Nov 16, 2008

Birdwatching Trip Report from Fiji

Friday 1st September

This morning I decided to do some final checking that arrangements were OK for the next section of my trip across to the island of Kadavu. I ask the girl on the UTC desk to confirm that someone would be at the airport to meet me only to find out that the water pump was broken and I would have to stay elsewhere. This was a bit of a set back as I had hoped to stay at Reece's Place, now called Nakuita Island Resort, as they were used to birders and knew where to go for the specialities. Still that wasn't to be and I was relocated to Biana Accommodation in Vunisea, which at least got a mention in the Lonely Planet guide, and I was assured that someone would meet me off the plane. Taxi from West's to the airport cost F$4 which seemed very reasonable for the distance. I got there about an hour and a half before the flight expecting to be able to check-in my luggage for the flight to Kadavu. No chance, check-in for the internal flights in Fiji doesn't open until 30 minutes before the flight and when I saw the size of the plane I could understand why. Basically it was a small eight-seater but it took off on time and landed on time so I wasn't going to start complaining. On the run in to the terminal hut the pilot managed to get one of the wheels stuck in some mud and very nearly got the plane bogged, that could have been interesting. I must admit that I hadn't got much confidence in this lot and it was a pleasant surprise to find my luggage had actually made it on the same flight as me. I was met by somebody to show me to my accommodation but we had to hang around for 20 minutes or so before the transportation arrived. Having been driven about a kilometre I then carried my bag up a slope to a building which looked more like someones house than accommodation for travellers. I was shown to one of the rooms and started to get things ready for my first birding on Kadavu. I should add that the rooms were adequate but the shower was cold water only. The electricity was supplied by a community generator and was normally off during the day. But worst of all there was a fridge and I couldn't get any beer to put in it. Apparently all the beer in town had been sold and they were waiting for the ferry to bring some more, but no-one had any idea as to when that might be. I arranged for an evening meal at Biana's and set off on my first exploration of Kadavu. As I had limited information on where to go I decided to try and find some of the forested areas used by people who had stayed at Reece's Place in the past. I succeeded in locating Waikana Falls using the sketch map in Gerry Richards's trip report but the birding was not as good as I had expected judging by the comments made in other reports. Mind you I didn't find any good forest just a few scrubby areas, perhaps the trail was better in the past and more trees have been removed. Still for my first afternoon I was quite pleased with what I saw and got back for dinner at about 19.00. Dinner was an interesting experience, not for the food which was fine, Fish and Rice, but for the fact that all the family came to watch me eat. Well that's what it seemed like when you have four people staring at you whilst eating. So after watching a couple of films on the video it was time for bed and thank God for the mosquito net. The room was full of Mosquitos but fortunately the net worked well and none of them were able to get at me. Today I added five species to the trip list of which three were new for me - Crimson Shining-Parrot, Slaty Flycatcher and Kadavu Honeyeater. 16 species for the day.

Saturday 2nd September

Today I set off early determined to try and find some good forest. This I did by walking past the Waikana Falls track and taking the next dirt road on the right. After climbing a little and after a few corners I found myself among some good forest but there seemed no way to actually get into it and so birding was restricted to the edges. After a few hours of this I was getting a little frustrated at the apparent lack of Kandavu Fantails and Whistling Doves.but just then I found an old logging track which went off to the right. I walked along this track for a couple of hundred metres and then turned left onto a narrower trackand at last I found two Kadavu Fantails. I sat down to watch these birds and almost immediately a female Whistling Dove appeared in one of the nearby trees. A good two minute spell but it had proved a lot harder to find these two species than I had been led to believe. Still a successful venture into the forest even though it had been about 4-5km from where I was staying. I got back to Biana's in the mid afternoon and was informed that the forest on the west side of town is actually a lot closer than that to the east. I thought I would give this a try early evening and see just how good the forest was, I would expect it to be quite degraded. How wrong can you be? The forest here was excellent and what's more it was only 15 minutes walk from where I was staying to the first patches. Although I hadn't got much time because the light was going fast I still managed to see quite a few Crimson Shining-Parrots. The meal this evening was Sausage and Chips and yes the customary crowd assembled for the evening entertainment. I only added four species to the trip list but two of these were endemic lifers - Kadavu Fantail and Whistling Dove. 26 species for the day.

Sunday 3rd September

I spent most of today in the forest on the west side of Vunisea and what a great experience it proved to be. At my first stop, where the forest areas begin, about 15 minutes walk from Biana's I saw all four of the islands endemics in about five minutes. This would not have possible without a tape as Kadavu Fantail proved to be very responsive to playback but could be very difficult to see without. The total number seen of the endemics were as follows - Crimson Shining-Parrot 15, Kadavu Honeyeater 3, Kadavu Fantail 20 and Whistling Dove 7♂6♀. My point for turning round and heading back was just after a bridge over a stream near some large piles of gravel at S19º 02' 059" E178º 10' 834". In the afternoon I went for a walk to the mangroves the other side of the airport to try and get a recording of Kadavu Honeyeater. No new birds today at all, not even trip ticks, but it was one of the best days birding so far. 27 species for the day.

Birdwatching Trip Report from Fiji