18th September – a quick update from Fiji   Leave a comment

The trip to the South Pacific is nearing the end and I’ll be home at the weekend. As my usual tour company Birdquest were not running a tour to the South Pacific this year I booked with an American company Field Guides. As two of guys on this tour (including the person I was going to share with) has to cancel for personal reasons, I ended up with a tour that comprised of the leader Phil Gregory, four American ladies and me.

IMG_3506-Phils-Angels

Phil’s angels. L-R: Ellen, Terry, Phil, Valerie and Eva.

We started the tour on the French island of New Caledonia. Here we birded mainly in the forests of the Riviere Bleu National Park, but also on two offshore islands Ouvea and Lifou.

We managed to see all the endemic birds but one, the very elusive grassbird. In particular we had fantastic views of the bizarre Kagu along with 27 other endemic/near endemic species.

IMG_3127-Kagu

The Kagu is real relict, the Coelocanth of the bird world, It appears to have remained unchanged on the island of New Caledonia and has remained unchanged for millions of years.

IMG_3249-Cloven-feathered-D

Elsewhere on the island we saw the wonderful Cloven-feathered Dove

Later we visited two islands in the archipelago of Vanuatu, with most of the time spent on Espirito Santo. Many of the endemics are found on the very hard to access highlands, which are effectively out of reach to all but mountaineers. but we found the five lowland endemics after a bit of work.

IMG_3297-S-Melanesian-Cucko

As well as birds endemic to Vanuatu we saw some regional endemics such as this South Melanesian Cuckooshrike

On Fiji we first visited the main island of Viti Levu where we found a wonderful series of endemic birds, Later we moved to the small island of Taveuni where we saw the legendary Silktail, a bizarre and elusive  bird of uncertain affinities, but which probably belongs in its own family. We also saw the gorgeous Golden Dove.

IMG_3545-Silktail

Like the Kagu, the Silktail is another ancient relict. Confined to a couple of islands in Fiji, its nearest relative seems to be a the Papuan Drongo, which isn’t a drongo at all. It took a bit of bashing around in dense undergrowth to see this elusive bird, but it was well worth it.

IMG_3607-Orange-Dove

The Orange Dove, another Fijian endemic. Can you imagine a more absurd colour scheme for a pigeon?

We have one final island to visit, Kadavu, to the south of Viti Levu, before we make the long way home. I am currently staying within a few feet of the 180 degree longitude, so I could hardly be any further from home if I wanted to.

I will update the blog with a fuller account of the trip and lots more photos of this seldom visited, (at least by British birders) region of the world when I get home.

Posted September 18, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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