Torres Strait trip report Jan 2010 (inc Black-headed Gull and Uniform Sw

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Subject: Torres Strait trip report Jan 2010 (inc Black-headed Gull and Uniform Swiftlet)
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Date: Sat, 6 Feb 2010 09:02:33 +1100
Hi All,
A small research team comprising John Ewen, Laura Sisson Adrian Boyle and 
myself were up on Boigu and Saibai Islands in NW Torres Strait through the 
second half of January. We arrived on Boigu Island on 15th Jan, shifted to 
Saibai on the 21st Jan and departed for Horn Island/Cairns on the 27th Jan.

This was field work to undertake pathogen screening so we were otherwise 
occupied for much of the trip. It did mean we were in the field from dawn but 
the nature of the work also meant that birding opportunities were limited to a 
single site per day. It was generally fairly windy, mostly from the north, with 
overcast conditions and heavy showers for short periods on most days. The last 
few days on Saibai were fine and sunny. Two to three small cyclones/tropical 
lows were active well to the south of us in both the Gulf of Carpentaria and in 
the Coral Sea for parts of the trip but these didn't bring torrential rain or 
very strong winds to our location.

The most significant find was the LESSER PARADISE KINGFISHER found dead in the 
township on Saibai Island that I have previously posted about. Also known as 
Little or Aru Paradise Kingfisher this is a new bird for Australia.

Other rarities included a first winter BLACK-HEADED GULL on Boigu Island that 
frequented the boat ramp area. As far as I am aware this is the first record 
for Qld, so imagine our surprise when upon shifting to Saibai Island one of the 
first birds we saw out the front of our accommodation was a Black-headed Gull!. 
This too was a first winter individual but in a slightly less advanced plumage 
state. We'd only been watching the other back on Boigu 50 mins early and Bob 
Gosford confirmed that bird was still present well after we'd found the second 
Photos of both birds can be found here...

UNIFORM SWIFTLETS were seen reasonably frequently (3 different mornings on 
Boigu and 3 on Saibai). Largest group was 4 and all were associating with 
Fork-tailed Swifts. As all dark swiftlets are notoriously difficult to identify 
with certainty these are identified primarily on the basis that Uniform 
Swiftlet is the only species thought to occur with any regularity in the 
Trans-Fly region of PNG. Two birds seen on Saibai Island showed paler rumps but 
photographs suggest this was plumage wear and these birds may still have been 
Uniform Swiftlets.
Photos of some of the Saibai Island individuals can be found here...

The three regular specialties for the islands were also seen. PAPUAN 
FLOWERPECKER was heard or seen daily on both islands with the largest group 
being four together on Saibai Island. COLLARED IMPERIAL PIGEON was also seen 
daily, usually in ones and twos. The largest number seen in a single day was 6. 
SINGING STARLING was common in the township on Boigu with perhaps 30 birds 
present and feeding in the large fig near the church. As is usual the species 
was not seen on Saibai.

Lots of other good birds seen. Mangrove Robin was I believe a new species for 
Saibai though I have had a pair previously on Boigu and Mangrove Gerygone and 
Peaceful Dove were possibly new for Boigu though I have seen both on Saibai. 
Superb Fruit-Doves and Emerald Doves on both islands. Eclectus Parrots were 
scarce with just one to two males flying overhead each day. Good numbers of 
cuckoos including Shining and Little Bronze, Brush, Oriental and Channel-billed 
and a single Australian Koel. We also saw most of the usual passerines 
including Northern Fantail, Black-faced Monarch, 7 species on honeyeater, 
Mangrove Golden Whistler, Large-billed Gerygone, Black Butcherbird etc.

On the non-birding front the most notable sighting was that of an Emerald 
Monitor on Boigu Island. Images of this stunning reptile can be found here...


Rohan Clarke

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