Participants: Keith Turner, Neil Bostock, Jon Hornbuckle, Norman Williams, Dave Pitman
In 1999 Keith Turner, