ASHMORE 2010 Kimberley Birdwatching Trip Report

Subject: ASHMORE 2010 Kimberley Birdwatching Trip Report
From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Fri, 29 Oct 2010 18:24:04 +1100
Kimberley Birdwatching

Ashmore Expedition 2010, 16-23 October; Summary

By Mike Carter & Rohan Clarke 28 October 2010.

Trip Details.

In 2010, the annual Kimberley Birdwatching's eight-day 
Broome-Ashmore-Lacepedes-Broome expedition ran from 16-23 October. Logistics 
and permits were organised by George Swann. Personnel were Jim Allen, Xenia 
Dennett, Jan England, Dougald Frederick, Greg Harewood, Geoffrey Jones, 
Geoffrey Lane, Bill Ramsay, Joy Tansey, Tom Wheller, Barb Williams, Albert 
Wright, Eleanor Wright, Rohan Clarke, George Swann & Mike Carter. Our boat was 
the air-conditioned 21 m MV Flying Fish V skippered by George Greaves. Jacqui 
fed and nurtured us and Maurice O'Connor assisted in numerous ways. All three 
skippered dinghies when required.

            We sailed from the beach near Gantheaume Point in Broome on 16 
October (Day 1) at 07.35 and spent the next two days and nights travelling at 
sea. We maintained a NW course throughout Day 1 but at night changed our 
heading to NNE. By dawn on Day 2 we were in 500m deep water and cruised along 
the continental slope in waters of similar depth throughout the morning and 
then veered to pass just to the west of Scott Reef in the afternoon. During the 
morning of Day 3 we adopted a more NE course heading directly to Ashmore Reef 
entering the lagoon at ~11.30 where we joined the Australian Customs Vessel 
'Ashmore Guardian', with it's complement of federal government wardens 
(erstwhile DEWHA), at the inner mooring.

Our berth for the next three nights (Days 3, 4 & 5) was at the inner mooring 
(12º14.33'S 122º58.95'E) just off West Island. All members of the party went 
ashore daily on West Island each afternoon and early morning of our stay, 
ferried there by three dinghies that were also used to make landings on Middle 
Island, East Island and a sand bar (a high-tide wader roost) near East Island. 
A warden escorted us ashore on Middle and East Islands. Neap tides limited the 
time we could spend ashore on all but West Island, water depth within the 
lagoon being inadequate for navigation except at high tide. On our first 
afternoon ashore, 18 Oct., we met Chris Doughty, Simon Mustoe and other members 
of their group, who were enjoying their last visit ashore after a three-day 

After a last visit ashore on West Island, we released our mooring at Ashmore at 
09.00 on Day 6 (21 October) and sailed on a SSE heading through waters of 
depths between 500-770 m. By dawn on Day 7, we were approaching the shelf break 
on a direct course just east of south for the Lacepedes and for most of that 
day we were over shelf waters of less than 100 m deep. We anchored off West 
Island, Lacepedes (16º50.44'S 122º06.35'E) around 19.15 that day. Next morning, 
Day 8 (23 October), we were ashore on West Island, Lacepedes, from 04.50 to 
08.15. Back aboard and tenders stowed, we sailed for Broome, berthing at the 
wharf (18º00.09'S 122º12.96'E) at 16.45.

 Cloudless skies subjected us to relentless sunshine but temperatures were 
moderated by cooling breezes so it was never unbearably hot and unusually for 
this season, not humid. When we boarded on Day 1, there was a 35-knot SE wind, 
much stronger than previously experienced on these trips, but this had 
moderated by noon and by evening was only 8 Kts. For much of the rest of the 
trip winds fluctuated between 8 & 15 Kts. Luckily, nearly calm conditions 
prevailed on our arrival at the Lacepedes and the next morning so smooth 
conditions facilitated an easy landing.

Sea states were rougher than usual with wave heights often 0.3-0.5 m and up to 
1.5 m at times with foaming crests. The sea was always at least rippled and the 
usual glassy to flat seas not experienced. One or two were a little queasy at 
times but none was sick.


92 species of bird identified (with another 'warbler' awaiting determination) 
indicate exceptional diversity. These included 34 seabirds, 28 shorebirds, 6 
waterbirds and 21 landbirds.

Whilst at sea a continuous log of position and faunal observations was recorded 
manually and on computer.

