Oct 22, 2008

FIJI Birdwatching Trip Report from birdtours.co.uk

FIJI, March 3 to 11, 2008, Murray Lord and Chris Gladwin


We visited the islands of Taveuni, Kadavu and Viti Levu in Fiji between March 3 and 11, 2008. It was a successful trip, seeing all but one of the birds we hoped to find, and making up for that with one species we had not expected to see (Pacific Imperial-Pigeon).

Kadavu: The accommodation choice on Kadavu is a bit less clearcut. Many birders have stayed at Reece’s Place. From what we could discover on the web the place is allegedly being renovated, but if it is possible to stay there at the moment you will have to bring your own food and stay in something that may fall down around you. But it’s not clear whether things have changed since that was written. With most of the other places astronomically expensive we decided to opt for Matava ( www.matava.com ) which is a long boat ride away from the airport. The only birder we had read of having visited found all four Kadavu endemics on the grounds. It was a nice place and the service was good. But from a birder’s perspective the long boat trips mean you really have to stay on Kadavu for two nights rather than one to get a decent amount of time in the field. And the risk you run – as we found out – is that if there are no fruiting trees around the Resort at the time you visit then there may be no doves, and because of the lack of roads, there are no opportunities to other parts of the island easily. So while Matava is good, and some of the nearby snorkeling excellent, it may not be the best choice for birders. One trip report mentions Biana Guest House but we were not able to find out anything about it.

T = Taveuni V = Viti Levu K = Kadavu

Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster)
K: several seen during boat trips around Matava.

Lesser Frigatebird (Fregatta ariel)
T: one seen near the airport.
K: several seen around Matava and on the boat trip back to Vunisea.

White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)
V: several seen at Nadi Airport.

Pacific Reef-egret (Egretta sacra)
T: a couple around Garden Island Resort
K: several around Matava.

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans)
A couple of sightings on each island.

Fiji Goshawk (Accipiter rufitorques)
T: seen near entrance to Garden Island Resort as well as on Des Voeux Peak.
V: seen at entrance to Colo-i-Suva and at Nabokalevu.
K: two up the hill from Matava.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles)
V: one present at Suva airport. Apparently has been there for a while.

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)
T: seen at Taveuni Airport
V: seen at Nadi and Suva airports

Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana)
T: one tattler thought to be this species seen about a kilometre south of Garden Island Resort.
K: one present around Matava.

Brown Noddy (Anous minutus)
K: seen on boat trips to and from Matava.

Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus)
K: seen on boat trips to and from Matava.

Crested Tern (Sterna bergii)
T: several seen.
K: seen on boat trips to and from Matava.

Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana)
T: distant birds thought to be this species seen near the airport.
K: seen on boat trips to and from Matava.

White-throated (Metallic) Pigeon (Columba vitiensis).
T: One at Nabogi Ono Farms.
V: Two seen from the road when returning from Nabokalevu, not far from Pipeline Road.

Spotted Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)
Seen on Taveuni and Viti Levu.

Shy Ground-Dove (Gallicolumba stairi)
T: one seen at Nabogi Ono Farms, thanks to Bobby who knew where to look and managed to flush the bird towards us.
V: one seen several times on the grounds of Raintree Lodge on the afternoon of 10 March. Vili was not aware of anyone having seen them there previously.

Many-coloured Fruit-dove (Ptilinopus perousii):
T: about a dozen seen well at Nabogi Ono Farms, where they came in to roost at dusk.
V: one female seen in one of the tall trees along the road up the hill to the cabins at Raintree Lodge.
Note on identification of fruit-doves: at first we thought the female bird we were looking at might have been a Crimson-crowned Fruit-Dove (P. porphyraceus). However once you examine the text of the Pratt field guide in relation to the variation between races, you realise those species are harder to separate than the pictures initially suggest. The undertail pattern is important. Vili suggested he is skeptical of some of the reports of Purple-capped Fruit-Doves from the main islands that are in some trip reports.

Orange Dove (Ptilinopus victor)
T: several seen each day on Des Voeux Peak, including a couple of females that seemed to have roosted overnight just below the gate. Also outstanding views of around four males at Nabogi Ono Farms where Bobby said they are present year round.

Golden Dove (Ptilinopus luteovirens)
V: one male seen along the road at Colo-i-Suva on the 7th. Fairly common, though skittish, in the Nabokalevu area on the 9th and 10th. Several, including males, seen on the grounds of Raintree Lodge on the 10th.

Pacific Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula pacifica)
T: the surprise bird of the trip, with a group of around 50 birds present at Nabogi Ono Farms. Photographed.

Peale's (Barking) Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula latrans)
T: numerous on Des Voeux Peak.
V: up to 50 along the road near the entrance to Colo-i-Suva. Also seen at Nabokalevu.
K: present around Matava.

Fan-tailed Cuckoo (Cacomantis flabelliformis)
V: One bird seen at Nabokalevu. Probably also heard on Taveuni at Des Voeux Peak.

Crimson Shining Parrot (Prosopeia splendens)
K: present around Matava although many birds seen distantly. Seen well around the plantation.

Masked Shining Parrot (Prosopeia personata)
V: seen at Raintree Lodge, Colo-i-Suva and Nabokalevu.

Red Shining Parrot (Prosopeia tabuensis)
T: one or two seen each day on Des Voeux Peak.

Collared Lory (Phigys solitarius)
Common and widespread on all three islands.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
K: one bird seen at dawn flying above Matava.

