Christmas Island Update

Subject: Christmas Island Update
From: Frank O'Connor <>
Date: Tue, 29 Apr 2008 10:39:22 +0800

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 species also. ?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 the week.

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
Phone : (08) 9386 5694 Email : ===============================

To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message: unsubscribe (in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • Christmas Island Update, Frank O'Connor <=

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU