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