Ashmore Reef 2004 Expedition; preliminary summary

Subject: Ashmore Reef 2004 Expedition; preliminary summary
From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Wed, 3 Nov 2004 19:35:43 -0800

    The 2004 Broome/Ashmore Reef/Broome expedition from 24-31 October, organised by Kimberley Birdwatching was attended by Peter Barrand, Richard Baxter, Simon Mustoe, Rory O’Brien, Mark Taylor, George Swann and Mike Carter.

     Two full days were spent at Ashmore Reef. We went ashore on West Island on five occasions during 27-29 October, each visit adding another exciting vagrant.  Although restricted to observations from a dinghy at the shoreline, our two visits to Middle Island were spectacular due to the hordes of breeding seabirds and migrant waders. We also visited a sandbar between Middle & East Islands where thousands of waders were roosting at high tide. Enroute we moored overnight at Scott Reef and made a brief landing. We returned directly to Broome electing to spend an extra day at Ashmore rather than visit the Lacepedes.

    Thus most of six days were spent at sea aboard the 19.63m topsail schooner ‘The Willie’. Conditions were exceptionally placid so for the most part it was a pleasant ride but the cloudless skies, relentless sun, heat and humidity were taxing. Air-conditioning will be installed before next year’s expedition! 

    Seventy species of bird were recorded, including several rarities and others of great significance.

    Landbird highlights on West Island were:

Island Monarch. A juv. on 28th. This species is widespread on small islands throughout Wallacea and New Guinea but has not previously been recorded in Australia.

Oriental Reed Warbler. 2 on 29th.

Arctic Warbler. 1-2 on 28/29th.

Grey Wagtail. 1, 27-29th. Definitely ‘vessel’ assisted! See separate posting.

Oriental Cuckoo. Up to 12, 27-29th.

Common (Australian) Koel. 1 sub-adult male on 27th.

    The Shorebird highlight was an Asian Dowitcher on the sandbar.

    The usual local tropical Seabirds, Red-tailed & White-tailed Tropicbirds, Masked, Red-footed & Brown Boobies, Great & Lesser Frigatebirds, Common & Black Noddies, Bridled, Sooty, Crested & Little Terns were present on the reef (many breeding). Most of these were also seen at sea where in addition we counted over 700 Roseate Terns nearer Broome.

    Migrant Seabirds of note included: 21 Tahiti Petrels, 38 Bulwer’s Petrels, 2 Jouanin’s Petrels, 330 Streaked Shearwaters, 4 Hutton’s Shearwaters, 48 Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, 1+ Leach’s Storm-Petrel, 20 Matsudaira’s Storm-Petrels, 7 Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrels and 1 each Pomarine, Arctic & Long-tailed Jaeger.

    Unidentified birds include a possible Audubon’s Shearwater and a species of Starling not previously recorded in Australia. The latter flew towards our yacht while moored at Scott Reef. Our shouts and rush to greet it caused it to make a ‘U’ turn for the mainland! It appeared all-dark without any significant patterning.

    Cetaceans were Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin, Rough-toothed Dolphin, Long-snouted Spinner Dolphin, Beaked Whale sp? and a possible Minke Whale.

    Reptiles included Leatherbacked, Green, Flatback & Loggerhead Turtles and over four species of sea-snake.

     A detailed preliminary report with photos produced by Simon Mustoe will shortly be available at and

Persons interested in future trips please contact Kimberley Birdwatching or myself.

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mt Eliza    VIC     3930
Ph:  (03) 9787 7136
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