Cocos and Christmas Island Trip Report May 2006
On the 1 May 2006 I traveled to Australia?s Cocos-Keeling Islands and
Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean for a week of birding. My traveling
companions were Merilyn Browne, Bill Alcock, Lorand Szucs and Terry & Lyn
Gould. My previous visits to these islands had been at the beginning of the wet
season and my intention this time was to visit these locations at the end of
the wet season, which is outside the times that most birders go. I had hoped
that there would be some wet season migrants about and the Asian migrants would
have coloured up nicely before departing on their northward journeys.
We arrived on Cocos late afternoon and started birding straight away with
Rufous Night Heron and Green Junglefowl being abundant.
Our first morning began with a pre breakfast search of the rubbish tip, the
farm and the lagoon with White-breasted Waterhen being seen on several
occasions. These would turn out to be very common on West Island with up to
ten being seen at one location. During the rest of the day we searched several
areas of sandflats and freshwater on the northern end of West Island. After
lunch we began our search of the southern end of West Island and located a
Yellow Wagtail near the end of the runway. This yellow wag was obviously
different to the ones we see each year on the mainland. In addition to being
in full breeding plumage it had a completely dark grey, nearly black head
making it sub species macronyx, and only the third Australian record, which may
one day be split into GREY-HEADED WAGTAIL. After extended views and several
photos we continued our birding.
Our group also caught the ferry over to Home Island where the most common
bird was White Tern. Our search found a Buff-banded Rail on the southern end
of Home Island, this being one of the very few records of this sub-species away
from North-keeling Island.
About midday on the second day I dropped into Q Stn Swamp and noticed two
unusually plumaged grey and white reef egrets. Usually Eastern Reef Egrets are
either grey OR white but there are a couple of individuals on Cocos that are
both grey and white.
While photographing these two birds I found a CHINESE POND HERON in full
breeding plumage feeding in the shallow pools in front of me. An awesome
looking bird with a full burgundy coloured head/chest and grey back. There
have been possible sightings of CPH before but none have been ID?d because they
cannot be separated from other pond herons such as Javan and Indian in non
breeding plumage. This one had coloured up nicely prior to flying home and was
unmistakable. A first for Australia!
After heading back to town and casually telling the others, we spent the
afternoon at the swamp with everyone getting cracking views.
The following day we flew to Christmas Island for four nights. After
arriving in the dark we headed to our accommodation and took a quick detour
where I showed the others two Christmas Island Hawk Owls prior to dinner.
The following morning we had Java Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, CI Frigatebird,
Lesser and Greater Frigatebird, White-tailed (including Golden morph) and
Red-tailed Tropicbird, Brown and Red-footed Booby, CI Imperial Pigeon as well
as Island Thrush, all from the motel!
Our first stop was the plantation where we found two Yellow Wagtails and two
CI Goshawk as well as nesting Abbott?s Booby. In less than 24hrs we had all the
endemics and CI specialties. The search now began for something a little rarer
and we found it by lunchtime!
While walking down to the cove adjacent to the casino a small light blue
kingfisher about the size of an Azure Kingfisher darted from the rocks and
around the headland. This bird was very wary and would fly around the headland
as soon as anyone got within 70m of it. The following day we had better views
of it and then the next morning finally identified it as COMMON KINGFISHER
Alcedo atthis only the second record for Australia.
All up a very successful trip with one 1st for Aust, one 2nd for Aust and one
3rd for Aust(sub-species) as well as easily seeing all the endemics and
I?ll be returning to both Cocos-Keeling and Christmas Island in Feb and March
2007. If any one is interested in coming along I can be contacted on
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