Christmas Island Trip Report
A really fabulous trip and I would like to thank the tour participants Paul and Judith Taylor, Adrian O¹Neill, Alan Mathew and Peter Marsh for making it work so well. I would like to thank Janene for her excellent organisation and David James who made sure we had the best of his local knowledge.
Christmas Island White-eye by Jack Shapiro
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.
15 December: After a long flight we made the landing in the Cocos Islands. The Green Junglefowl perfomed dutifully on the airstrip, if somewhat distantly. There was also an Oriental Pratincole and a fly by White Tern. Our early arrival into CI (due to adjusted daylight saving time) gave us some time for afternoon birding. Our first rarity was an adult Black-winged Stilt on the airstrip known locally as Hazel (because it is a bit of a nut). This bird has been present since August and was seen every time we visited the airstrip.
We targeted the Sports Ground cricket nets where Alan Rogers had a first winter male Blue and White Flycatcher present until the 8 Dec. It had apparently moved along and there was no sign of it. We did however see our only male Lesser Frigatebird of the trip and our first White-breasted Water-hen at the Tip, with plenty of Red Crabs on the move. We made it to VQ3 and Muggz Pizza for dinner.
Christmas Island Imperial Pigeon
16 December: Early breakfast and off to North West Point for great birds. We enjoyed our first Abbott¹s Boobies that lowed like bovines in the canopy. A remarkable stroke of luck produced a first winter female Blue and White Flycatcher that co-operated very well even allowing a few photographs. We hiked down to Hugh¹s Dale and found another rarity in the form of a Purple Crab plus a pair of adult Rufous Night-Herons. Returning to Settlement we found an adult male Christmas Island Goshawk that had just had a bath sitting beside the road. Drinking frigatebirds provided a spectacular view as we sat inside the air conditioned Land cruiser.
Post lunch at the Cla Noodlehouse we located the Red-tailed Tropicbirds displaying over Rumah Tinggi. We also picked up our first Java Sparrow. A visit to Waterfall Cove was highlighted by three Peppered Moray Eels. As dusk settled over the golf course the hoped for audience with the Christmas Island Hawk Owl came to fruition as we enjoyed several views of this attractively patterned small owl. It was time to celebrate at the Season Palace in Poon Saan.
17 December: This morning we scouted around many sites including Ethel Beach. Here we found 11 Pacific Golden Plovers. Dion also saw a Sacred Kingfisher in flight. We returned to the Airport and found a pair of Oriental Pratincoles roosting with the Black-winged Stilt. A flyover by an Orion military plane found the airport managers arriving in a hurry and they gave us permission to walk out and scope and photograph the pratincoles ensuring excellent views. We also explored the temples at south point, covering miles hoping to add to the list. At lunch we spotted a small pod of Spinner Dolphins.
In the afternoon we covered many sites. Best highlights came in the form of several very close views of White-breasted Water-hen at the Casino and north end of the airstrip where rain had triggered them to call. In the late afternoon we walked out to Margaret Knoll. We had super views of Christmas Island Flying Foxes. We enjoyed dinner at the Golden Bosun.
18 December: Our last morning on Christmas Island was not to be without drama. After a fairly uneventful morning as we neared Winifred Beach turn off an adult Oriental Cuckoo flew up and perched beautifully for all to see. Then out of nowhere a first winter male Blue and White Flycatcher perched out on a handful of occasions before frustratingly disappearing and failing to return. Still most people managed a view of the blue wings. We hunted around for the rest of the morning before lunching at the Eong Chong Restaurant, enjoying a shower before checking in on our flight back to Perth. We had enjoyed a wonderful trip seeing very well all of the 23 regular species plus finding an additional 8 migrants. Our return landing at Cocos in the late afternoon allowed great scope views of the Green Junglefowl plus an additional 10 Oriental Pratincoles. Arriving in Perth and clearing formalities it was off to bed to dream of Red Crabs!
Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus: (20-30) plus seen daily on CI; great majority looking like feral chickens.
Green Junglefowl Gallus varius: (2) on 15 December and (40) on 18 December on the Cocos Island Airstrip. Some good scope views of this thriving feral population.
Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda westralis: (2-6) on both 16-17 Dec on CI with best views at Rumah Tinggi in Settlement.
White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus fulvus: (20-50) daily on CI with great views of golden individuals.