            At-sea highlights included:

Abbott's Booby: 1 on 17 Oct. is our 3rd record and believed to be the 6th for 
mainland Australian waters. Like birds last year, it circled our boat 
inquisitively for several minutes.

Jouanin's Petrel: 1 seen well on 17 Oct.

Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel: Single birds on 16 & 17 Oct.

            On-land seabird highlights:

Lesser Noddy: 3 on Middle Island, one photographed with Black & Common Noddies. 
These are the first seen on land on these trips but probably previously 
overlooked. In April this year the species was found breeding on both Middle 
and East Islands.

Roseate Tern: 30,000 roosting in the lagoon at the Lacepedes!

             Shorebird highlights:

Long-toed Stint: 1 on West Is. on 18 Oct. Not previously reported at Ashmore.

Wood Sandpiper: 1 on 19 & 20 Oct. on West Is. Not previously reported at 

Asian Dowitcher: 4 on a sandbar on 20 Oct.

Landbird highlights on West Island, Ashmore (all photographed), were:

Grey-streaked Flycatcher: NEW FOR AUSTRALIA. At least one juvenile and one 
adult daily.

Arafura Fantail R. dryas semicollaris: NEW SUBSPECIES for AUSTRALIA of this 
taxon from the nearby islands of Roti and Timor. 1 daily.

Tiger Shrike: 1 or 2 juveniles daily. This is the 4th or 5th record for 
Australia and the 2nd for Ashmore following one seen here in April.

Middendorff's Warbler: We saw from 1-3 birds daily and obtained excellent 
photos. There are four previous spring records and in April this year, three 
birds were singing.

Warbler spp.: The identity of a bird photographed on 18 Oct. to be determined.

Island Monarch: 1 juvenile known to be present when we arrived was joined by an 
adult. These are the 5th & 6th Australian records, all at this site.

Arctic Warbler: 1 or 2 daily. 8th record for Ashmore.

Oriental Reed Warbler: 1 daily.

Grey Wagtail: 1 daily.

Collared Kingfisher: 1 daily of the nominate race and therefore of Indonesian 
origin, not recognised as having occurred in Australia but we saw one here in 

Oriental Cuckoo: 4-6 daily.

Australian Koel: 1 male on 18 Oct.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail: Daily to a max. of 8 on West Island and 1 on Middle 
Island, Ashmore and 1 on West Island, Lacepedes.

Barn Swallow: Daily to a max. of 3 on West Island and 1 on Middle Island.

Yellow White-eye: 2 daily often associating with the Fantail. Both surprisingly 
brilliant yellow and vocalisation sounded different but when Yellow White-eye 
calls were played, they reacted immediately and uttered similar notes.

(Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoos were notable by their absence!)

The usual local tropical seabirds, Masked, Red-footed & Brown Boobies, Great & 
Lesser Frigatebirds, Common & Black Noddies, Bridled, Sooty, Crested, Lesser 
Crested, Roseate and Little Terns were seen. The first ten of these had or were 
nesting on Middle or/& East Islands. Many species, including Lesser Crested 
Terns, were also nesting on the Lacepedes. On West Island, Ashmore, there were 
5 Red-tailed Tropicbird nests. Two pairs of White-tailed Tropicbird were seen 
over West Island and one over Middle Island.

Other migrant Seabirds of note included: Tahiti Petrels 9, Bulwer's Petrels 15, 
Streaked Shearwater 92, Hutton's Shearwater 587, Wilson's Storm-Petrel 27, 
Pomarine Jaeger 1, Arctic Jaeger 4 and Long-tailed Jaeger 1. The first ever 
Flesh-footed Shearwaters on an Ashmore trip were seen at sea; 5 birds just 
north of the Lacepedes. This follows the first ever reports of this species off 
northern WA south of Browse Island in April.

Disturbed seas meant that Cetaceans were difficult to detect so were apparently 
less numerous and diverse than recent trips with only three species of dolphin 
identified and two unidentified whales.

            Reptiles included Green (abundant on the Lacepedes) and Australian 
Flatback Turtles and various sea snakes.

Other observations included numerous fish and other critters, particularly by 
those that went snorkelling, added interest to another superb trip.

Photos of many of the species mentioned above have or will be posted on and

The dates for the 2011 spring cruise will be advised when arranged. Persons 
should register their interest with Kimberley Birdwatching or Mike Carter.

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