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Date: Thu, 20 Nov 2014 16:57:38 +1100
  Content preview:  Kimberley BirdwatchingÂ?s Ashmore Expedition 20-27 October
    2014 Summary By Mike Carter & George Swann (19 November 2014) Trip Details.
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Kimberley Birdwatching=92s Ashmore Expedition 20-27 October 2014 Summary

By Mike Carter & George Swann (19 November 2014)


Trip Details.

The 2014 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 Tim Faulkner, Liz Faulkner, Rob Gibbons,
Ian Halliday, Brian Johnston, Peter Madvig, Wayne Merrit, Scott Ryan, Jenny
Spry, John Weigel, George Swann & Mike Carter. Our boat was the
air-conditioned 21 m MV Flying Fish V. The skipper was Anthony, the deckhand
Paul and our chef was Bronson. =

            We sailed from Town Beach at 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. Throughout the morning of Day 2 we sailed along the shelf slope in
waters gradually increasing in depth from 420 m to over 500 m and this trend
continued throughout the afternoon when we traversed very deep water up to
1,800 m. We awoke at 05.00 on Day 3 still in deep water but becoming
shallower and within 2 hours had crossed the 1,000 m depth contour where we
began to encounter unprecedented numbers of Swinhoe=92s Storm-Petrels. By
12.00, when we arrived at Ashmore Reef, we had logged 501 of this species
which until recently had been regarded as extremely rare with all reports
requiring submissions to, and endorsement by, BirdLife Australia=92s Rariti=
Committee. Having received clearance from the Australian Customs Vessel
guarding the Reef we entered the lagoon and tied up at the inner mooring
(12=BA14.35=92S 122=BA58.84=92E) just off West Island. =

For the next three nights (Days 3, 4 & 5), we were secure at the inner
mooring. Most members of the party went ashore on West Island each morning
and afternoon of those days. In the morning of Day 4, we circumnavigated
Middle Island ferried there by two dinghies but did not land. We also spent
some time at the adjacent =91Horseshoe=92 sand bar enjoying great views of
shorebirds and terns resting at high tide. Next day we were ashore on East
Island for ~1.5 hours and at high tide, spent an hour on Splittgerber Cay
again enthralled by massed shorebirds. =

After a last visit ashore to West Island, we released our mooring at Ashmore
at 09.10 on Day 6 (25 October) and changed our itinerary to sail directly
for the pelagic =91hot spot=92 that we found on our way up. Unfortunately, =
strategy failed. The Storm-Petrel congregations had moved elsewhere. Having
passed through the area we headed due south to the Lacepedes passing to the
east of Seringapatam and Scott Reefs. At daylight on Day 7 we were still in
400+ m deep water but crossed the ill-defined shelf break by 09.00 and for
the remainder of that day were in shelf waters of less than 50 m deep. We
were anchored off West Island, Lacepedes (16=BA50=92S 122=BA07=92E) by 23.0=
0. Next
morning, Day 8 (27 October), we were ashore on West Island, Lacepedes, from
05.30 to 08.10. Back aboard, we sailed for Broome where we were put ashore
on a beach near the port (18=BA00=92S 122=BA13=92E) at 17.15.

Weather was hot and humid but not unbearably so, with cloudless skies,
constant sunshine and little if any breeze other than on the first day.
Therefore seas were generally calm. For most of the time whilst at sea, a
continuous log of position and faunal observations was recorded on =91Palm
pilots=92 as well as manually.


86 species of bird were identified: 40 seabirds, 24 shorebirds, 6
waterbirds, 1 raptor (2 Siberian Peregrine Falcons) and 15 landbirds. Also,
in addition to two leaf warblers that were identified to species, Arctic
Warbler and Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, among a probable total of seven
phylloscopus (up to 5 at the same time) we believe is at least one other
species. If the identity of this can be established, it is likely to be new
to Australia. Two-barred Greenish and Greenish Warblers are among the
species under consideration. =

            However, the sea-birds command the most attention as there were
some staggering observations. At-sea highlights included a Heinroth=92s
Shearwater a first for Australia and a totally unexpected occurrence being
that it is a very rare species that breeds in Melanesia and is not known to
be migratory, but in this case has passed from the Pacific into the Indian
Ocean! Unfortunately, this was present at a time when the boat was
surrounded by a large number of seabirds so wasn=92t detected at the time b=
found by Tim Faulkner when culling his myriad of images for the umpteenth
time. John Weigel has since found that he too has photos of it. Also
unprecedented was the huge number of Swinhoe=92s Storm-Petrels (524), 500 of
which were seen in just one morning. One was in shallow, 36 m deep, on-shelf
waters, 66 Nm (122 km) north of the Lacepede Islands. Other Storm-Petrels
were 11 Matsudaira=92s, 39 Wilson=92s, and 4 with a white rump that did not=
onto the flanks and was bisected by a dark line. These were thought to be
Leach=92s Storm-Petrels but as the feet appeared to trail there is some
concern about this ID. They could even prove to be an undescribed taxon! A
discussion paper on these birds will be produced. Others were some rather
pale-necked Hutton=92s Shearwaters (8), Tahiti Petrel (21), Streaked
Shearwater (102), Flesh-footed Shearwater (2) (rare in these seas), Bulwer=
Petrel (54), Jouanin=92s Petrel (3), Abbott=92s Booby (1) and all three Jae=
species. =

            The usual tropical seabirds that breed locally, Masked,
Red-footed & Brown Boobies, Great & Lesser Frigatebirds, Common & Black
Noddies, Bridled, Sooty, Great Crested and Lesser Crested Terns were seen at
sea as well as ashore. Some 1,500 Roseate Terns were seen at sea near Broome
and 15,000 at the Lacepedes. Three Australian Gull-billed Terns, now split
as a full species by sensible authorities were at the Lacepedes and singles
of one of its relatives that breeds elsewhere in the world usually referred
to in Australia as Asian Gull-billed Tern (affinis) was seen at Ashmore and
the Lacepedes. 240 Little Terns were at Ashmore and small numbers of
migrating Common, Whiskered and White-winged Terns were seen at sea. On West
Island, Ashmore, 3 pairs of Red-tailed and one pair of White-tailed
Tropicbird were nesting.

            Shorebirds were numerous and included 7 Asian Dowitchers
together at a high tide roost on Ashmore and an Oriental Plover. =

Other than the phylloscopus warblers, landbird highlights on West Island,
Ashmore, included at least two Grey Wagtails, Oriental Cuckoo (up to 5) and
Eastern Yellow Wagtail (up to 8) both species probably heading south for

Other unusual finds were a pair of Eurasian Tree Sparrows nesting in a
coconut palm and a dead Hardhead, this being only the second record for
Ashmore. On our return journey south, we were also delighted to provide
overnight accommodation and assist the passage of a Sacred Kingfisher and a
Barn Swallow. =


Cetaceans included a Hump-backed Whale, a pod of 9 Melon-headed Whales, a
Rough-toothed Dolphin, Offshore Bottle-nosed Dolphins and two forms of
Spinner Dolphins

Reptiles included Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Australian Flatback
Turtles and various sea snakes.

Fish, sharks and rays of various species were also welcome sights. =


Photos of many of the species mentioned above have or will be posted on
photographers=92 personal blogs and on Kimberley Birdwatching=92s web page =

This trip will be repeated next March and October. =


Mike Carter, 03 9787 7136

30 Canadian Bay Road

Mount Eliza, VIC 3930, Australia  =




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