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Christmas Island.

PHOTO ESSAY
AUSTRALIA. 2023.

Nestled like an emerald jewel in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, Christmas Island is a natural wonderland teeming with breathtaking beauty and unparalleled biodiversity. Lush rainforests cloak rugged cliffs, cascading down to meet pristine beaches kissed by turquoise waters that stretch as far as the eye can see. But it's not just the stunning landscapes that captivate; it's the island's unique inhabitants.

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The Golden Bosunbird (Phaethon lepturus fulvus) is a subspecies of the White-tailed Tropicbird found specifically on Christmas Island. This majestic seabird is characterized by its striking golden appearance and graceful aerial prowess.

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Its name, "bosunbird," is derived from sailors' tales, as its call was said to resemble the whistle of a boatswain.

There are three species of frigatebird on Christmas Island: the endangered Christmas Island Frigatebird, Greater Frigatebird and Lesser Frigatebird. 

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Frigatebirds are a family of seabirds called Fregatidae which are found across all tropical and subtropical oceans. All have predominantly black plumage, long, deeply forked tails and long hooked bills.

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Frigatebirds, known for their aerial prowess and piratical tendencies, often harass other seabirds, including boobies, to steal their catch or force them to regurgitate food. This behavior is known as kleptoparasitism.

Christmas Island is home to three species of boobies: the Red-footed booby (Sula sula), the Brown booby (Sula leucogaster) and the endangered Abbott's Booby (Papasula abbotti). 

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Red-footed boobies (Sula sula) are among the most charismatic inhabitants of Christmas Island, adding to the island's rich tapestry of wildlife.

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Occasionally, playful skirmishes erupt as juvenile red-footed and brown boobies vie for space on crowded  branches or compete for the same food sources.

The red crab migration on Christmas Island is a remarkable natural phenomenon where millions of red crabs (Gecarcoidea natalis) migrate from the island's forests to the coast to breed and release their eggs into the ocean.

 

This migration typically occurs during the start of the wet season, around October to December, triggered by the first rains and coordinated with the lunar cycle to ensure high tides aid in the dispersal of their larvae.

The crabs travel en masse, often covering the island's roads and landscapes, creating a spectacular sight.

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The red crabs of Christmas Island are iconic inhabitants that dominate the landscape. Each year, typically during the wet season, millions of red crabs embark on a remarkable journey from the dense rainforests to the island's coastline to breed. This mass migration, one of the most significant natural events globally, carpets the island in a sea of crimson, captivating residents and visitors alike.

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Apart from the iconic red crabs, Christmas Island is also home to various other species of crabs, each playing a unique role in the island's ecosystem.

One notable species is the Robber Crab (Birgus latro), also known as the Coconut Crab, renowned for its immense size and impressive strength.

 

These giant land crabs are the largest terrestrial arthropods in the world, with individuals capable of reaching sizes of up to one meter in length.

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It's hard not to get excited when you come across beauties like this hanging out in The Grotto.

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Cardisoma hirtipes, commonly known as the "blue land crab" or "blue robber crab," a large, terrestrial crab species known for its striking blue coloration. These crabs are an integral part of the island's ecosystem, playing roles in scavenging, nutrient cycling, and soil aeration.

Venture into the heart of the rainforest, where the air hums with the chorus of exotic birds and the rustle of leaves as rare species like the Christmas Island flying fox and Abbott's booby find sanctuary.

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This Christmas Island flying fox is such a dude - you gotta love him.

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The Christmas Island flying fox (Pteropus natalis), endemic to the island, primarily inhabit the island's rainforests, where they forage for nectar, pollen, and fruits.

The Christmas Island imperial pigeon (Ducula whartoni) is endemic to Christmas Island. 

They primarily inhabit the island's forests, where they feed on fruits and berries, playing a crucial role in seed dispersal. It is considered vulnerable due to habitat loss and degradation caused by deforestation, invasive species, and human activities.

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These birds were crowding around a leaking outlet at Grants Well. Unfortunately, the leak has been fixed - such a shame as it was a great place to see these beautiful birds.

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For more information about Christmas Island (including a calendar of events and nature, click HERE. To book a tour or get help with organising your holiday, contact Lisa at  Indian Ocean Experiences. 

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