I have just returned from two weeks in Northern Torres Strait. Spent 6 nights
on Boigu, 3 on Dauan and 6 on Saibai.
It was very hot, humid and dry (they are predicting a late wet up that way) so
access wasn't too bad. Given the swamps were all but dry I found no need to
swim with the crocodiles this time and thankfully the mosquito numbers were
low. I was last up there in Jan/Feb 2002
Highlights in terms of rare birds were mostly restricted to Boigu Island so
Mike Carter has already forwarded my key records...and no I didn't record six
new species for Australia as he predicted I might!
Orange-bellied Fruit-dove: Boigu Island. 1 in flight on 15th Nov and then
perched and seen very well (good photographs) on the 16th Nov. First record for
Papuan Spine-tailed Swift: Boigu Island. Three together in flight and drinking
on the wing from a small freshwater swamp 0753-0800 on 17th Nov. About the size
of a White-rumped Swiftlet but with the structure of a needletail this species
is distinctive. All key features seen and about 65 images taken during the 7
mins they were in view. Several photos show the tail spines. First record for
Gurney's Eagle: Boigu Island. Two soaring together over grassland in the am on
18th Nov. About 20 photos show key features. Third record for Australia.
Red-capped Flowerpecker: Boigu Island. Three to four sightings of a pair and
two adult males together. A few record photographs. First record for Boigu and
about the fifth for Australia.
On Saibai Island this species was seen almost daily at three different sites
(but not near the cemetery where the species has been seen before). Evidence
they were breeding at at least one site. Good photos of some birds.
Collared Imperial Pigeon: Boigu Island. Seen daily with a running tally of 31
individuals seen. Mostly in flight but a few perched.
On Saibai Island this species was seen almost daily with a running tally of 27
individuals. A couple of good photographs of birds in flight.
Singing Starling: Boigu Island at least 60 in and around town...mostly in a big
fruiting fig tree near the church. Lots of juveniles. Nesting in hollow
mangroves surrounded by water at high tide at several sites.
Saibai Island: 1 juvenile in town (second record for Saibai).
Other good sightings included migrating Rufous Fantails, Spectacled Monarchs
and Dollarbirds in small numbers. Good numbers of Spangled Drongos and Tree
Martins heading south on certain days. The first Mangrove Robins (a pair) for
the NW group were recorded on Boigu, first Straw-necked ibis for NW group on
Saibai and first Beach Stone Curlew for NW group (?) on Dauan. Lots of photos
of many birds will hopefully help shed light on sub-specific identification.
About 90 species on Boigu, 50 on Dauan and 110 on Saibai with 10-20 new species
for each island.
Good mammals were Large-eared Flying fox (small breeding colony 150-200) on
Saibai Island, a huge camp (10,000s) of Black (?) Flying fox on Boigu, a
Pipistrelle sp., Dugong and Rusa Dear (both Boigu and Saibai). A medium but
very rotund rat with a short tail observed in mangroves on Saibai may well go
Reptiles included a Papuan Black Snake (Saibai), plenty of Mangrove Monitors V.
indicus, a small species of monitor in grassland on Saibai and about 10 skink
Dr Rohan Clarke
Threatened Mallee Bird Project
La Trobe University
Ph: 03 9479 1672 Mobile 0408 947001
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