Australia | Indian Ocean Experiences | Christmas Island Bird’n’Nature Week

We invite you to uncover the remarkable surprises of this island full of natural wonders: from the unique annual red crab migration to rare and unusual birds and glorious deserted beaches, yet it also displays a curious amalgam of cultures, history and industry, emerging as a place where all these elements create a truly unusual travel experience.

Bird week participants will be invited in small groups to help catch Abbott’s Boobies high in the rainforest canopy, assist to colour-band Brown Boobies and monitor their colonies on the remote and secluded rocky coasts. Participants will work with our guides to study the nesting biology and foraging ecology of Christmas Island Frigatebirds and Red-tailed Tropicbirds.

Depending on interest and demand, there will also be opportunities to assist in the colour-banding of Christmas Island Goshawks, a Christmas Island Hawk-Owl survey, seabird identification workshops, territory mapping of Island Thrushes and closer looks at the island’s other wildlife. And of course there will be the chance to search for a few of those rarities for which Christmas Island is so famous. Nightly seminars will showcase the results of all the seabird research (revealing the wanderings of the majestic Abbott’s Booby, CI Frigatebirds and more), the status of the endemic landbirds, the rarities of Christmas Island, and the marine and terrestrial ecology of the island…

Top Five Birds

  1. Abbott’s Booby
  2. Christmas Island Frigatebird
  3. Christmas Island Hawk-Owl
  4. Christmas Island Goshawk
  5. Golden Bosunbird

Ethics

At Terra Incognita we support tours that do good in the world. They must help to conserve the environment, support local people, and educate their guests. Here’s what Lisa Preston from Indian Ocean Experiences said to us…

What conservation activities do you support through the tour, and your wider operations?

The tour works with Christmas Island National Park, supporting bird and reptile conservation on Christmas Island. Below is more information on the conservation activities conducted during Bird’n’Nature Week, and the respite conservation program run by Christmas Island National Park.

During Bird’n’Nature Week, participants will be invited in small groups to help catch Abbott’s Boobies high in the rainforest canopy, assist to colour-band Brown Boobies and monitor their colonies on the remote and secluded rocky coasts. Participants will also work with our guides to study the nesting biology and foraging ecology of Christmas Island Frigatebirds and Red-tailed Tropicbirds. Depending on interest and demand, there will also be opportunities to assist in the colour-banding of Christmas Island Goshawks, a Christmas Island Hawk-Owl survey, seabird identification workshops, territory mapping of Island Thrushes and closer looks at the island’s other wildlife.

Bird’n’Nature Week is run in co-operation with Parks Australia, and all guides for the week are well-know research scientists. National Park staff work with researchers, the shire and the island community on a wide range of projects to protect the unique natural environment, including a dedicated team of rangers rehabilitating the rainforest to ensure the survival of the rare and threatened Abbott’s booby. The Abbott’s booby spends most of its life out at sea, but nests on Christmas Island and nowhere else in the world. The tall, emergent rainforest trees high on the plateau provide the only suitable nesting habitat, making this ecosystem critically important for the survival of the species.

In some areas, settlement and phosphate mining removed the original tall evergreen rainforest, with the loss of countless birds. There were indirect impacts too: open expanses of cleared mine lease caused wind turbulence over the forest canopy strong enough to dislodge Abbott’s booby chicks from their nests and limit the ability of parent birds to land and feed the young. The Abbott’s Booby Recovery Plan identified ecological restoration and reforestation of minefields as essential for the bird’s long-term survival. Since the early 1990s, Parks Australia has established and maintained more than 320 hectares of rehabilitation forest.

Christmas Island is home to six native terrestrial reptiles. Five species are endemic: the blue-tailed skink Crytptoblepharus egeriae and the forest skink Emoia nativitatis; the giant gecko Cyrtodactylus sadleiri and Lister’s gecko Lepidodactylus listeri; and a burrowing snake, the pink blind snake Ramphotyphlops exocoeti. The sixth native reptile, the foreshore skink Emoia atrocostata, is common on oceanic islands. In the late 1990s and through the 2000s, there was a marked decline in the range of several species. The endemic blue tailed skink virtually disappeared from the north-east and eastern parts of Christmas Island. The nationally-vulnerable Lister’s gecko was thought extinct on Christmas Island for more than 20 years, until in 2009 a small population was discovered. Introduced invasive species, particularly the yellow crazy ant, giant centipede, the Asian wolf snake, cats and rats, are thought to be the major reasons for the reptiles’ decline.

