ASHMORE Cruise 2005; Preliminary Summary

Subject: ASHMORE Cruise 2005; Preliminary Summary
From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Sun, 4 Dec 2005 20:16:10 +1100


            This year, the eight-day Broome-Ashmore Reef-Lacepedes-Broome expedition ran from 26 October to 2 November. Logistics and permits were organised by Kimberley Birdwatching. Attendees were Reg Clark, Rohan Clarke, Peter Crabtree, Sean Dooley, Dave Dureau, Murray Grant, Adrian O?Neill, Trish Pepper, Frank Pierce, David Stickney, George Swann and Mike Carter (leader). Lyn Scott commenced the trip but immediately on our arrival at Ashmore was evacuated to Perth because of a perceived emergency health problem.

            Our route up took us NW from Broome but on reaching the continental slope veered NNE to Ashmore to pass to the west of Scott Reef. We moored overnight in the lagoon at Scott Reef and but shortage of time prevented a landing on Sand Islet. At Ashmore Reef, we went ashore on West Island each morning and late afternoon when present, i.e. six occasions, during 28-31 October, each visit producing another exciting experience. At the invitation of the DEH wardens on the Customs Vessel, for the first time on these trips, we also accompanied them on a visit to East Island while they cleaned flotsam from the beach. Thus we walked the perimeter of the island enjoying close communion with the thousands of breeding seabirds. Although restricted to observations from dinghies at the shoreline, our single visit to Middle Island was also spectacular due to the hordes of breeding seabirds there. Because of the neap tides, migrant waders were spread over the numerous exposed sandbars so we encountered fewer than on previous visits. We returned via the Lacepedes where we spent 3 hours ashore on West Island among the abundant shorebirds and breeding seabirds. The homeward journey was somewhat encumbered by a rescue mission. We towed a cruiser that was disabled having run aground on Ashmore Reef!

            Thus the equivalent of five full days were spent at sea aboard the 23 m, air-conditioned charter vessel ?Flying Fish V?. Although less glamorous than the ?Jodi Anne? and less romantic than ?The Willie?, this was the largest, fastest, most luxurious and practical vessel yet employed for these cruises. Conditions on three days were a little on the choppy side which gave a bumpy ride but on the other two it was calm giving a pleasant ride. Although subjected to mainly cloudless skies and a relentless sun, the heat and mild humidity were rarely oppressive.

            Eighty-three species of bird were recorded, including 36 seabirds, several rarities and others of great significance.


            Landbird highlights on West Island, Ashmore, included THREE NEW TO AUSTRALIA. All were photographed, albeit the Coucal poorly. These were:

Lesser Coucal. This was incredibly elusive and was seen just once each day in the early mornings of 29-31 October. The species is widespread throughout Wallacea.

Middendorff?s Grasshopper Warbler. 1 on 30th.

Asian Brown Flycatcher. 1 on 29th.


            Others of interest were:

Arctic Warbler. Daily with up to 4 simultaneously and a probable total of 5.

Grey Wagtail. 1 on 30-31st.

Yellow Wagtail. Up to 7 daily.

Barn Swallow. 2 on 28th.

Oriental Cuckoo. 2 on 30-31st. Fewer than usual.

Red-backed Buttonquail. 3 on 29th.

Tawny Grassbird. 1 or 2 daily.


            The usual local tropical Seabirds, Red-tailed & White-tailed Tropicbirds, Masked, Red-footed & Brown (13,000) Boobies, Great & Lesser (6,000) Frigatebirds, Common (53,000) & Black Noddies, Bridled (1,100), Sooty (13,000), Crested, Lesser Crested, Roseate (26,000) & Little Terns were present on one or both of the reefs on which we landed (many breeding). Most of these were also seen at sea.

             Migrant Seabirds of note included:

24 Tahiti Petrels, 27 Bulwer?s Petrels, 6 Streaked Shearwaters, 61 Wilson?s Storm-Petrels, 5 Matsudaira?s Storm-Petrels, 19 Swinhoe?s Storm-Petrels, 2 Pomarine, 1 Arctic & 2 Long-tailed Jaegers.


            Cetaceans were scarce with only Bottle-nosed and Pan-Tropical Spotted Dolphins definitely identified. 5 Beaked Whale spp? and a possible False Killer Whale were seen.


            Reptiles included Leatherbacked, Green & Flatback Turtles and over 60 sea-snakes.


            Another highlight was a Whaleshark alongside the vessel just prior to entering the lagoon at Ashmore.


            A fuller report produced from my manual records is available from George Swann of Kimberley Birdwatching or myself. Hopefully a detailed report produced by Rohan Clarke from the computer log with photos will be available at some future date on the web at



The 2006 cruise is scheduled from 23-30 October. Unfortunately, the price is likely to be more than this year?s. Persons interested please contact Kimberley Birdwatching or myself.


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