Abbott’s 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: (200-500) daily at CI, all adults white morphs. Present in roosting and nesting colonies. Very tame.
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster plotus: (10-50) daily on CI; mostly in Flying Fish Cove and Settlement.
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor listeri: (50-100) plus daily on CI.
Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel: (1) male seen over the Sportsground on 15 December was our only sighting.
Christmas Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi: (20-100) recorded daily on CI.
White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae: (3-8) daily on CI, mostly on the airstrip and around South Point.
Eastern Reef Egret Egretta sacra: (2) at Waterfall Beach on 16 Dec and (2) Ethel Beach on 17 Dec. All white morph birds. (1) white morph bird seen on Cocos Airstrip on both 15 and 18 Dec.
Nankeen Night-Heron Nycticorax caledonicus: (2) adults at Hugh¹s Dale, CI on 16 Dec. (1) on the Airstrip on Cocos Island on 18Dec.
Christmas Island Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus natalis: (1) adult male with bands seen on crab fencing drying off after a bath with (1) immature seen near the Plantation on 16 Dec and (1) adult predated Common Noddy chick in Flying Fish Cove in the late afternoon of the same day. (1) immature at VQ3 on morning of 17 Dec. 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: (10-20) seen daily on CI where common and conspicuous in grassland-forest edge and townsites.
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus: (1) at the Tip on late afternoon on 15 Dec. Also seen here on the morning of 17 Dec with single birds also seen at the Casino and the northern end of airstrip where calling in late afternoon after a thunderstorm. (1) at this latter location on 18 Dec. All birds seen were adult.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus: (1) adult at airstrip on 15, 17 and 18 Dec. The same long staying vagrant named Hazel by the locals.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos: (1) seen on 16-17 Dec at Flying Fish Cove with (1) Waterfall Cove on 16 Dec.
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva: (11) at Ethel Beach on 17 Dec and at least (1) here on 18 Dec.
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum: (2) on the CI airstrip on 16-18 Dec allowed some great views. Also (1) on Cocos Airstrip on 15 Dec with (10) here in late afternoon on 18 Dec.
Common Noddy Anous stolidus: (100) daily mostly at Flying Fish Cove.
White Tern Gygis alba: (1) seen from the plane at Cocos Airstrip on 15 Dec.
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.
Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus: (1) adult gave two excellent perched views at Winifred Beach turn off on 18 Dec.
Christmas Island Hawk-Owl Ninox natalis: (1) presumably male gave a sensational view at the Golf Course on dusk on 16 Dec.
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.
Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus: (1) at Ethel Beach on 17 Dec was seen in flight by Dion only.
Blue and White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana: (1) first winter female photographed and studied extensively at Winifred Beach turn-off on 16 Dec. A first winter male in the same location was much more timid but showed well briefly on three occasions in late morning of 18 Dec. Perhaps the 6-7 Australian record of this vagrant.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus: (50) plus daily around Settlement on CI.
Java Sparrow Lonchura oryzivora: Recorded daily on CI with high count of (18) near VQ3 on 18 Dec.
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 17 Dec with a couple seen near Northwest Point on 16 Dec.
Spinner Dolphin Stenella longirostris: (10) seen from Cla Noodlehouse at lunch on 17 Dec.
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 inside the national park. The world¹s largest terrestrial arthropod and spectacularly coloured.
Red Crab Gecarcoidea natalis: Abundant- several thousand encountered. Truly impressive phenomena.
Purple Crab Gecarcoidea lalandii: (1) photographed on the track down to Hugh’s Dale on 16 Dec was a rare sighting with normally only 1-2 sightings per year according to David James. Identified by the white spots beside the eye.
Blue Crab Cardisoma hirtipes: (200) around Hugh¹s Dale on 16 Dec with (20) around Waterfall Beach the same day.
Little Nipper Geograpsus grayi: A few encountered daily in forest.
Grapsus Grapsus tenuicrustatus: Common on intertidal rocks.
Peppered Moray Eel Siderea picta: (2) had an aggressive interaction in reef shallows at Waterfall Beach near The Casino. Quite spectacular.
Moon Wrasse Thalassoma lunare: (1-2) seen swimming in Flying Fish Cove 16-18 Dec.
By Dion Hobcroft leading for FTB