Monday, 26 December 2016

Ashmore Reef 02

Once border formalities and lunch had been completed, we hit the boats and landed on West Island, the biggest of the three islands. It was about 2 in the afternoon and a touch hot [to say the least]. I had my camelback full of iced water with a touch of raspberry cordial. I also had a scope and a phone and a camera. Grunt.

Essentially, the idea was that we circumnavigate the island checking in each and every single tree/large bush which grew along the beach edge around the whole island. Twice. The idea was to make sure that any passerines were spotted.

You just couldn't miss some birds because

  1. There were loads of them [Common Noddy - 800, Brown Noddy - 900], or 
  2. They were creating a din [Sooty Tern - 24,000 {yes, twenty-four thousand, admittedly an estimation}], or 
  3. They flew past in your face [Red-footed Booby; Brown Booby, Lesser Frigatebird, Great Frigatebird, Red-tailed Tropicbird, White-tailed Tropicbird], or 
  4. They were roosting or on open ground [Crested Tern, Bridled Tern, Lesser Noddy, Oriental Plover], or
  5. They were shorebirds out in the open on the beach [Great Egret, Little Egret, Eastern Reef Egret, Nankeen Night-heron, Buff-banded Rail, Pacific Golden Plover, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Stint, Common Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Greater Sand Plover].
Others included a Little Curlew, a Horsefield's Bronze-cuckoo, three Sacred Kingfishers, one Rainbow Bee-eater, one Island Monarch and three Eurasian Tree-sparrows. The Tree Sparrows have been there for a few years now. Always three. Perhaps the same gender as there is no population increase!

So, not a bad effort. Eleven lifers in one circuit!

One unexpected feature of all three Ashmore Reef islands was the fact that they were Green Turtle nesting grounds. Hence the fresh trails of heaving turtles, female of course. More on that in another post.

By the time we had had enough, the sun was setting, the tide had gone right out and we had a 1,000 metre walk back to the edge of the sandflats where the tenders took us the last 100 metres to the Reef Prince!

The setting sun silhouettes Sooty Terns.
Walking out from West Island towards dinner.
180* panorama with West Island on the left and the Reef Prince on the right.
West Island, Ashmore Reef
It was a magic way to end a magic day.

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