about describe every feather. The Grasshopper –Warbler proved to be extremely elusive. I never saw it at all and nobody saw the entire bird.

7/ Middle Island at Ashmore was just mind blowing. There were 1000+ Ruddy Turnstones on the beach plus 1000’s of other waders. 1000’s of Common Noddy, 1000’s of Brown Booby, maybe 20 or so Red-footed Booby., 100’s of Frigatebirds in a thermal above the island- you just didn’t know where to look.

7/ The skipper indicated the Jodie Anne will be available next year. If you have any interest in this trip, I would register my interest with George Swann at m("","Kimbird");"> ASAP. George will only organise this trip if there is sufficient interest but there are only 10 or so spots available. However, if landing on West Island is a vital part of your agenda, I would be stating this clearly as part of the deal when you make the booking. There is a great deal anger reported in the Dept of Customs and Immigration about Andrew Stafford writing his article and the repercussion may be that landing permits will not be issued. If that is the case a judgement needs to be made if the trip is worthwhile.

8/ Don’t be put off be my comments on the ocean. I’m sure that Mike Carter(who is a master organiser) will have a look at the weather history and pick a good time to sail. In all probability the sea will be a millpond and the target species will be there in their 100’s.


Allan Benson
Niagara Park
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