Mike Carter decided on Thursday to go to Christmas Island to look for the
Tiger Shrike reported by Dejan Stojanovic. Tony Palliser and I joined
him. It proved to be an amazing trip.
We arrived on CI at 16:30, and went immediately to North East Point where
the bird had been seen. Thanks to the people who erected the cairn marking
the spot. We parked in the clearing past the site, and as we walked back
along the road, a bird flushed and flew across the road with a rich rusty
red back and tail. This was about 200 metres from the cairn. We had done
no homework, but it became clear as we searched the field guide (Robson -
Birds of SE Asia) that this was the Tiger Shrike. We kept searching until
dark (6pm), but could not find it again. We did see a swiftlet with a pale
rump and darker belly then the resident swiftlets.
We were up at dawn and back at the site at 6:15 on the Saturday. We
searched for 2 hours without luck, but we did hear an Acrocephalus warbler
which at the time we assumed was most likely to be an Oriental
Reed-warbler. We also saw a very distant Accipiter above the
cliffs. There is a chance it may have been a Chinese Sparrowhawk /
Goshawk, but we our believe it was a Variable Goshawk (which was the only
one for the trip). We also saw an Asian House Martin and a few Barn Swallows.
We visited a number of other sites including Waterfall Cove (a Striated
Heron), the rubbish tip, and South Point (Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo), and
in the afternoon we returned to NE Point. Again we had no luck.
On Sunday morning we returned. The warbler was calling again. We split up
to try to find it. I followed a group of CI White-eyes, and seeing a bird
move I lifted the bins to see the shrike. I quickly rounded up the others
and we had reasonably views for a while as it had caught a large moth. It
eventually flew out of sight with the moth. This was 5 metres from the
cairn. When we read Robson further, we realised that the TIGER SHRIKE is a
skulker, and quite different in behaviour to most other shrikes. We think
that the bird remains in the area. We only heard the warbler.
We visited the plantation (some Fork-tailed Swifts) and then the top of
Murray Hill. We then went below Murray Hill on the road to The Dales where
there were some swifts (mainly Linchi Swiftlets). We saw what we thought
was a House Swift, along with a few Fork-tailed Swifts. We also saw some
more of the unusual swiftlets which we were beginning to realise were
EDIBLE-NEST SWIFTLETS. We visited Flying Fish Cove and saw a Lesser
Crested Tern and some of the Lesser Noddys that have been there for a
while. After lunch Tony saw a Cattle Egret fly in from the north and land
on the phosphate loading facility. It was in full breeding plumage.
In the afternoon we went to The Blowholes (Little Egret - dark footed race
and a Wood Sandpiper on pools at turnoff), and then we returned to the
swift site. The place was alive. The weather was calm and fine with blue
skies, the opposite conditions you would normally think of for swifts. We
saw HOUSE SWIFT several times, and more Asian House Martins. We saw more
Edible-nest Swiftlets and a couple of all brown swiftlets. These two
species were fairly easy to pick by eye from among all the Linchi
Swiftlets. They were marginally larger, they didn't flit about quite as
much and you could see that the belly was not as white (or not white at all
for the all brown birds). Several gave very low passes including an all
brown one one metre above our heads. After looking at Robson, and a guide
to the swifts of the world, we feel the all brown birds are BLACK-NEST
SWIFTLETS. Both Edible-nest and Black-nest Swiftlets are not officially on
the Australian list. There have been a number of sightings, but never been
put down to an individual species. We are certain we have seen Edible-nest
and very confident we have seen Black-nest. Black-nest is very variable,
but our birds correspond to the types closest to CI.
On Monday morning we returned to NE Point. Tony tracked down the warbler,
and saw that it was about the size of a white-eye!! It was a very brief
glimpse. After consulting Robson, Tony feels it is likely to be a
BLACK-BROWED REED-WARBLER. It only called early. We checked it out again
a couple more times during the day, but it didn't call or if it did it was
distant. We are looking for recordings of the calls of Black-browed,
Blunt-winged and Blyth's so that we can compare.
An amazing trip. We saw all the CI endemics, but missed White-breasted
Waterhen, but saw a number of feral cats at many sites around the
island. They could be becoming a problem.
TIGER SHRIKE - First live record for Australia (previous was found dead at
Fremantle in WA). Thanks Dejan for letting Mike know.
HOUSE SWIFT - First record for CI. Also seen by Dejan.
EDIBLE-NEST SWIFTLET - We believe that Tony's photos will confirm this
species for Australia.
BLACK-NEST SWIFTLET - We are confident that Tony's photos will confirm this
?BLACK-BROWED REED-WARBLER? - Heard by others earlier in the week including
Ian McAllan, but we think Tony is only person to see it. ID still to be
confirmed if we can find the calls.
LESSER CRESTED TERN - Second record for CI. See earlier in the week.
CATTLE EGRET - Third record for CI.
WOOD SANDPIPER - Rare to uncommon on CI.
ASIAN HOUSE MARTIN - Now seems to be regular on CI.
LITTLE EGRET - Rare to uncommon on CI.
HORSFIELD'S BRONZE-CUCKOO - Rare to uncommon on CI.
STRIATED HERON - Rare to uncommon on CI.
LESSER NODDY - Rare to uncommon on CI.
We looked often, but never saw any needletails reported by Dejan earlier in
Thanks again to Dejan for letting us know, and to Lisa Preston of CI Travel
for organising everything at incredibly short notice.
Frank O'Connor Birding WA http://birdingwa.iinet.net.au
Phone : (08) 9386 5694 Email :
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