Tahiti, New Caledonia, Fiji & Samoa____________________



Tahiti, New Caledonia, Fiji & Samoa 2017

...with Mark Finn

August 30th - September 18th

August 30th: Papeete, Coast Road, Papeeno Valley.

Weather: Rather mixed with sunny spells and showers on an east wind 24 C

The group arrived into Papeete and made the short journey to our hotel the base for three nights. From the restaurant several pairs of White Terns with well grown young were in the trees plus the common introduced species of Zebra Dove, Common Myna, Red-vented Bulbul in the gardens. After breakfast we headed westwards and south along the coast road. Above the forested areas there were dozens of Brown Noddy, White-tailed Tropicbirds and more White Terns. A walk within the forest produced a group of flight views of Grey Green Fruit Dove, Silvereye, Red Junglefowl and Red-vented Bulbuls. The weather started to worsen with rain showers as we visited a grotto with nesting Pacific Swallows. Next stop was by the golf club which had Pacific Black Duck, a migrant Wandering Tattler and a few Crested Terns offshore. Finally a visit to the Papeeno Valley an area of rivers and mature forest which produced a few birds including Pacific Reef Egrets. Back to base as our long journey day was starting to catch up with us.

August 31st: Papehue, Papeeno Valley.

Weather: Sunny with a light SE wind.

Today we headed towards Papehue on the west side of Tahiti. Along the route many Brown Noddy collecting nesting material. We met up with Luc our guide for the morning and proceeded to Papehue one of the reserves operated and run by MANU. At the parking lot Pacific Swallow and flocks of Silvereye. The walk into the forest meant crossing a stream and underfoot unstable ground. A Pacific Harrier was noted over the high ridge. Thankfully the forest had at least two Tahiti Monarch and a few Polynesian Swiftlets hunting for food. Grey Green Fruit Doves showed well in the canopy. In the afternoon another visit to Papeeno Valley where we encountered several Tahiti Kingfishers and heard the declining Tahiti Reed Warbler singing from dense cover.

September 1st: Papeete, Moorea Ferry, Moorea.

Weather: Cloudy with sunny spells on a SE wind 24 C

After breakfast we headed towards the ferry port and the crossing over to Moorea. Once on board and passing the outer reef edge we soon encountered flocks of Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Brown Noddy and small groups of Tropical Shearwater and Tahiti Petrel. On approaching Moorea a female Great Frigatebird was noted. At the golf club pools at least three pairs of Pacific Black Ducks and a hunting male Pacific Harrier. It was time to head up towards Belvedere an area of natural forest and walking trails. Red Junglefowl were particularly numerous along with at least three Moorea Kingfishers sitting quietly in trees. In the distance White-tailed Tropicbirds were drifting over the forest. Back towards the ferry port and the return crossing with similar birds to earlier in the day.

September 2nd-3rd: Tahiti, New Caledonia via Fiji.

Essentially a travel day westwards towards New Caledonia. On arrival we picked up the minibus and headed towards Noumea the main city. The hotel proved hard to find but we eventually located it along the seafront. Today we had jumped forward in time due to crossing the international date line.

September 4th: Noumea, Blue River National Park, Robinson.

Weather: Sunny and clear with a SE wind 14 C/21 C

We group set off early towards the National Park with the chaos of the New Caledonian road system not helping matters at all in the dark. We met up with Isabelle our local guide and headed towards the park gates which are normally closed on Mondays. With prior permission a short drive to the old bridge area which had Great Cormorant and Whistling Kites. Once on the other side our first birding stop produced Red-throated Parrotfinches, Rufous and New Caledonian Whistlers, New Caledonian Flycatcher, Barred and Grey-eared Honeyeaters and a hunting Pacific Harrier. On entering the rain forest sector the birds changed as New Caledonian Myzomela, Yellow-bellied Robin, Streaked and Grey Fantails become fairly common. A short walk along the trails soon produced the much sought after Kagu with about eight sightings in total. On the boardwalk the first views of Coconut Lorikeets and New Caledonian Imperial Pigeons. Back along the main track the group added Fan-tailed Gerygone. At the river crossing New Caledonian Friarbirds showed well along with Red-fronted Parakeets in the stunted forest. Near the park gates another stop near a stand of trees produced South Melanesian Cuckoo Shrikes and best of all a party of the beautiful Horned Parakeets. Back to Noumea and a diversion to Robinson close to Isabelle's house. The trees here were alive with Silvereye, Green-backed White-eye, Striated Starling and four New Caledonian Crows an excellent end to the day.

September 5th: Noumea, Lifou Island including Biopzil, Noumea Hippodrome and Zoological Gardens.

Weather: Warm and sunny with light SE winds 27 C.

