Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Australia, Fiji and New Caledonia - 16th November (Day 6)

After a rather sleepless night due to a very uncomfortable bed and barking dogs we were up at 04:00 for a 04:30 pick-up by Aslan (+679 9581013) from the hotel. Aslan was a very reliable and careful driver and he is recommended for anyone planning such a trip. We drove through the dark and left the tarmac road for a steep and bumpy climb up Des Veoux peak. After around one hour of climbing we reached our first stop (at around 750m) just as the drizzle turned to a heavy rain so while we sat and waited in the rain for the first bird’able light most of us caught up with a little sleep. The rain persisted and eventually we took the decision to bird in the rain. Tongan Fruit-bats passed overhead, White-rumped Swiftlet buzzed around the tree tops and a few fleeting glimpses of Lesser Wattled Honeyeater but it was tough going and the rain was unrelenting. A slight easing in the rain saw us heading off the main gravelled track onto a narrow make shift trail through the forest looking for Silktail, we had poor views of Lesser Shrikebill and Maroon Shining Parrot but little else – conditions were poor under the heavily dripping canopy and it was very muddy under foot. We headed further up the road to 950m but conditions were poor with heavy rain or heavy drizzle and gusting winds. We walked down the road hearing but not seeing a Fiji Bush-warbler and then a stunning Giant Honeyeater, now, in my opinion honeyeaters are a dull group but Giant Honeyeater is a cracking bird, behaving like a scimitar-babbler side hopping up branches and probing amongst the moss covered limbs. This bird was feeding a well-grown juvenile bird that was hidden in the undergrowth alongside the track. Wandering on down in the rain we had a few brief views of Island Thrush and Orange-breasted Myzomela. Back at 750m the rain had eased off a little and we headed back onto the Silktail trail where very quickly we came across a Silktail and then a cracking Rufous-throated Flycatcher the two birds eventually showing in the same binocular field of view. Silktail is an enigmatic species with uncertain affinities, once considered a Bird-of-Paradise it is now generally considered an aberrant Monarch-flycatcher. After birding down the road for a while in slightly improving conditions, we had had enough of the rain, mud and wind and descended for pancakes and tea and a midday relax.

Giant Honeyeater of the nominate race - Des Veoux Peak, Taveuni

 Silktail - Des Veoux Peak, Taveuni

After a break we headed along the coast to Bobbi’s Farm (Nabogiono Farm) (Contact Details: Naresh (Bobby) Shankanan, PO Box 22, Taveuni, Fiji Islands - it is possible to lodge at the farm) on the south-west coast of Tavuni and spent the afternoon wandering the grounds. We had fantastic views of Orange Dove, an amazing looking pigeon with a florescent orange body and pea-green head. Up to seven birds including three male were present and they showed very well including a singing male which showed for over half an hour as it fed and sang an amazing clicking song as it jerked its head up and down. I had always wanted to see this species and to get such great views was far beyond my expectations, Bobbi’s farm is THE place to see this species. Other birds here included good numbers of stunning Many-coloured Fruit-doveCollared LoryMaroon Shining ParrotSlaty Monarch and Polynesian Triller. We headed back to the lodge for 19:00 and a chilled out evening with beers and log.

Maroon Shining-parrot - Bobbi’s Farm, Taveuni

Orange-breasted Myzomela - Bobbi’s Farm, Taveuni

Vanikoro Flycatcher of race rufiventris - Bobbi’s Farm, Taveuni

Slaty Monarch - Bobbi’s Farm, Taveuni

The introduced Jungle Myna along with Common Myna 
is common on Fiji - Bobbi’s Farm, Taveuni

Orange Dove - Bobbi’s Farm, Taveuni

Orange Dove - Bobbi’s Farm, Taveuni

Many-coloured Fruit-dove of race mariae - Bobbi’s Farm, Taveuni

Collared Lory - Bobbi’s Farm, Taveuni

Links to other days of the trip