Christmas Island Trip Report
A really fabulous trip and I would like to thank the tour participants Allan and Robin Benson, Pam Burden, Dorothy Devery, Rodger Hall, Rose Lau, Alan and Anne Morris, Patricia Novikoff, Jack Shapiro, Belinda Webster and Bernice Wilcock for making it work so well. I would like to thank Janene for her excellent organisation.
We experienced all Christmas Island had to offer-the incredible spectacle of Red Crab migration in a scene of unparalleled crab diversity; treacherous razor sharp eroded coral, stunning rainforests and outstanding noodles. Even the birds performed and we encountered all of the endemics and a good collection of rarities. David James made sure we had the best of his local knowledge and Ian McAllan added some zest to all discussions ornithological.
Barn Swallow Watching
1 December: After a long flight we made the landing in the Cocos Islands. Here we met Don and Llane Hadden who had some great photos of birds on the Cocos Islands including rarities like Rosy Starling and what looked like a Western Reef Egret. The Green Junglefowl perfomed dutifully on the airstrip, if somewhat distantly. After clearing into CI we made it to VQ3 and the Golden Bosun for dinner.
2 December: Early breakfast and off to North West Point for great birds. We hit the early jackpot with a pair of Asian House Martins we were to sight daily. A pair of White-breasted Waterhens performed well and everything was new. From Red Crabs to Robber Crabs to Abbott’s Booby and Christmas Island Frigatebirds, it was a treat.
During the lunchtime siesta post Cla Noodlehouse, Dion and Robin Benson went scouting for the Asian Koels near Rumah Tinggi. Luck was shining and the male was located. Rousing all from their slumbers great looks were enjoyed of both the retiring male and female. Our only sighting for the trip, the sixth Australian record.
In the afternoon we headed to the bankrupted Casino and Waterfall Beach. A Striated Heron was seen briefly in flight, a pair of Peppered Moray Eels had a dispute involving biting in the reef shallows and saw our first Blue Crabs- a superb porcelain blue. Heavy rain saw us dip on the hawk owl but at least we walked off the Alma’s Pizza.
3 December: This morning we explored the Phosphate mine at Drumsite on a walk to the Plantation. We again hit the jackpot by finding three Grey Wagtails and after some patient observing enjoyed great views out in the open of these typically flighty and shy birds.
Clearing the Road of Red Crabs
In the afternoon we enjoyed display flighting Red-tailed Tropicbirds and dapper Java Sparrows for all. In the late afternoon we walked out to Margaret Knoll with the crabs on full migration. We had super views of Christmas Island Flying Foxes. We proceeded to the Golf Course at dusk and had a great encounter with a pair of Christmas Island Hawk Owls, for many perhaps the highlight of the birding. They are very handsome little owls. A fine dinner at Seasons Palace in Poon Saan saw Dion celebrating his new bird (Asian Koel) and Alan Benson’s 699th species in Australia.
4 December: A day set aside to search for the enigmatic Christmas Island Goshawk. Our sock lure failed, even the crab’s objected. It was going to be a difficult bird to find. We explored the Chinese Temples at South Point and enjoyed frigatebirds drinking from a roadside pool pterodactyl style.
In the afternoon we concentrated at Winifred Beach at dusk. David James bought along a bat detector and we managed a few fleeting glimpses of the rare endemic Christmas Island Pipistrelle- a species that is in steep decline and seriously threatened. Dinner was enjoyed at Rumah Tinggi.
5 December: This time armed with a real toy rat and fishing line we lured in a pair of Christmas Island Goshawks with spectacular results at The Plantation. Our last endemic bird it was a great way to finish up. At the old cemetery we enjoyed point blank Red-footed Booby, golden morph White-tailed Tropicbirds and excellent frigatebirds. Post lunch and a thunderstorm saw us scouting around and we enjoyed a great White-breasted Waterhen near the Airstrip and as a last hurrah a pair of Ruddy Turnstones and seven Pacific Golden Plovers at Ethel Beach. A quick stopover at Cocos saw Green Junglefowl in the scope and numerous Nankeen Night-herons.
Java Sparrows – another Lifer
No Hearing Speaking or Seeing, nothing but Birds
Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus: (20) plus seen daily on CI; great majority looking like feral chickens.
Green Junglefowl Gallus varius: (10) on 1 December and (20) on 4 December on the Cocos Island Airstrip. Some quite OK scope views of this thriving feral population.
Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda westralis: (2-10) daily on CI with best views at Rumah Tinggi in Settlement.
White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus fulvus: (20-40) daily on CI with great views of golden individuals.
Abbott¹s Booby Papasula abbotti: Recorded daily on CI with max. (15) on both days around Northwest Point. Watched displaying at nesting sites in the canopy, presenting twigs, wing flapping and growling.
Red-footed Booby Sula sula rubripes: (200-300) daily at CI, all adults white morphs. Present in roosting and nesting colonies. Very tame.
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster plotus: (10) daily on CI; mostly in Flying Fish Cove and Settlement.
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor listeri: (100) plus daily on CI.
Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel: (1) male seen by Dion only at Rumah Tinggi on 2 December.
Christmas Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi: (20-50) recorded daily on CI.
White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae: (3-5) daily on CI, mostly on the airstrip. Three including recently fledged juvenile at The Old Cemetery on 4 Dec.
Eastern Reef Egret Egretta sacra: (3) at Waterfall Beach on 1 Dec and (1) Flying Fish Cove on 2 Dec. All white morph birds.
Great Egret Ardea alba: (1) present on 1, 2 and 4 December near the Rubbish Tip; (1) near The Plantation on 3 December was a different individual.
Striated Heron Butorides striatus: (1) at Waterfall Beach on 1 Dec was shy and seen only in flight.
Nankeen Night-Heron Nycticorax caledonicus: (1) on the Airstrip on Cocos Island on 1 Dec and at least (20) including one juvenile at the same location at dusk on 4 Dec.
Christmas Island Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus natalis: (2) both juveniles- a male and female were present near the Plantation on the morning of the 4 Dec. They provided great value in attacking the toy rat lure on fishing line. While currently classified in as a subspecies of the Brown Goshawk it appears likely this taxa may be moved to Variable Goshawk Accipiter hiogaster of New Guinea and eastern Indonesia.
Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides: (20-50) seen daily on CI where common and conspicuous in grassland-forest edge and townsites.
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus: (2) at Northwest Point on 1 December with (1) flushed at The Rubbish Tip on the same day and also on 3 Dec. A great view of (1) near The Airstrip on 4 Dec. All birds seen were adult.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos: (1) seen on three days at Waterfall Beach and Flying Fish Cove.
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres: (2) at Ethel Beach on 4 Dec.
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva: (7) at Ethel Beach on 4 Dec.
Common Noddy Anous stolidus: (200) daily mostly at Flying Fish Cove.
Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica natalis: (10-20) daily on CI. Distinctive subspecies with white forehead and silver crown is considered specifically distinct from Australian birds by certain authors.
Christmas Island Imperial Pigeon Ducula whartoni: (50-100) daily on CI where abundant in every forested habitat.
Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea: (2), male and female present at Triadic Crescent, Rumah Tinggi on 1 December. Good view of both male and the more distinctive female bathing in wet foliage in subcanopy. Typically skulking. Now generally considered a separate species from the Australian cyanocephala that differs in the female with a black cap and different reproductive biology.
Christmas Island Hawk-Owl Ninox natalis: (2) male and female gave a sensational view at the Golf Course on dusk on 2 Dec. Also heard at Winifred Beach on 3 Dec whilst looking for the microbat.
Cave Swiftlet Collocalia linchi natalis: (200) seen daily on CI. A recent unpublished genetic study shows this island population is more closely related to the Cave Swiftlet Collocalia linchi than to the Glossy Swiftlet C. esculenta.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea: (3) studied closely at The Plantation on 2 Dec.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus: (50-100) plus daily around Settlement on CI.
Java Sparrow Lonchura oryzivora: Recorded daily on CI with high count of (26) near Rumah Tinggi on 3 Dec. Also seen near Drumsite.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica: (2) present on every visit to North West Point and (1) present on every visit to Rubbish Tip and (1) seen near Old Cemetery on 2 Dec. A juvenile bird was present at The Rubbish Tip on 1 Dec.
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus: (2) present at North West Point on three days we visited this site on 1-3 Dec. Some excellent views of this highly aerial species seen flying against forest and dark clouds allowed us to see the diagnostic features clearly.
Christmas Island White-eye Zosterops natalis: (200) plus seen daily in every forested habitat. Abundant.
Island Thrush Turdus poliocephalus erythropleurus: (30) plus seen daily in every forested habitat. Moderately common, tame and approachable. One adult observed feeding a dependent juvenile.
Christmas Island Flying Fox Pteropus melanotus natalis: (20) at Margaret Knoll in late afternoon on 2 Dec and (1) seen on following day from East-West Base Road.
Christmas Island Pipistrelle Pipistellus murrayi: (1-2) heard and seen flying in spotlight beam near Winifred Beach in early evening on 3 Dec. Critically endangered.
Asian House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus: Common around accommodations at VQ3 Lodge ad elsewhere in settlement.
Robber Crab Birgus latro: Moderately common, seen daily often scavenging road-killed Red Crabs. Some real giants seen especially at night. The world’s largest terrestrial arthropod and spectacularly coloured.
Red Crab Geocarcoidea natalis: Abundant- several million encountered. Truly impressive phenomena.
Blue Crab Cardisoma hirtipes: (40) around Waterfall Beach with occasional individuals encountered daily elsewhere on the island.
Little Nipper Geograpsus grayi: A few encountered daily in forest.
Grapsus Grapsus tenuicrustatus: Common on intertidal rocks.
Horn-eyed Ghost Crab Ocypode ceratopthalma: Common on sandy beach at Flying Fish Cove.
Peppered Moray Eel Siderea picta: (2) had an aggressive interaction in reef shallows at Waterfall Beach near The Casino. Quite spectacular.
By Dion Hobcroft leading for FTB