Christmas and Cocos TRIP REPORT Nov Dec 2009 Part 3 (FINAL)

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Christmas and Cocos TRIP REPORT Nov Dec 2009 Part 3 (FINAL)
From: Richard Baxter <>
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2009 04:24:56 -0800 (PST)
Christmas Island & Cocos-keeling Islands TRIP REPORT Nov/Dec 2009 PART 3 (FINAL)
On Thursday afternoon Geoff Lane and I drove out to North West Point to check 
on the two Asian House Martins we’d seen earlier in the week. Upon arriving we 
found a Black-nest/Edible Nest type Swiftlet flying with the two martins.  
Unfortunately it only hung around briefly and disappeared over the detention 
centre not to be seen again that day.  The bird was briefly seen high overhead 
with the four martins again on Friday morning but it was too high to be 
identified to species.
With a few days remaining we were all looking forward to the annual Red Crab 
spawning, which was timed to occur on Friday morning.  There were two film 
crews on the island preparing for the migration of millions of female Red Crabs 
to the coast to deposit their eggs in the sea and extra dive trips were 
scheduled to view the event from offshore.  Many of the island’s roads were now 
closed and we were lucky enough to get spots on a morning Red Crab and Whale 
Shark trip on Friday morning.
During the week we managed to cover all the island’s main birding spots and 
most of the islands tracks.  We visited The Dales, where we had good close 
views of giant Robber Crabs and the freshwater Blue Crab.  We drove to 
Winifred, Dolly and Lily Beaches, Margaret Knoll lookout and many of the 
island’s remote temples and mine sites.
On our final night we organised a relaxing BBQ around the pool where we planned 
for a hectic final day.   Our seventh day on the island can only be described 
as completely incredible.  Some of us went to Flying Fish Cove to view the 
crabs at first light, while the rest drove to Ethel Beach.  The spectacle at 
Ethel Beach was amazing with the forest, sea cliffs and beach carpeted in a sea 
of red as the crabs marched towards the water.
At 9.30am we met at the jetty for our Whale Shark snorkel trip and soon headed 
along the northern coastline in search of the world’s largest fish.  After a 
short time we stopped in the gin clear waters where a school of huge Giant 
Trevally had joined a lone 5ft Silky Shark swimming under the boat.  Further on 
we spotted a large flock of Red-footed and Brown Boobies diving into a school 
of bait fish about 1km offshore.  We headed over and watched this spectacle for 
15 minutes as hundreds of boobies plunged into the ocean and large 
Yellow-finned Tuna leapt out of the water in pursuit of smaller fish. 
As the feeding subsided, I spotted a Whale Shark cruising towards our boat.  
Within minutes of the call we were all in the water swimming with a 4m Whale 
Shark.  This awesome experience was really only a precursor.  The best was yet 
to come.  
We continued our cruise along the coast towards N/W Point and spotted a pod of 
Spinner Dolphins feeding only 20m off the cliffs.  Again we were quickly in the 
water swimming with the Dolphins and to our surprise lurking under the dolphins 
was a massive 8m Whale Shark.  This one was more co-operative and cruised the 
area for 15 minutes allowing all of us to get close views.  In clear water with 
50m visibility we swam alongside and at times underneath the shark before it 
eventually descended out of view.
We cruised back into the cove a very, very happy group of birders and were 
within a couple of hours ,jetting back to Perth.
Our group ranged from twitchers who had seen over 700 species in Australia to 
far less fanatical birders who just wanted to experience the island’s natural 
history. The trip broke all my records for rarities recorded on a single trip.  
At the end of the twelve days we’d seen an amazing 10 rarities from both island 
groups and all of us saw new birds.  Incredibly, Nigel Harland who was on his 
third visit to the islands also saw five new birds. 

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.
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.
Happy Birding
Richard Baxter

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