Archive for October 2013

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.

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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

The Omani Owl   Leave a comment

My friends at the Sound Approach have made a stunning discovery, a species of owl new to science in Oman.

We were told about this at a pub meeting on 24th of September but sworn to secrecy. The news has been released today.

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Postcript

Full description

http://soundapproach.co.uk/sites/default/files/Owl%20pdf.pdf

Posted October 4, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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100 Countries !   Leave a comment

As I have traveled the world in search of new birds I have, of course, visited a good number of countries. Of course large species rich countries like Australia, Indonesia, China or the USA require multiple visits to see their avifauna, but slowly the number of countries visited has risen until it now stands at exactly 100. I haven’t, with one or two recent exceptions (Croatia and San Marino), adjusted my travel plans merely to add a new country to my list.

Just as it can be difficult to exactly define exactly which birds constitute a species, it can be difficult to define exactly what a country is. Clearly France, USA or the United Kingdom fit the criteria but what about New Caledonia (a French Overseas Country), Guam (United States Unincorporated Territory), Gibraltar (United Kingdom Overseas Territory), Jersey (United Kingdom Crown Dependency) or Wales (a country incorporated within the United Kingdom). I have decided to follow the list of countries and territories published in the Times Concise Atlas of the World with two exceptions, Hong Kong which was a UK Overseas Territory when I first visited but is now part of China and Antarctica, which according to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 does not belong to any state and territorial claims are held in abeyance.

I have not included countries where I have only been to the airport in transit to somewhere else (these include Bangladesh, Greece, Malawi, Martinique, Qatar, Pakistan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Zambia) but do include Haiti and Botswana where I have briefly crossed the border without transiting a recognised border post. The list includes the semi-autonomous Palestinian West Bank but excludes the disputed area of Northern Cyprus.

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Number 46: The Indonesia flag flies from the boat that I took to the island of Komodo in 2006.

1 UK
2 Guernsey
3 France
4 Ireland
5 Italy
6 Vatican
7 Romania
8 Holland
9 Germany
10 Austria
11 Lichtenstein
12 Switzerland
13 Luxembourg
14 Belgium
15 Morocco
16 Gibralter
17 Faeroes
18 Norway
19 Spain
20 USA
21 Costa Rica
22 Israel
23 Thailand
24 Gambia
25 Malaysia
26 India
27 Kenya
28 Poland
29 Venezuela
30 Finland
31 Ethiopia
32 Peru
33 Canada
34 Philippines
35 Namibia
36 South Africa
37 Mexico
38 Madagascar
39 Cameroon
40 China
41 Hong Kong
42 Russia
43 Australia
44 Ecuador
45 Cyprus
46 Indonesia
47 Cuba
48 Bulgaria
49 Cook Islands
50 French Polynesia
51 Argentina
52 Tanzania
53 Slovakia
54 Hungary
55 Falklands
56 Antarctica
57 Jamaica
58 Dominican Republic
59 Haiti
60 Puerto Rico
61 Turkey
62 Japan
63 Egypt
64 Portugal
65 Bolivia
66 Bhutan
67 Iceland
68 Greenland
69 Papua New Guinea
70 Brazil
71 Sri Lanka
72 Sweden
73 New Zealand
74 Senegal
75 Cambodia
76 Andorra
77 Uzbekistan
78 Kazakhstan
79 Colombia
80 Slovenia
81 Croatia
82 Oman
83 Bharain
84 Cape Verde
85 Botswana
86 Yemen
87 Sierra Leone
88 Georgia
89 Armenia
90 Guam
91 Northern Marianas
92 Federated States of Micronesia
93 Palau
94 Jordan
95 Palestine (West Bank)
96 Uganda
97 San Marino
98 New Caledonia
99 Vanuatu
100 Fiji
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It’s a continent but not a country. Surely worth a tick on the country list!