An early departure to reach the domestic airport for the flight over to We in the Loyalty Islands. We departed and arrived on time with gardens near the airport buildings holding Glossy Swiftlet, Long-tailed Triller and the first of many Sacred Kingfishers. The first birding stop was an area of forest and farm gardens which attracted Metallic Pigeon, Red-bellied Fruit Dove (many calling), New Caledonia Flycatcher, Fan-tailed Gerygone, Silvereye and a pair of Small Lifou White-eyes. Earlier the front row of the bus viewed a Buff-banded Rail crossing the road. Biopzil was next an area of farmland with natural forest areas accessed by a trail. Birding was tough here but with perseverance we managed to locate the scarce Lifou Large White-eye, Streaked Fantail and a calling Shining Bronze Cuckoo. Our final stop was another garden where Small Lifou White-eyes showed well with Silver-eyes of two races. Back to the mainland with a stop along the coast for Silver Gulls. A diversion to the hippodrome allowed us close views of Sacred Kingfisher and flocks of Common Waxbills. Final stop at the Zoological Gardens revealed at least eight Rufous-crowned Night Herons and a number of Pacific Black Ducks.

September 6th: Noumea Hippodrome, Boulouparis, La Foa, Plage de Presquile de Ouano.

Weather: Warm and sunny with light SE winds 27 C

Checked out of the hotel and made the short journey to the Hippodrome which had similar birds to yesterday afternoon with the addition of a Welcome Swallow. The journey north took us towards the airport and onto the provincial town of Boulouparis. We headed towards an area of farmland dotted with several small lakes and pools with the telegraph wires attracting high numbers of Sacred Kingfishers and White-bellied Woodswallows. To our surprise the farmland held many Wild Turkey often in family groups. The best birding was at an elevated position looking into a well-vegetated lagoon holding White-faced Herons, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Great and Little Black Cormorants, Australasian Swamphen and Whistling Kites the latter building a large stick nest in an old tree. Overhead the group located Glossy and White-rumped Swiftlets, Rufous Whistler and South Melanesian Cuckooshrikes. Further down the road another pool held a Little Pied Cormorant. Picked up supplies for lunch in La Foa and consumed them in the local park. Checked in at the hotel and afterwards explored the extensive farmland and coast to the south of La Foa. The birds included substantial numbers of Common Waxbills and Chestnut-breasted Munias. The coast held little of note except Crested Terns and Silvereye and Dark-eared Honeyeaters coming down to drink in a freshwater pool.

September 7th: La Foa, Farino.

Weather: Warm and sunny with no wind 24 C.

A later breakfast today followed by a visit to Farino which is around ten kilometres from La Foa. On the drive uphill we saw at least two Buff-banded Rails by the roadside. A stop next to fruiting trees was excellent for New Caledonian Crows, New Caledonian Friarbirds, Striated Starling and South Melanesian Cuckoo Shrikes. The road towards the park entrance added Glossy Swiftlet, Rufous and New Caledonian Whistlers and Green-backed White-eyes to the day list. At the park we embarked on a walk around the trails totalling about 7km in length. This was a good day to catch up on recent observations around the island. The first tree we came across was fruiting and excellent for New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon and the attractive Cloven-feathered Dove the latter being a master of disguise in the green leaves. Further along the trail New Caledonia Myzomelas and Melanesian Flycatchers were fairly common and we encountered a White-bellied Goshawk on the ground. In the mid-canopy a Southern Shrikebill showed and called to us. Familiar forest birds were frequently seen as we made our way uphill towards the car park. Pacific Emerald Doves were calling from the forest but eluded us on this occasion. Back to La Foa earlier than usual as a long day awaits us tomorrow.

September 8th: La Foa, Teremba, Moindou, Noumea.

Weather: Sunny with no wind 27 C.

Our last day in New Caledonia was delayed due to technical problems with the hotel computers. Once resolved we headed up towards Teremba an old fort from the French Penal Colony days. The wetland usually holds a few birds and on this visit included Australasian Grebe and White-eyed Duck among the commoner Pacific Black Ducks and abundant Australian Swamphens. Moindou was also visited where the commoner species were found in reasonable numbers. A slow drive back to Noumea via a campground where lunch was consumed. Met up with Isabelle again who kindly showed us the scarce and skulking New Caledonia Grassbird at a private site. A fitting end to our stay as we headed to the airport and an onward flight to Nadi in Fiji.

September 9th: Nadi, Kadavu, Namara Road.

