Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Australia, Fiji and New Caledonia - 23rd November (Day 13)

We were up early ready to visit Vatu-i-Ra to see the breeding seabirds which occur there. These included Black Noddy, Brown Booby, Lesser Frigatebird, Black-naped Tern and Bridled Tern but the weather did not bode well being a continuation of the heavy rain and strong winds hat we had been experiencing for the past two days. We loaded the cars and discovered that one of the vehicles had a rear puncture, this started to cast doubts on the potential to visit the island. We collected Villi and then returned to the hotel where Martin had replaced the punctured tyre. After some conflab we all agreed that the timings for the island visit and the subsequent international flight to New Caledonia were too tight coupled with the heavy rain and high winds we abandoned the boat in favour of birding locally at Suva Point. We drove through the town and arrived at the point as the tide was falling, already gathered were around 50 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Pacific Golden Plover, 4 Turnstone and a Red Knot while on the playing fields were a further 47 Pacific Golden Plover. As the tide fell large numbers of waders gathered on the extensive sandflats with the above species being joined by Lesser Sand-plover, Whimbrel, Wandering Tattler, White-faced Heron and Pacific Egret. A fly over Swamp Harrier gave fantastic views. After a breakfast stop we visited a fuit-bat roost where both Samoan Fruit-bat and Tongan Fruit-bat were present, the latter having a black back while the former a brown back.

We began the drive back to Nadi at around 11:00 stopping en-route for a scan to sea which produced a few Greater-crested Tern, Wandering Tattler, Brown Booby and distant views of a shearwater species. In need of a drink we stopped at the Baravi Handicrafts ‘centre’ at Vantukarasa. As we departed Martin picked up some fruit-doves in the top of a tree, we initially identified these as Tongan Fruit-dove, a species we had half heartedly searched for on the previous journey from Nadi to Suva, it was a long-shot as previous records were from 12 years ago. However, reviewing the identification features it appears that these were probably female Many-coloured Fruit-dove, a far more likely species and clearly an easy mistake to make. Tongan Fruit-dove is a species of the small off-islands and not reported to occur on the main islands of Fiji, possibly due to predation by Fiji Goshawk.

We arrived at the airport in good time to find that our 18:10 flight to New Caledonia had been cancelled due to a blockade at the airport on Wallace and Fortuna. We were informed that we would fly early AM to Sydney and then onto New Caledonia. We were checked into a Tokatoka Hotel near the airport and relaxed while Martin rearranged the logistics for the New Caledonia element of the trip.

Bar-tailed Godwit of race baueri which is treated as a 
separate species by some - Suva Point, Viti Levu

Whimbrel of race variegatus - Suva Point, Viti Levu

 Swamp Harrier - Suva Point, Viti Levu

Birding the wind swept and grey Suva Point, Viti Levu

Uca perplexa a species of fiddler crab common on the 
mudflats and prey to Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit - Suva Point, Viti Levu

Uca perplexa - Viti levu

Tongan Fruit-bat (top left with black back) and Samoan Fruit-bat 
(top right with brown back) - Suva Point, Viti Levu

Fruit-bats - Suva Point, Viti Levu

Greater-crested Tern - Suva Point, Viti Levu

Hindu funeral ceremony - Suva Point, Viti Levu

Andy B performs Knocking on Heavens Door with the band at the Tokatoka Hotel

Links to other days of the trip