Wednesday, 28 March 2018


At last my luck has changed!  Finally, I've seen a new bird in 2018.  In January, I dipped on the Black-eared Catbird and the White-necked Petrel.  In February, I missed the petrel again.  In March I visited the Torres Strait and I had great hopes for some new birds.

I'd visited Boigu Island briefly in January 2006 with Klaus as part of his Bamega Bird Week.  A decade later I visited both Boigu and Saibai with Richard Baxter's Birding Tours Australia.  We saw some great birds (including such megas as Zoe's Imperial Pigeon and Coroneted Fruit Dove) but we dipped on Coconut Lorikeet.  I thought I was unlucky to miss this relatively easy bird and this was my main target when I returned this year.

In March 2018 Richard ran four back to back tours.  The first tour had magnificent sightings, including Mimic Honeyeater and Pink-spotted Fruit Dove, and, I was delighted to note, Coconut Lorikeet.  The second tour did not see any birds that would have been new for me, and, worse, they dipped on Coconut Lorikeet.  I was on the third tour, the only one scheduled to visit a third island, Ugar.

We visited Boigu first.  It was muddy.  The Mimic Honeyeater had gone home to New Guinea.  As I stepped gingerly through the mud, hoping I wouldn't fall over, I was thankful the mosquitoes were not in the plague proportions they had been two years earlier.  Alas, I saw no lorikeets.
Enjoying Torres Strait weather, photo by Joy Tansy

We moved on to Saibai and the temperature increased.  The Pink-spotted Fruit Dove had also returned to New Guinea.  We stood for hours hoping that lorikeets would fly over.  Others in the group were getting ticks.  We saw Gurney's Eagle and Uniform Swiftlets.  But no lorikeets.  

As the time approached for us to move to Ugar, Cyclone Nora put in an appearance.  Seas would be rough.  We had no choice.  Ugar was off the agenda.  Instead, we sheltered in the channel between Saibai and Kaumag.  I was on the upper deck with Jen Spry when a pair of lorikeets flew over, calling.  With her fantastic eyesight, Jen identified Red-flanked Lorikeets.  At the time, I confess I'd rather they'd been the much more common Coconut variety.

Later, I was standing, chatting, on the lower deck, when I heard Richard call 'lorikeets.'  I looked where I'd seen the Red-flankeds.  Nothing.  Everyone else was looking the other way.  I turned, but the birds had flown.  I'd missed out!  The one bird I'd come to see, and I'd missed it.  I could not believe it. 

The next morning, everyone else enjoyed a boat cruise in the tenders, but I stayed on board the mother ship to search for Coconut Lorikeets.  I was not disappointed.  I saw dozens of them, in flocks of from four to about a dozen, screeching overhead at various heights, sometimes showing colours, sometimes just black silhouettes.  Once two birds perched in a mangrove.  I had my Coconut Lorikeets at last.  The world was a better place.  I was going home with two ticks.