Weather: Warm and sunny 27 C

The flight from New Caledonia landed in the early hours of Saturday so we had time before leaving for the southern island of Kadavu. On arrival a Masked Lapwing was feeding by the runway. Met up with our local suppliers and headed off towards base for the night. The hotel grounds held Pacific Kingfisher and Polynesian Triller. A walk along the shore added the attractive Vanikoro Flycatcher feeding in the mid-canopy. We decided to take the boat back across the bay and visit Namara Road which runs through pristine forest above the village. Just before docking a pair of recently arrived Pacific Golden Plovers showed on the beach. Our journey along Namara Road started with several groups of Crimson Shining Parrot feeding in roadside trees an island endemic. Near the summit we started the walk down with sightings of Peale's and Pacific Imperial Pigeons in the larger trees, Velvet Dove for Bob and Barry and a flighty Orange-breasted Myzomela feeding on the tree edge. Flocks of passerines included Silvereye, White-rumped Swiftlet, Pacific Robin, Fiji Bush Warbler and Fiji Parrotfinch. Back to base as our long travel day was starting to catch up with us.

September 10th: Kadavu, Nadi.

Weather: Sunny with light winds 32 C

After breakfast we transferred back towards the airport for the flight onto Nadi. En route one of the old jetties held roosting Pacific Golden Plovers, a single Grey Plover and Crested Terns. We had enough time to visit Namara Road again this time stopping around halfway up. Sightings were similar to yesterday with the addition of a showy Fiji Goshawk sitting in a tree and calling constantly. Careful scanning produced the local race of Fiji (White-throated) Whistler, Fiji White-eye and a single Polynesian Starling perched high in a dead tree. Near the coast two Lesser Frigatebirds flew over and a Masked Lapwing was on the airfield. On arrival in Nadi I picked up the rental van and headed north and east along the coast to Wananavu our base for two nights.

September 11th: Wananavu, Nadakuni, Savura.

Weather: Rather warm and sunny 33 C.

An early departure was required as we headed towards the capital of Fiji, Suva. Shortly after leaving the hotel two Eastern Barn Owls were noted sitting on telegraph wires. The journey took longer than expected due to fog and poor road conditions. We met up with Vili our local guide and proceeded to Nadakuni an area with restricted access due to land rights. En route a Metallic Pigeon was observed feeding on the gravel road and Peale's Imperial Pigeons were quiet common in roadside trees. At Nadakuni the thick forest cover with several streams and a rather muddy trail made birding challenging. A Black-faced Shrikebill was noted giving its distinctive calls and Western Wattled and Duetting Giant Honeyeaters were noted. A male Golden Dove showed in a leafy tree and the local race of Fiji Bush Warbler was also seen. Brief views were had of Long-legged Warbler a species which was thought to extinct for many decades. It was getting very hot as the group approached Savura where birds of note included Slaty Monarch and Fiji Parrotfinch. It was time to head back to base after a long day in the field. The journey was broken in a small village where flocks of Red Avadavat fed near the road.

September 12th: Wananavu, Colo-I-Suva, Suva Seafront.

Weather: Frequent rain showers and sunny spells 28 C

Checked out early and made the journey to Suva with similar birds to yesterday morning. I purchased tickets to enter Colo-I-Suva Nature Reserve and then made a diversion to our accommodation to confirm rooms and check-in times. The grounds attracted Masked Shining Parrot another Fiji endemic. A short coffee break followed with a visit to the park with a family party of Polynesian Trillers near the entrance. We made our way to an observation point at the end of the road to avoid the rain showers. This was to be productive for Fiji White-eye, Fiji Bush Warbler, Chestnut-throated Flycatcher and a calling Fan-tailed Cuckoo. A walk along the road added a rather arboreal Slaty Monarch and a calling Fiji Goshawk. Near the entrance another trail provided us with sightings of Fiji Whistler, Fiji Shrikebill, Pacific Robin and a hard to see Many-coloured Fruit Dove. Back to the hotel for lunch and onto Suva seafront with its extensive mudflats. The latter held very high numbers of Wandering Tattler, Pacific Golden Plover and Ruddy Turnstone, plus the long-distance migrant - Bar-tailed Godwit of the race baurei from NE Siberia. We ended the day at a sector of rice paddies for the localised Java Sparrow which unfortunately did not show this time.

September 13th: Suva, Taveuni.

Weather: Warm and sunny 29 C

A rather damp start to the day curtailed birding activity at Colo-I-Suva. After breakfast we headed down towards Suva airport. Check-in was straightforward with the the flight to the island of Taveuni delayed by 15 minutes. The flight went well with spectacular views of the outer islands. Landed on Taveuni and transferred to our base on the coast. Familiar birds were around the hotel grounds plus a colony of Tongan Flying Foxes which were roosting in the palm trees. After lunch some of the clients embarked on a walk which produced two Australasian Magpies. A leisurely day was appreciated by all after several early starts in the week.

