TRIP REPORT Christmas Island & Cocos keeling MARCH 2011

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: TRIP REPORT Christmas Island & Cocos keeling MARCH 2011
From: Richard Baxter <>
Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2011 04:01:22 -0700 (PDT)
Hello all,
           Below is the trip report from our Christmas Island and Cocos-keeling 
Islands  birding trip in March 2011.
A version with photographs will be on our websit soon. 
Richard Baxter
Birding Tours Australia
Trip report Cocos-keeling Islands and Christmas Island March 2011. 
With Birding Tours Australia. Guide- Richard Baxter
In Nov/Dec 2010 we last visited Australia's two remote Indian Ocean territories 
and located  an unprecedented array of South East Asian vagrants, which 
included four species never previously recorded in Australia.  Incredibly, most 
of these species stayed throughout our summer and subsequently twelve very keen 
birders gathered at Perth Airport on Sat 5 March 2011 for our second trip of 
summer 2010-11.
Soon after arriving on Christmas Island we headed down to the casino and 
quickly saw both Striated Heron and YELLOW BITTERN, flushing both from the long 
grass near the entrance gates.  
Oriental Honey Buzzard had been photographed near our accommodation only two 
days previously and as we cruised between morning birding locations we were all 
on constant netrack in search of Malayan Night Heron, soon flushing one from 
the track.  Biggles and I crept along the track relocating the bird and within 
a few minutes we all had good views of a sub-adult MALAYAN NIGHT HERON. 
The next day whilst driving home along the Casino Road we saw both male and 
female WATERCOCK in an open area on north east point. The following hour and an 
half was spent on an unsuccessful 'buzzard watch', finishing the day with a 
male ASIAN KOEL in a Paw Paw tree near the cemetery.
The following day was spent searching for the buzzard and seeing most of the 
islands endemics.  These included Island Thrush, Linchi Swiftlet, CI White-eye, 
Variable Goshawk and Christmas Island Imperial Pigeon.  During the day we 
located a total of three Watercock and had better views of Yellow Bittern with 
some nice photos taken.  
In addition to the island's endemics our group had close views of all three 
frigatebirds, both Red and White-tailed Tropicbirds as well as Red-footed 
Booby.  We located two Abbott's Booby high in the rainforest canopy and Brown 
Booby were abundant on the island's coastal terraces.  We spent each morning 
scanning the skies above Settlement for the elusive raptor and were finally 
rewarded on Tuesday morning when Biggles spotted a soaring ORIENTAL HONEY 
BUZZARD being harassed by frigatebirds above Silver City.
A 6am search of the area near our accommodation resulted in eleven Java Sparrow 
and over twenty Tree Sparrows.  Later in the day we were rewarded with great 
views of the Oriental Honey Buzzard when it landed in a tree at the back of 
VQ3. The following day whilst driving through the national park we briefly 
stopped to photograph the long staying Malayan Night Heron and an ORIENTAL 
CUCKOO flew over our heads in pursuit of an Emerald Dove.  
Our next vagrant was a new bird for Christmas Island.  Searching the mine sites 
near LB4, Sheryl Keates spotted a small raptor sitting in a dead tree.  It 
flushed and we identified it as JAPANESE SPARROWHAWK.  Over the next two days 
we had progressively better views of what turned out to be a rufous breasted 
adult male.  
A brief visit to the casino early on the second last morning in search of 
ORIENTAL REED WARBLER was successful with a brief sighting of the long staying 
bird at the same site we had seen Yellow Bittern during the week.
Our rarity list at the end of week one was: Yellow Bittern (1), Malayan Night 
Heron (2), Watercock (4), Oriental Cuckoo (1), Oriental Honey Buzzard (1), 
Asian Koel (3), Oriental Reed Warbler (1), Japanese Sparrowhawk (1).
Our first morning on Cocos was spent on South Island where we had exceptional 
views of 16 SAUNDERS TERN feeding and resting on the last few remaining 
sandbars ahead of the incoming tide.  After looking at 200+ nearby waders we 
lunched on a deserted island and swam in the clear lagoon waters prior to 
returning to West Island for a full afternoon of birding.  
Dollarbird was seen near the island's main wetlands where we all saw the long 
staying EURASIAN TEAL, which we first located in December. Over the following 
six days the teal was seen at several locations on West Island.  Also in the 
wetlands was Yellow Bittern and Striated Heron.
Green Junglefowl and WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN were abundant on West Island and 
WESTERN REEF EGRET was easily seen in the inner lagoon.
An ORIENTAL CUCKOO was photographed in the trees near the airport runway and 
Watercock was seen several times on the runway verge.  A late afternoon search 
of the northern end of the runway produced 20+ PIN-TAILED SNIPE and numerous 
Eastern Reef Egrets.
Our first day on Home Island revealed Asian Koel in the banana plantation and 
several White Terns overhead.  In the grounds of the Clunies-Ross mansion we 
had frustrating glimpses of a possible cuckoo which eluded us all day.  The 
highlight of the day was a Japanese Sparrowhawk which cruised overhead just 
after lunch ahead of a cooling tropical downpour.
There has been some debate in recent months over the identification of two 
Cattle Egrets on the West Island runway.  They've been there all summer and in 
late March were beginning to show signs of breeding plumage with traces of buff 
indicating Eastern Cattle Egret.
On our next visit to Home Island we had flight views of LARGE HAWK CUCKOO, 
which we flushed several times.  Back on West Island we walked out on the sand 
flats at the southern end of the island and located the CHINESE POND HERON, 
which has been there for several weeks.
Our last full day was the most spectacular of the trip.  We caught the morning 
ferry to Home Island with the intention of photographing the Large Hawk Cuckoo 
and were immediately rewarded with the bird sitting quietly in a tree within 
the mansion grounds.  We enjoyed great views through the scope and those of us 
with cameras approached to within 30m obtaining some nice pics.  
With 20min remaining till the 11.30am ferry departed we decided to do a last 
sweep through the mansion grounds.  Stopping in front of the cuckoo's favourite 
tree I pished for a few seconds and incredibly an adult male BLUE AND WHITE 
FLYCATCHER flew out.  After a quick jog to the ferry terminal to alert the 
others that had already left for the ferry we all spent the remainder of the 
afternoon photographing and filming this amazing little passerine.
Another excellent trip with a total of sixteen vagrants seen on both islands

Richard Baxter 

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