White-rumped Swiftlet (Collocalia spodiopygius)
Seen on all three islands.

Sacred Kingfisher (Todirhamphus sanctus)
Seen on all three islands.

Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica)
Widespread on all three islands

Polynesian Triller (Lalage maculosa)
Seen on all three islands.

Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)
V: common around towns, including on grounds of Raintree Lodge.

Pacific Robin (Petroica multicolor) (still regarded as part of broader Scarlet Robin P. multicolor by Clements and some other checklists, but split accepted by several recent lists)
T: race taveunensis. A pair seen on Des Voeux Peak.

Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis):
T: race torquata. One seen well on Des Voeux Peak.
V: race optata. One seen at Colo-i-Suva and others heard at Nabokalevu.
K: race kandavensis. Seen on the hill above Matava.

Fiji Shrikebill (Clytorhynchus vitiensis)
T: Several seen on Des Voeux Peak on the 4th.
V: One seen at the entrance to Colo-i-Suva and another at Nabokalevu.

Black-throated Shrikebill (Clytorhynchus nigrogularis)
V: heard along Falls trail at Colo-i-Suva. A pair eventually seen thanks to using playback at Nabokalevu.
Note on identification of shrikebills: The pictures in the Pratt field guide are somewhat misleading as they show the Fiji Shrikebill as being more distinctively marked than they are. Also note that while some calls of Black-throated Shrikebill are distinctive, there is an overlap in calls. As several trip reports note, the Black-throated Shrikebill is a skulker. It is noticeably bigger than the Fiji – which of course is not much use if you are looking at them for the first time. Distinguishing features of the female Black-throated that we found useful include a pale tip to the bill, and (based on our sample of one) the wings looked more rufous. Plus the bill is clearly bulkier. Handbook of the Birds of the World has a far better illustration of them. For a comprehensive review of the differences between them see G. Dutson (2006) The Pacific Shrikebills (Clytorhynchus) and the case for species status for the form sanctaecrucis. Bull. BOC. 126: 299-308.

Slaty Monarch (Mayrornis lessoni)
Widespread in small numbers on all three islands

Vanikoro Flycatcher (Myiagra vanikorensis)
Common on all three islands, including around towns.

Blue-crested Flycatcher (Myiagra azureocapilla)
T: reasonably numerous on Des Voeux Peak. Also at Nabogi Ono Farms.
V: seen at Colo-i-Suva and Nabokalevu.

Silktail (Lamprolia victoriae)
T: several seen each morning on Des Voeux Peak. Views were adequate but as the birds were very active they tended to be brief. Best views were obtained on the outside of the left bend just above the gate.

Streaked Fantail (Rhipidura spilodera)
T: very common on Des Voeux Peak with up to 25 seen. Also at Nabogi Ono Farms.
V: seen at Colo-i-Suva and Nabokalevu.

Kadavu Fantail (Rhipidura personata)
K: Reasonably common along trails around Matava .

Fiji Bush-Warbler (Cettia ruficapilla)
T: race funebris. Reasonably conspicuous on Des Voeux Peak.
V: race badiceps. Seen well at the entrance to Colo-i-Suva and heard elsewhere.
K: race ruficapilla. This distinctive race (with a rufous cap, as its name suggests) seen on the hill above Matava.

Island Thrush (Turdus poliocephalus)
T: race tempesti. Reasonably common on Des Voeux Peak, particularly very early in the morning, though views tended to be brief.
V: race layardi. One seen flying across a road at Nabokalevu.

Fiji Woodswallow (Artamus mentalis)
T: common and widespread, especially along coast.
V: seen at several locations.

Polynesian Starling (Aplonis tabuensis).
T: several at Nabogi Ono Farms. One seen on Des Voeux Peak on the 5th.
K: several near Matava. One seen briefly at the airport.

Jungle Myna (Acridotheres fuscus)
V: present around Raintree Lodge.

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
Seen on Taveuni and Viti Levu. Abundant.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)
T: common lower down Des Voeux Peak, at sea level and at Nabogi Ono Farms.
V: common at Colo-i-Suva.
K: seen around Matava.

Layard's White-eye (Zosterops explorator).
T: common on Des Voeux Peak with up to 20 seen.
V: seen at and at Nabokalevu.
Note: Layard’s were only seen in primary forest at high altitude.

Orange-breasted Myzomela (Myzomela jugularis)
Common and widespread on all three islands. Up to 20 seen at some locations (e.g. Des Voeux Peak).

Wattled Honeyeater (Foulehaio carunculata)
Common and widespread on Kadavu and Viti Levu.

Kadavu Honeyeater (Xanthotis provocator)
K: several seen around Matava. Not particularly numerous.

Giant Forest Honeyeater (Gymnomyza viridis)
T: race viridis. Several seen each day on Des Voeux Peak.
V: race brunneirostris. Seen at all sites visited. Loud and conspicuous.

Fiji Parrotfinch (Erythrura pealii).
T: Seen on Des Voeux Peak
V: seen at all locations visited, including the carpark of Nadi Airport.

Pink-billed Parrotfinch (Erythrura kleinschmidti)
V: untickable view of one bird overhead at Nabokalevu on the 10th. Identified by Vili based on call.

Red Avadavat (Amandava amandava)
V: A couple seen from the car between Suva airport and Raintree Lodge

Read full report at Birdwatching Trip Report from birdtours.co.uk