September 14th: Taveuni including Des Voeux Peak, Naiyalayala.

Weather: Frequent rain showers on a SE wind 27 C

Today was dominated by spells of rain and low cloud which made birding almost impossible at times. At 0500 hours we set off for Des Voeux Peak which rises to over 3000 feet. The drive up took time due to the poor state of the road and only accessible by 4x4. Golden Whistlers were singing constantly along the way with one bird giving great views near the top. Despite the rain the group managed to record Chattering Giant and Eastern Wattled Honeyeaters, Red Shining Parrot and Polynesian Triller. About halfway down we entered the forest along a rather muddy trail bordered by pools and secondary forest growth. Our main target Silktail appeared in a few minutes and showed well as it perched on a horizontal branch. We returned to base a rather bedraggled and wet group of birders. After lunch a visit to Naiyalayala a new area for birds on the island. Although initially quiet we managed great views of the scarce Polynesian Starling and brief views of a female Orange Dove, two Collared Lory flew overhead and several Fiji Goshawks were hunting within the forest. The weather closed in again as we went back to base.

September 15th: Taveuni including Des Voeux Peak.

Weather: Heavy rain showers and cloud. SE wind 24 C

This morning we headed toward the peak again at a later time. It turned out to be a frustrating visit as heavy rain and low cloud made birding virtually impossible. In between the showers brief interludes allowed us birding time of just a few minutes before the next front moved in. Birds were similar to yesterday with the highlight being a Polynesian Triller sitting tight on a nest high in a tree. At 11am we decided to quit and travel back down to base. A few birds were noted along the coast road including Australasian Swamphen, Pacific Swallow, Pacific Kingfisher and Fiji Woodswallow. Offshore a single Brown Booby and several Crested Terns.

September 16th: Tavenui, Somosomo Straits, Nadi, Samoa, Apia.

Weather: Rain showers on a SE wind 25 C

The poor weather continued on Taveuni as we boarded the boat for our pelagic trip off the south coast of the island. Birding was slow to start with as the reef proved to be a barrier for deep-water species. Eventually we located a group of seabirds which included Brown and Red-footed Boobies, Lesser Frigatebird, Tahiti Petrel, Bulwer's Petrel, Brown Noddy and several Grey-backed Terns. On the return to port three Black Noddies were located an uncommon bird of the region. The group were serenaded by the hotel as we left for the airport and onward flights to Nadi and Samoa.

September 17th: Apia, Kaisara, Coastal Road including woodlands and bays.

Weather: Rather warm and humid with SE winds 31 C

A later start today due to the early morning arrival of the flight from Fiji. After breakfast I headed out of Apia along the Central Road and turned down towards the Kaisara Estate. This proved to be a good introduction to the birds of Samoa. Buff-banded Rails were numerous along the roadsides and continued to be seen all day at various locations. The road to Kaisara runs through fields with mature trees and grasses attracting Polynesian and Samoan Trillers, Samoan Fantail, Samoan Myzomela, Eastern Wattled Honeyeater, Samoan and Polynesian Starlings. Next on the agenda was a small nature reserve along the coast road where a short walk added Samoan Woodpigeon, Crimson-crowned Fruit Dove and the commoner woodland birds. I drove along the coast where Pacific Golden Plovers were numerous in gardens and along the roadside. Wires along the road held the endemic Flat-billed Kingfisher. It was time to return towards Apia with a stop at the Robert Louis Stevenson reserve. The gardens here held the common birds with excellent views of fruit doves and honeyeaters.

September 18th: Apia, RLS Garden, Maloloerei, Togitogiga Forest, Tree House.

Final species total: 146.

Weather: Sunny with rain showers late afternoon. SE winds 27 C

Today we were joined by Fia from the local conservation unit in Samoa. The first birding spot was the gardens of Robert Louis Stevenson where a walk was made up towards the writers tomb. It was particularly productive for views of Pacific Imperial Pigeons, Crimson Crowned Fruit Doves, Samoan Myzomela and Flat-billed Kingfishers. The next stop was the private reserve of Maloloerei which was donated to the conservation authority by a wealthy local business man. The larger trees attraced Samoan Woodpigeon and Samoan Trillers. After careful searching we eventually found the rare Maowhich frequently called from cover and was seen several times over the next few hours. Nesting seabirds included White-tailed Tropicbird, Brown Noddy and White Tern. Lunch was taken at the Coconut Resort overlooking the ocean followed by a visit to Togitogiga Forest. The forest was very quiet apart from Samoan Whistler and near the beach Samoan Flycatcher. The weather started to worsen later in the day as the group visited Tree House which was the last site of the tour.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at enquiries@birdwatchingbreaks.com.

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