Friday, 13 January 2017

Broome Roadtrip 01

Whilst most of the Ashmore Reef Pelagic Cruise participants flew to Broome, I decided to drive. This enabled me to deliver a camper-trailer to Alice Springs then continue north along the Tanami Road to Halls Creek then along the Savannah Highway to Broome. It was all about getting there so no time for birding but I did manage to get some nice images.

First night stop was Terrick Terrick NP just north of Mitiamo. Galahs Eolophus roseicapillus were plentiful as were the mozzies.

Next night was at Sherlock to the east of Tailem Bend. A walk around the new lake there brought me a pair of Blue Bonnets Northiella haematogaster which alighted accommodatingly on a fence post.

The next camp was near Glendambo on the Stuart Highway. I thought I saw a magpie drop to the ground and chased it for a few hundred yards. It turned out to be a Ground Cuckoo-shrike Coracina maxima and gave me some good views.

A natural break at Marla had an Australian Hobby Falco longipennis staked out in a tree in the car park.

The Tanami Road is sealed for the first three hundred kilometres, virtually to Yuendumu. In the early morning sun, this Gwardar Pseudonaja nuchalis was sunning itself on the road. One of Australia's most venomous snakes.

The Tanami Road is 1,040 kilometres from Alice Springs to Hall's Creek. Up to the Granites Mine [600km] there is plenty of traffic but further north, in late spring to early autumn, there isn't much traffic at all. There is certainly no border force at the border. Just a 44 gallon drum.

I stopped for the night just short of the border. My short morning walk showed a Little Woodswallow Artamus minor and an Australian Bustard Ardeotis australis.

Next night was at  _____ Dam.  I saw a Pallid Cuckoo Cacomantis pallidus the next morning followed by a Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus had two goes at getting a honeyeater but too slow. These pics were taken while he rested up between efforts to get breakfast.
This last image of a Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola [rear left] and, left to right in the foreground, a Black-fronted Dotterel Elseyornis melanops, a Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata were at the Derby WTP. Discussion at Broome Bird Observatory of the middle bird brought up the possibility of a Cox's Sandpiper [a cross between a Curlew and a Pectoral Sandpiper] but the verdict was a Curlew Sandpiper with a very dirty bill on a bedraggled bird.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Ashmore Reef 10 -- Green Sea Turtles

Green Sea Turtles

We were privileged to be present at Ashmore Reef when female Green Sea Turtles Chelonia mynas came ashore each night to lay eggs on the sand at the top of the beaches around all three of the Ashmore islands.

As usual, Wikipedia is a source of information. Click here. Some interesting facts include ...
  • Mature turtles often return to the exact beach from which they hatched.
  • Females usually mate every two to four years.
  • Males, on the other hand, visit the breeding areas every year.
  • In the tropics, green turtles nest throughout the year.
  • Indian Ocean turtles nest year-round, but prefer the months of July to December.
  • After mating in the water, the female moves above the beach's high tide line, where she digs a hole with her hind flippers and deposits her eggs.
  • Clutch size ranges between 85 and 200, depending on the age of the female. This process takes about an hour to an hour and a half. After the nest is completely covered, she returns to the sea. The female will do this 3 to 5 times in one season.
  • The eggs are round and white, and about 45 mm in diameter. The hatchlings remain buried for days until they all emerge together at night. At around 50 to 70 days, the eggs hatch during the night, and the hatchlings instinctively head directly into the water.
  • Juveniles spend three to five years in the open ocean before they settle as still-immature juveniles into their permanent shallow-water lifestyle.
  • It is speculated that they take twenty to fifty years to reach sexual maturity.
  • Individuals live up to eighty years in the wild.
  • It is estimated that only 1% of hatchlings reach sexual maturity.

Each morning we would see some girls making their way back to the sea.


The beach would have the evidence of ingress to and egress from the nests. We did help a couple of girls that had become caught between the beach and the sea with rock barriers.

A fresh track to the water and old ones higher up the beach. You can see the
gradient that several hundred kilograms of turtle has to crawl up and down
using only flippers. They would do several "steps' then rest. Despite the
apparent slow rate of progress, you could look back at a turtle minutes later
and see they had made significant distance towards safety.
We found about 6 carcases always on the "inside" of the island. These were
animals that appeared to have made a wrong turn and headed away from the
beach. In the hot environment, it probably wouldn't take many hours for a
turtle to die.

On to nicer images. Their presence was an unexpected pleasure.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Ashmore Reef 09 -- Terns


Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus

Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii

Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscata

First Sooty Tern seen on the first day of the trip!
One way to cool off is to skim the surface picking up water on your feathers
which then evaporates creating cooling.
Rookery One
Too hot to sit on. The egg needs some shade!
Rookery Two

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Ashmore Reef 08 -- Tropicbirds


Ashmore Reef has two resident tropicbirds, Red-tailed and White-tailed. There were not many, more Red-tailed than White-tailed. The Red-tailed were nesting, about 6 pairs.

Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda


White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus