Christmas & Cocos Islands trip January 2010 - report

To: "'Mike Carter'" <>
Subject: Christmas & Cocos Islands trip January 2010 - report
From: "John Barkla" <>
Date: Thu, 11 Feb 2010 17:18:20 +1100

I am surprised to hear that White-breasted Waterhen is considered extinct on
Christmas Island.  I saw them in 3 different places there in February 2009
(at the tip, and 2 spots on the road to the old casino).  Feral cats were
everywhere and when we made a trip to the National Parks office to argue the
case for active eradication, we were told the local Chinese oppose it as
cats are considered lucky.


-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Mike Carter
Sent: Thursday, 11 February 2010 4:42 PM
Subject: Christmas & Cocos Islands trip January 2010 - report

 Andrew Silcocks & I spent from 4-11 January on CHRISTMAS ISLAND. Frank
O'Connor & Grant Penrhyn joined us there on 6th and Geoffrey Jones & Brian
Johnston arrived on the 8th. We saw a less than average total of 32 species
but all the endemics were seen well and photographed. Migrant & vagrant
highlights included a PEREGRINE of the Siberian race calidus, a SNIPE we
claim on shape and call to be a PIN-TAILED, up to 11 GREY WAGTAILS, 5 BARN
SWALLOWS and an ASIAN KOEL heard by MC. Further evidence that the Koels
occurring on this island are indeed Asian in origin has materialised in the
form of photographs of one seen in 2007. Also seen were single Intermediate
Egrets and a White-winged Black Tern, neither of which are commonly seen
there. The chief ranger, Max Orchard, asked us to identify a Snipe stored in
his freezer that died soon after being found alive on 9 December 2009. It
was a SWINHOE'S SNIPE, the first specimen of this species to be collected on
the Island.  This means that it can no longer be assumed that any Snipe seen
there is a Pin-tailed. The often-elusive VARIABLE (CHRISTMAS ISLAND) GOSHAWK
was seen almost daily and at six different sites. ABBOTT'S BOOBIES can be
hard to connect with and see well but this time they were very evident.
However, unluckily, we failed to find any Java Sparrows. Judging from our
experience and those conducting other ornithological surveys in recent
times, White-breasted Waterhen is now extinct on Christmas Island,
presumably the result of the proliferation in feral cats that seems to
advance unabated. 

All the above moved to COCOS (KEELING) ISLANDS for the period 11-15 January
where we were joined by Tony Palliser. Here we saw 32 species the highlights
being 14 SAUNDERS'S TERNS (many photographs), 2 WESTERN REEF EGRETS, 2
a DOLLARBIRD of the N Asian race abundus. Also of note were 4 Bar-tailed
Godwits, 1 Great Knot, 1 Red Knot, 6 Sanderlings, 2 Red-necked Stints & a
Curlew Sandpiper. The important introduced population of GREEN JUNGLEFOWL
continues to flourish on West Island. WHITE-BREASTED WATERHENS were seen on
three islands and are abundant on West Island where we counted 27 in a
20-minute drive. A possible WATERCOCK could not be confirmed. Also
disappointingly, we didn't get a glimpse of our other target species
following recent sightings, Common Moorhen, Javan Pond Heron and Pin-tailed

More detailed reports are available should anyone wish to see them.   

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mount Eliza  VIC 3930
Tel  (03) 9787 7136

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