4th – 10th September – New Caledonia   Leave a comment

Continuing the story of my recent trip to the South Pacific from the last posts (uploaded on 4th and 18th September).

From Sydney I got an afternoon flight to Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia arriving at the hotel in the evening of the 4th after a 44 hour journey from home.

New Caledonia is a French Overseas Country and culturally is divided between native Karnaks and French ex-pats. Indeed just like the Falkland Islanders and Gibraltarians try to be more British than the British, New Caledonians seem to be striving hard to maintain their French identity.

The weather was surprisingly cool for an island that lies just within the tropics and indeed a sweater was needed at times. Unlike most tours I go on, this one was quite relaxed with departures at 0700 after a hotel breakfast and return in the late afternoon. Birding was fairly easy, in common with most oceanic islands there aren’t may species, On the first day I saw just 30 species, but 17 of them were ‘life’ birds. Although I call New Caledonia an Oceanic island, it is a fragment of the ancient super continent of Gondwanaland, which broke up during the dinosaur era. Thus the Kagu, a bird so unusual that it is placed in its own family may be a Gondwanaland relict.

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The view from the hotel at Noumea at dusk.

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The first two days on New Caledonia were spent at Rivierre Bleu NP. This bridge that crossed the lake has been condemned. There used to be a shuttlebus on the far side but this wasn’t running. As a result we had to walk most of the 8 Km to the best birding area, but managed we got a lift on the way back from Francoise and his group of Japanese/Taiwanese tourists..

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Around the entrance to the park stands of impressive, endemic New Caledonian Pines can be seen.

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The best birding area is in the mature forest as typified by this giant Kaori Tree.

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A true Gondwanaland relict. The Kagu’s nearest relative appears to be the Sunbittern of the Amazon.

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I knew the Kagu was easy to see, but I hadn’t realised it was this easy. Francoise shows New Caledonia’s most famous bird to his group of young ladies.

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Barred Honeyeaters were quite common in scrubby areas.

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This Yellow-bellied Flyrobin accompanied us a lunch time and was clearly fond of French cheese.

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Further afield on the main island of Grande Terre we saw this impressive New Caledonian (or White-bellied or Blue) Goshawk.

IMG_3152-NC-Crow

The New Caledonian Crow has the reputation of being the most intelligent bird in the world, as it not only uses tools (twigs etc) to winkle grubs out of wood, but actually shapes the tools for the job in hand. However this activity has only been seen in captivity.

 

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I posted a front side view of the amazing Cloven-feathered Dove on the 18th September. It’s just as gob smacking from the rear!

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We also flew to two offshore islands in the Loyalty Island group. The first Ouvea, hosts a single endemic, Ouvea Horned Parrakeet, which I managed to photograph but rather poorly. Instead, here is a shot of one of Ouvea’s beautiful beaches.

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Flight timings meant we had to stay overnight on the island of Lifou. There are two endemics, the imaginatively named Small Lifou White-eye and the Large Lifou White-eye. The former, pictured above, is a typical Zosterops White-eye but the latter is larger, darker with a whopping bill, is much more elusive and has no ‘white eye’.

Posted October 4, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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