Christmas Island & Cocos-keeling Islands Trip Report Nov/Dec 2009
On Friday afternoon we flew to Christmas Island where we spent an amazing week
birding and enjoying the island’s natural history. On arrival we recorded 14
Oriental Pratincole on the runway and quickly headed to the Chinese cemetery in
search of an unusual wagtail reported earlier. Although no wagtail was found,
we had good views of Christmas Island Imperial Pigeon, Linchi Swiftlet, Island
Thrush, Red-footed Booby, Christmas Island Frigatebird, Tree Sparrow,
White-tailed Tropicbird and Christmas Island White-eye.
The follow morning we located a lone Eastern Yellow Wagtail at the cemetery
followed by 8 Grey Wagtail at the rubbish tip and our first sightings of
Abbott’s Booby. A lone White-winged Tern was seen sitting on a buoy in Flying
Fish Cove and our first Christmas Island Goshawk was located near the
plantation. To finish off the day we spotlighted Christmas Island Hawk Owl at
the golf course, leaving only one CI specialty left to find. We finished off
the day celebrating Tom Wheller’s 700th bird at one of the local restaurants.
The following morning with only Java Sparrow left to find, Nigel Harland and I
left the others and walked down to Flying Fish Cove. At the information centre
we saw one of the most incredible sites I’ve ever seen on the island, when we
spied a Schrencks / Cinnamon type bittern standing near the top of the crane on
the phosphate loader about 80m off the ground. As we approached it flew while
we were obscured by a building. A subsequent two-day search of the area failed
to find it.
The next morning we found Java Sparrow and photographed nesting Golden
Bosunbird as well as finding another 9 Grey Wagtails in the rainforest. Our
total trip count for Grey Wagtail was 20 and we were careful not to count the
same birds twice. This is surely the highest number of this species ever seen
in one location in Australia.
It wasn’t long and we found our first new vagrant for the trip. After leaving
The Dales we found 2 ASIAN HOUSE MARTIN near the entrance to the detention
centre. Both birds provided us all with good photographic opportunities and
stayed at the same location all week, eventually being joined by two more.
That afternoon we stopped briefly at LB3 when Tom yelled RED-COLLARED DOVE as
it flew past our parked vehicles. A short search of the nearby area soon
relocated the bird with most seeing it sitting on a low branch. Minutes later
it flew directly towards us and just prior to going over our heads banked left
and disappeared into the rainforest and not to be seen again. We revisited the
area several times during the next few days but never did relocate it. Mick
Roderick had found Australia’s 2nd Red-collared Dove on his previous visit to
Christmas Island. Now with this new sighting, his trip nickname became, “Mick
the Red-collared Dove Whisperer”.
On Tuesday afternoon we cruised the island’s northern coastline. The sea
cliffs were alive with nesting and roosting seabirds including Red-footed
Booby, Brown Booby, Common Noddy, Red-tailed Tropicbirds and both morphs of
White-tailed Tropicbird. Hundreds of Great & Christmas Frigatebirds patrolled
the skies overhead and we all kept a lookout for one of the several Whale
Sharks that were in the vicinity waiting for the upcoming Red Crab spawning. We
finished the cruise with a snorkel at West White Beach.
The following morning we started our early morning search for Asian Koel. The
area near VQ3 and the supermarket proved unproductive so we moved up to the
George Fam centre and within minutes of arriving had ASIAN KOEL perched in a
tree behind the buildings. For the next twenty minutes we had good views
through the scope prior to returning to our accommodation for breakfast.
That afternoon we drove to the airport at dusk to search for nightjars on the
runway. We stopped at the northern end of the runway and soon had a SAVANNAH
NIGHTJAR calling from the other side. As we searched for the bird, a private
charter flight took off and after it departed there was no sign of the
nightjar. Despite listening for another 30min we didn’t hear it again.
Part 3 to follow....
My next birding trip to both islands is my ‘End of Wet Season Trip’, from the
1-8 March 2010 and I still have a few spots available.
I’ll be running the same ‘Red Crab Migration Birding Trip’ in 2010 from the
29/11 to 10/12/10. The cost will be the same, as will be the itinerary.
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