Kimberley Birdwatching's Ashmore Expedition 20-27 October 2013 Summary
By Mike Carter, Rohan Clarke & George Swann (3 November 2013)
The 2013 annual spring eight-day Broome-Ashmore-Lacepedes-Broome expedition
organised by George Swann of Kimberley Birdwatching (KBW) ran from 20-27
October. The birding personnel were Graeme Barwell, Joan Broadberry, Ron
Broomham, Alex Ferguson, Dougald Frederick, Gina Hopkins, Glen Pacey, Carol
Page, Geoff Smith, Lynn Smith, Bob Sothman, Alastair Stevenson, John Weigel,
Tom Wheller, Rohan Clarke, George Swann & Mike Carter. Two American World
Travel Destination Collectors were also aboard. Having added Ashmore Reef to
his list, Don Parrish joined another to share equal top place as the world's
most travelled person and his compatriot Bob Bonifas, moved into third place!
Our boat was the air-conditioned 21 m MV Flying Fish V. The skipper was Anthony
and the deckhand Paul (Chook). The previous owner George Greaves attended in an
advisory role and assisted generally. His partner Jackie fed and nurtured us.
We sailed from the beach near Gantheaume Point in Broome on 20
October (Day 1) at 08.40 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 waters reaching depths of mostly
400 m or greater and cruised along the continental slope throughout the
morning. Before sunset, we had passed west of and close to Scott Reef having
traversed water depths of over 1,150 m. Early on Day 3 we encountered numerous
Storm-Petrels in water with a depth of ~800 m so paused to observe this
spectacle. Then we continued in a northerly direction across deeper water. At
~10.00 we turned to the east heading directly to Ashmore Reef. By 12.00 we were
moored in the lagoon having passed the Australian Customs Vessel 'Ashmore
Guardian' with its complement of customs staff anchored at the entrance.
For the next three nights (Days 3, 4 & 5), we were secure at the inner mooring
(12º14.35'S 122º58.84'E) just off West Island. Most members of the party went
ashore on West Island each morning and afternoon of those days. On Day 4, we
circumnavigated Middle Island ferried there by three dinghies but did not land.
We also spent some time at the adjacent 'Horseshoe' sand bar viewing loafing
shorebirds on the high tide. Next day we were ashore on East Island for ~1.5
hours and at high tide, spent an hour on Splittgerber Cay enthralled by massed
After a last visit ashore on West Island, we released our mooring at Ashmore at
08.50 on Day 6 (25 October) and sailed throughout the day on a SSE heading
through waters of depths between ~300-500 m. By dawn on Day 7, we were already
over the shelf break on a direct course for the Lacepedes and during daylight
hours were over shelf waters decreasing in depth from 110 m to 30 m. We
anchored off West Island, Lacepedes (16º50'S 122º07'E) at 18.30. Next morning,
Day 8 (27 October), we were ashore on West Island, Lacepedes, from 04.40 to
08.30. Back aboard and tenders stowed, we sailed for Broome, berthing at the
wharf there (18º00.09'S 122º12.96'E) at 17.15.
Weather was mostly very hot and humid with cloudless skies, nearly constant
sunshine and little if any breeze. An hour-long squall with heavy rain hit us
on Day 6. Light winds and slight seas prevailed for most of the trip except on
Day 8 when inshore coastal breeze and choppy sea made the voyage less
82 species of bird were identified: 35 seabirds, 25 shorebirds, 7 waterbirds
and 15 landbirds. In addition, 3-4 skulking passerines not identified to
species were likely extreme rarities. One of these was photographed but images
examined so far are insufficiently revealing. Nevertheless, a GRAY'S
GRASSHOPPER WARBLER was identified in the field on 22 Oct. and is well
documented with photos so should become the 1st Australian record.
For most of the time, whilst at sea a continuous log of position and faunal
observations was recorded on 'Palm pilots' as well as manually.
At-sea highlights included 79 Swinhoe's Storm-Petrels (twice as
many as recorded on any of the 14 previous KBW trips), 5 of which were only 65
km from Broome and 16 Matsudaira's Storm-Petrel. Others were Tahiti Petrel (6),
Streaked Shearwater (98), Bulwer's Petrel (24), and all three Jaeger species.
On-land seabird highlights included Lesser Noddy (2) on East Island
and over 30,000 Roseate Terns roosting in the lagoon at the Lacepedes
Shorebird highlights included the incongruous sight of a Long-toed
Stint standing on the sandy shore of Middle Island, Ashmore, 8 Asian Dowitchers
together at a high tide roost on Ashmore and Common Redshank, (2) at the
In addition to the Gray's Grasshopper Warbler, Landbird highlights
on West Island, Ashmore, included Asian Brown Flycatcher (2) (different birds
on 22 & 25 Oct.), Black-eared Cuckoo, (first Ashmore record, an immature on 24
& 25 Oct.), Collared Kingfisher, 1 of the nominate Indonesian race), Arafura
Fantail (Timorese race, 1 daily), Canary White-eye (1 on 23 Oct.), Oriental
Reed Warbler, (1 on 23 and 24 Oct.),
Oriental Cuckoo (up to 6 daily), and Eastern Yellow Wagtail (seen daily with at
least 11 together at once, mostly tschutschensis but at least one of the
Green-headed subspecies taivana).
The usual local tropical seabirds, Masked, Red-footed & Brown Boobies, Great &
Lesser Frigatebirds, Common & Black Noddies, Bridled, Sooty, Great Crested, as
well as White-winged Black, Common and Little Terns were seen. The first ten of
these had bred or were nesting on Middle or/& East Islands, Ashmore. Many were
also nesting on the Lacepedes where Lesser Crested Terns were also present. On
West Island, Ashmore, there were 5 Red-tailed Tropicbird nests and White-tailed
Tropicbirds were prospecting at Middle & East Islands.
Cetaceans were scarcer than usual but we did have some wonderful displays from
Humpback Whales and we saw Dwarf Spinner Dolphins and both larger offshore and
smaller inshore, Bottle-nosed Dolphins.
Reptiles included Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Australian Flatback Turtles
and various sea snakes.
Fish and Rays of various species of were also welcome sights.
Photos of many of the species mentioned above have or will be posted on
This trip will be repeated next October.
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mount Eliza VIC 3930
Tel (03) 9787 7136
Ashmore Cruise 2013 Summary 3 Nov 2013.doc
Description: MS-Word document
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