Cocos and Christmas Island Trip Report May 2006

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Cocos and Christmas Island Trip Report May 2006
From: richard baxter <>
Date: Wed, 31 May 2006 04:08:07 -0700 (PDT)
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 

Richard Baxter
Sneak preview the  all-new It's not radically different. Just 
radically better.

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