To bring back the reptiles at risk of extinction, in 2009 Christmas Island National Park embarked on a successful captive breeding program for the blue-tailed skink and Lister’s gecko. Captive populations are contained within the national park, and as a safety measure against any on-island disasters, at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. Populations continue to thrive. In mid 2013, there were 343 Lister’s geckos and 111 blue-tailed skinks housed on Christmas Island, with smaller numbers of 143 and 52 breeding at Taronga.

To house the growing reptile populations, the park has built a new reptile housing facility and will finalise the construction of eight predator-proof exclosures on the island in 2013,funded by a grant from the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. The exclosures will hold up to 1,000 skinks.

Part of our Bird’n’Nature Week tour is to visit the “Lizard Lodge” at the Pink House Research station to witness the rehabilitation of two endangered endemic species of lizards – the Blue-Tailed Skink and the Lister’s Gecko. Guests also learn about the biological control for the introduced yellow crazy ants, which are having adverse affects on numerous endemic species, particularly the Christmas Island Red Crab. Many of our Bird’n’Nature week guests contribute their time and money to assist in this captive breeding program for our native wildlife.

How does the tour support local people?

We and working towards sustainable eco-tourism as the future of Christmas Island, and this supports the future local economy of the Island.

What type of environmental education activities do you incorporate into your tour?

Supporting scientists as they monitor the breeding habitat of the island’s seabirds, visiting the Christmas Island National Park to support the Island’s reptile breeding program, nightly seminars and seabird identification workshops.

Review

“The most memorable moment was being able to see one of the rarest birds in the world, the Abbott’s booby. It was pouring with rain, windy and even cold, but nothing could take away the thrill of seeing this large, ungainly-looking bird staring back at me from its nest high in the canopy. Knowing I was seeing this bird, in its natural habitat, so close and so easily made it even more special. In 2016 there were few Abbot’s boobies nesting and as it was late in the season I thought I would miss out on having this experience, but the knowledgeable guides managed to find one to see.

Next in memorability was being able to stand atop the cliffs overlooking the harbour and watch golden bosun birds, wheeling and circling beneath me. The grace and beauty of these birds is astounding; their golden and black plumage and long trailing tail plumes glisten in the sunlight and pairs appear to dance through the air as if involved in some impeccably choreographed pas-de-deux. Their red-tailed cousins, with their white plumage and impossibly red beaks and tails, form a discrete chorus to the main event, adding their own harmonious dives and rolls to the avian ballet unfolding below. It simply takes your breath away.

The ease and unobtrusive organisation of the entire week made Christmas Island Tourism Association stand out. Guests were never hurried but everything happened on time, no one felt as if they were left out and everyone was treated like they were the only one on the tour. Nothing seemed to be a problem and yet everything that had to happen, happened with such little fuss and bother that we, the guests, barely noticed the organisation that went on behind the scenes. And it was fun, with lots of laughs and good times. I was involved in the 11th Bird and Nature Week, but nothing felt stale or old; instead everyone involved in the organisation was so enthusiastic and excited that it seemed more like the first time they’d run the event.

Definitely go and experience everything this remote and almost unknown island has to offer – the amazing wildlife, the lovely people, the incredible ocean and the richness of the culture. It’s amazing that there is so much on such a tiny island and it’s well worth the journey. It’s not hard to get there and it’s not hard to be there. Just go, you’ll be glad you did and you will want to tell everyone about it when you get home.” Karen Hunt, July 2018.* 

• Experience of the tour = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to conservation = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to local communities = 5/5
• Education provided by the tour = 5/5

*Note: this review is for the Christmas Island Australia tour.

Images

Contact

Tour Operator | Indian Ocean Experiences
Contact Name |  Lisa Preston
Contact Email | [email protected]
Website | indianoceanexperiences.com.au
Tour Info | https://www.christmas.net.au/bird-n-nature-week

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