Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Australia, Fiji and New Caledonia - 11th - 13th November (Days 1-3 - Part 1)

The trip was aimed at covering Fiji (the islands of Taveuni, Kadavu and Viti Levu) and New Caledonia taking in Lifou and Ouvea for its endemics. We had also scheduled some birding in Australia prior to and after the main part of the trip. Outbound we were heading to the Capertee Valley in the Blue Mountains to specifically look for Regent Honeyeater. This was my first trip to Australia and so most of the birds would be new but Martin, who had visited Australia on many occasions, still needed Regent Honeyeater and the Capertee Valley is a renowned birding spot. Outbound I had booked a guide for some birding in the Royal National Park to the south of Sydney and the rest of the group eventually elected to join me after considering various other options. For me the highlights of the trip were going to be Kagu, Cloven-feathered Pigeon (both on New Caledonia) and Orange Dove (Fiji) as well as the chance for some seabirds during a pelagic out of Noumea, New Caledonia although as this had been organised by ourselves and very little information was available it was going to be a bit hit and miss as to whether we saw many birds.

My travelling companions were: Andy Bunting (AB), Andy Deighton (AD), Martin Kennewell (MK), Ian Merrill (IM) and Volkert Van Willigen (VW).


  • Day 1 - 11th November – Fly London Heathrow 21:55 BA0015.
  • Day 2 – 12th November - Arrive Singapore 18:35 and depart for Sydney 19:15.
  • Day 3 – 13th November - Arrive Sydney 06:50. Bird Centennial Park, Sydney. Meet AB, VW, AD and MK. Travel to Capertee Valley, birding Capertee Park PM.
  • Day 4 – 14th November - Bird Capertee Valley then drive back to Sydney PM, overnight Sydney in Ibis Hotel. IM arrives.
  • Day 5 – 15th November Fly Sydney to Nadi, Viti Levu (06:30-12:25) then Nadi to Taveuni (15:10-16:35). Bird around hotel evening. Night at Maravu Hotel.
  • Day 6 – 16th November - AM birding at Dex Voeux Peak, Taveuni then on to Bobbi’s Hideaway PM. Night at Maravu Hotel.
  • Day 7 – 17th November - Birding around hotel on Tuveni AM then fly Taveuni to Nadi (16:30-17:55) then Nadi to Suva (18:30-19:00). Night Colo-i-Suva Eco Resort.
  • Day 8 – 18th November - Birding around Colo-i-Suva Eco Resort AM then flight (12:10-12:50) to Kadavu. PM birding Navara Road. Night at Biana’s Bure.
  • Day 9 – 19th November - Morning birding Navara Road, PM out on boat. Night Biana’s Bure.
  • Day 10 – 20th November - Birding around Briana’s Bure AM then flight to Nadi, Viti Levu (13:15-14:05). Drive Nadi to Suva (4 hours). Night Colo-i-Suva Eco Resort.
  • Day 11 – 21st November - Morning birding around the Monasavu Dam then to Manwell’s House PM. Night Colo-i-Suva Eco Resort.
  • Day 12 – 22nd November - Morning birding around the Monasavu Dam then to Manwell’s House PM. Night Colo-i-Suva Eco Resort.
  • Day 13 – 23rd November - Morning birding Suva Point then drive to Nadi for flight to Noumeau, New Caledonia but flight cancelled until tomorrow. Night Tokatoka Hotel, Nadi.
  • Day 14 –24th November – Fly Nadi to Auckland, New Zealand 09:45 then flight Auckland to Noumeau, New Caledonia at 14:15 landing at 15:10. Birding track south of Toro.
  • Day 15 – 25th November – All day birding Parc Riviere Bleue
  • Day 16 – 26th November – Birding in the Farino area including Les Grandes Park Fougeres Provincal.
  • Day 17 – 27th November – All day pelagic from Noumeau
  • Day 18 – 28th November – Fly from Noumeau to Sydney (3.5 hours) at 12:40 then birding Royal National Park.
  • Day 19 – 29th November – Birding Royal National Park then fly Sydney to London Heathrow 16:30.
  • Day 20 – 30th November – Land London Heathrow 05:30.

11th to 13th November – (Days 1-3)
After what seemed like months of planning (mainly by Martin) and hundreds of emails bounced around the crew it was eventually time to leave home and head to Heathrow for a 21:45 east-bound flight to Sydney on 11th November on my own. My flight left on time and I relaxed in Business Class as we headed east over Kent and across the channel. The flight took us across Belgium, Prague, Budapest, Romania, The Black Sea, Azerbaijan, Caspian Sea, Pakistan, Jaipur, Vishakhapatnam, over the Bay of Bengal and the Andamans making landfall at Phuket and then flying south along the west coast of the Malay Peninsula to Singapore.

I arrived in Singapore at 06:20 on 12th, as the plane taxied to its bay 3 White-bellied Sea-eagle took off from the grassland surrounding the taxi strip, the first birds of the trip. I wandered to the BA lounge and relaxed with a glass of red wine before boarding the flight once more at 07:15, we departed on time at 07:45. The flight took us south-east to the north-east of Banka, over Belitung, over the Java sea which was speckled with lights from fishing boats looking like stars in the sky and out over the eastern part of Java towards Australia. We passed the Australian coast at Broome and then south-east passing over the Great Sandy Desert, south of Alice Springs, Lake Torrens and then into Sydney on schedule. In total the flight had taken 21 hours including a 1.5 hour stop-over in Singapore.

On my arrival at 06:50 on 13th November I had a three hour wait before MK, AB, AD and VW were to arrive so I had booked a taxi and driver through Dial a Driver to take me to Centennial Park in Sydney for some birding. I spent a very pleasant 2.5 hours here wandering around Busby's Pond, Randwick Pond, Lily Pond and Duck Pond and Lachlan Swamp. Most of the birds were new so this was a nice easing in to the trip, species included Crested PigeonPurple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Magpie-lark, Australian Pelican, Hardhead, Buff-banded Rail, Australian Magpie, Tree Martin, Silver Gull, Laughing Kookabura, Rainbow Lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Splendid Fairy-wren and Noisy Miner. A large colony of Grey-headed Flying-fox was present in the Lachlan Swamp, there cackling and screeching audible from some distance. The Grey-headed flying-fox bat is endemic to Australia, more information on the species is available here. The park was a relaxing place to be after a long flight with its Eucalyptus and pines and scattered waterbodies. I headed back to the airport to meet the others at 11:00, we collected the 4x4 hire car and headed off by around midday.

Crested Pigeon - Centennial Park, Sydney

Willie Wagtail - Centennial Park, Sydney

Australian Ibis - Centennial Park, Sydney

Dusky Moorhen - Centennial Park, Sydney

Magpie-lark - Centennial Park, Sydney

Purple Swamphen - Centennial Park, Sydney

Rainbow Lorikeet - Centennial Park, Sydney

Australian Magpie - Centennial Park, Sydney

Superb Fairy-wren- Centennial Park, Sydney

Little Pied Cormorant - Centennial Park, Sydney

Australian Pelican - Centennial Park, Sydney

Noisy Miner - Centennial Park, Sydney

Hardhead - Centennial Park, Sydney

Common Coot of race australis - Centennial Park, Sydney

Silver Gull - Centennial Park, Sydney

Grey-headed Flying-fox - Centennial Park, Sydney

Grey-headed Flying-fox - Centennial Park, Sydney

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - Centennial Park, Sydney

Laughing Kookaburra - Centennial Park, Sydney

Great White Egret of race modesta - Centennial Park, Sydney

Grey Teal - Centennial Park, Sydney

Links to other days of the trip