Thursday, 24 December 2015

Australia, Fiji and New Caledonia - 26th November (Day 16)

Another early start we were heading for the Farino area and recent sightings of the elusive New Caledonian Thicketbird and a few additional endemics to see. We left the hotel at 05:15 and after much discussion stopped at two pic-nic areas 15km east of the turning to Farino on the Canala Road (07:00-09:00). On route we stopped at a perched juvenile accipiter which despite close views we could not definitively identify, the balance was in favour of the endemic White-bellied Goshawk rather than Brown Goshawk but we were unsure. There had been sightings of the thicketbird at the first pic-nic area at 14km two weeks before but alas despite much bashing of the grassland habitats (mainly by MK and AD) we were unsuccessful in our task. Birds seen in this area included Striated Starling (a nesting colony present) Glossy Swiftlet, Cloven-feathered Dove (at least six present and one bird seen), Yellow-bellied Robin and Goliath Imperial Pigeon.

Drinks were needed and we spend a silly amount of time driving back and forth looking for a cafĂ©, en-route stopping at a turn just over the bridge to the south of La Fao where two Red-throated Parrotfinch fed amongst the introduced (but stunning) Common Waxbill. A Rufous Night-heron was flushed from the bamboo thickets here. We should have stuck with the first suggestion of coffee at La Fao as this seemed to offer the only option with a great coffee and cake shop. We spent two hours relaxing here before heading to Les Grandes Park Fougeres Provincal. Birding in the car park initially which produced views of White-bellied Goshawk, an adult, identification was confirmed and the dodgy juvenile seen earlier was forgotten. Here to the main task was the Thicketbird, Volkert had spoken to a park guard who had, allegedly, directed us to drive to the start of a trailhead but as soon as we set off we were intercepted and told that we couldn't drive on the track, Volkert’s powers of French had failed us and we felt absconded. We set-off on foot along the trail that the park guard had said was the best for Thicketbird but the trail extended through forest and was clearly not right for the species we were searching for. A Kagu appeared on the trail and we delighted in this more timid and unringed bird as it hammered a fallen tree for grubs tossing bark left and right. A fantastic experience and we delighted as the Kagu slunk secretively back into the forest – it is truly hard to express what a unique and unmissable birding experience the Kagu is.

The rest of the day was spent birding the trails, car park and entrance to the park seeing a range of birds we had seen before by unfortubatey despite much effort no thicketbird. We headed off at around 17:30 quite satisfied with our land based birding on new Caledonia despite missing two endemics, New Caledonian Thicketbird and Crow Honeyeater.

Striated Starling - Canala Road, Farino, New Caledonia

Red-throated Parrotfinch - La Fao, New Caledonia

Grey Fantail - La Fao, New Caledonia

White-bellied Goshawk - Les Grandes Park Fougeres Provincal, New Caledonia

White-breasted Woodswallow - Les Grandes Park Fougeres Provincal, New Caledonia

Kagu - Les Grandes Park Fougeres Provincal, New Caledonia

Kagu - Les Grandes Park Fougeres Provincal, New Caledonia

Kagu - Les Grandes Park Fougeres Provincal, New Caledonia

South Melanesian Cuckooshrike - Les Grandes Park 
Fougeres Provincal, New Caledonia

Orchid - Les Grandes Park Fougeres Provincal, New Caledonia

Panoramic view of Les Grandes Park Fougeres Provincal, New Caledonia

Links to other days of the trip