Christmas & Cocos TRIP REPORT Nov-Dec 2010 PART 1

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Christmas & Cocos TRIP REPORT Nov-Dec 2010 PART 1
From: Richard Baxter <>
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2010 02:52:15 -0800 (PST)

   Christmas Island and Cocos-keeling Islands Trip Report  
 Nov-Dec 2010
Birding Tours Australia
Part 1 

>From the 27 November 2010 to 11 December 2010, twelve birders and natural 
>history enthusiasts spent seven days on Australia’s Christmas Island, followed 
>by seven days on the Cocos-keeling Islands.   The trip was conducted by 
>Birding Tours Australia and led by Richard Baxter.  This was the first of the 
>new 14 day trips, commencing and concluding on Saturday.  Both March and 
>Nov/Dec 2011 trips are of the same duration.
This year’s trip was exceptional, with an unprecedented number of vagrant and 
rare birds sighted.  The total number of rarities seen was TWENTY TWO, which 
far exceeded any previous trip to the islands.  A number of environmental 
factors have contributed to this influx of unusual species to both islands and 
these include the early and continual weather systems travelling down from 
South East Asia as well as the eruption of the nearby Mount Merapi Volcano and 
subsequent cloud of ash.   Cyclone Anggrek passed close to Cocos in early 
November and both islands have experienced a greater than usual number of days 
with northerly winds. 
After arriving on Christmas Island mid afternoon and checking into our 
accommodation we took at short stroll through the nearby streets where we had 
our first views of Island Thrush, Christmas Island White-eye, Christmas Island 
Imperial Pigeon, Linchi Swiftlet and distant views of Variable Goshawk.  After 
the flight from Perth the icing on the cake at the end of the day was a male 
ASIAN KOEL which flew across the road and landed on a nearby dead branch.  
Shortly afterwards it was joined by a female and we had both birds sitting in 
the same tree together, before we returned to our motel.  The Asian Koel was 
the first of what would become an exceptional list of vagrants over the next 
 Day two started with a trip to the rubbish tip, which is a reliable location 
for GREY WAGTAIL and we soon found four with a lone EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL as 
well as 3 X WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN and a single Wood Sandpiper.  During the 
day there was the ever present white and golden morph White-tailed Tropicbirds 
soaring above as well as Red-tailed Tropicbirds along the cliffs near our 
accommodation.  An afternoon stop at LB3 wetlands produced Oriental Pratincole, 
Common Greenshank and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.  On our final afternoon stop we 
were rewarded with 3 X Oriental Cuckoo, one of which was the rufous hepatic 
Tuesday morning was our earliest start of the trip as we made our way to Ethel 
Beach for the annual Red Crab march/spawning.  Upon arriving we were greeted 
with the small beach blanketed with thousands of female Red Crabs marching 
their way to the water to deposit their eggs.  After hundreds of photos were 
taken of this amazing wildlife spectacle we walked back to our vehicles with 
the sun rising in the east and scores of Red-footed Boobies and Christmas 
Island and Great Frigatebirds waking up and heading out to sea. 
The Red Crab spawning was an appropriate prelude to what would become an 
amazing days birding.  After breakfast we decided to drive the Greta Beach 
track and located Red Junglefowl as well as several of the island’s local 
sub-species of Emerald Dove but the highlight was a SCHRENCK’S BITTERN standing 
next to a puddle in the middle of the track.  We obtained some excellent photos 
of what was Australia’s first live record of this species.  After lunch we 
received word from Lisa Preston of some swifts/martins near the airport.  We 
quickly made our way up there and located 4 X Fork-tailed Swifts, a MOSSY-NEST 
SWIFTLET and 10 X ASIAN HOUSE MARTINS as well as a Peregrine Falcon.
The following morning we located 5 X Java Sparrow and then drove the length of 
the airport runway finding 31 X Pacific Golden Plover, 1 X Lesser Sand Plover, 
1 X Bar-tailed Godwit and 5 X Oriental Pratincole. On our afternoon drive out 
to North West Point we enjoyed nice scope views of a young Abbott’s Booby, 
which was soon joined by an adult.  As we watched the Abbott’s Booby, two Asian 
House Martins cruised overhead.  The following day produced our thirteenth 
Asian House Martin of the trip and Striated Heron race javonicus from South 
East Asia. That night after dinner we went spotlighting and had excellent close 
views of 2 X Christmas Island Hawk Owls perched side by side in a large 
Frangipani Tree, a fantastic way to end the days birding.
The afternoon of our last full day on the island was spent on board one of the 
local dive charter boats surveying the coastline for seabirds and snorkelling 
on the island’s fringing coral reef.   From the boat we saw, Common Noddy, 
Brown Booby, Christmas Island Frigatebird as well as Red-footed Booby.  As we 
travelled along under the island’s highest sea cliffs at Steep Point we sighted 
a pod of Spinner Dolphins.  As they raced over to bow-ride our boat we raced to 
don our snorkelling gear and we were soon in the water swimming with ten 
dolphins as our boat circled us with the dolphins continuing to ride the bow 
wave.  Swimming with Spinner Dolphins was one of the week’s many natural 
history highlights.
Our first week on Christmas Island coinciding with the Red Crab migration soon 
came to end.  It was a very successful week with seven vagrants/rarities 
sighted and good views of all the local resident species. 
Everyone would have been happy to see the above birds by the end of the two 
weeks but we still had seven days on Cocos to go.  The birding during the 
preceding week was excellent and the list of vagrants outstanding.  This would 
change on Cocos where the birding during the week ahead could only be described 
as utterly crazy.
Next trip 5th-19th March 2011.
Richard Baxter

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