Sunday, 30 November 2014


Red Crab migration on Christmas Island
I have just returned from a tour of Christmas and Cocos Islands run by Richard Baxter.  It was my third trip to Christmas Island and my second to the Cocos group, but without a doubt, it was the best.  I went hoping to see a Saunders' Tern as I'd dipped on this bird on my previous trip to Cocos in 2007.  In fact, on my previous trip, I'd only achieved one lifer:  the Western Reef Egret.  This time I achieved a phenomenal nine lifers on Cocos and another four on Christmas Island!  

The Saunders' Tern was hard work:  we took canoes from West Island (where we stayed) to South Island, then had to wade through warm water of varying depths to glimpse the terns on a far sandbank.  Luckily, we all did get a glimpse before they flew.  Thank goodness Jenny took her scope!  Everyone was very relaxed about the reef sharks that accompanied us in the water - that is, everyone except me!  Before I left, I'd just read On the Rocks by Bryan Nelson, which mentions that an ornithologist studying gannets had been badly bitten by a reef shark when he was wading nonchalantly through shallow water.

Black-tipped Reef Shark that accompanied us to see Saunders' Terns
We also worked hard for the Chinese Pond-Heron, wading through deep water for twenty minutes, avoiding clams, unexpected holes, more reef sharks, moray eels, coral, many beches de mer and one huge 2 metre sea slug.  Worse than all these tribulations was the strong wind that might easily have been blown us over - well, me anyway.  Of course, it was all worth it when we had wonderful views of the pond-heron.  It was too easy.  I was looking through my binoculars and the pond-heron flew into view!  Then we had to wade for another twenty minutes back to shore, in time to catch the ferry home to West Island.

On Home Island, in the garden surrounding Clunies Ross House, we first saw Chinese Sparrowhawk.  We saw these birds several times over the next few days.  I also glimpsed a large brown bird, which Richard identified as a Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo.  Others had better views.  Then I suffered the birders' dilemma:  could I count a fleeting glance?  It is a real temptation to add such sightings to your lifelist.  After all, I'd seen the bird.  It had been identified.  Why not add it to my list?  No one (other than me) knew that I hadn't really had a good look.  However, I was strong and resisted the temptation.  For this, I was rewarded three days later with the best possible views of the bird perching cooperatively, showing his yellow eye-ring, his downturned bill and his characteristically barred tail.

We did not have to work so hard for the Javan Pond-Heron - or at least, I didn't.  Others were not quite so lucky.  It will always be memorable for me as it was my 750th Australian bird.

It was a great trip and I came home very happy with my 13 lifers.  I'd hoped for a bittern or a wagtail:  we did not see one of either.  Usually, I lament my omissions.  However, right now, I am quite delighted with all that we did see. My Australian total now sits on 755.

No comments:

Post a Comment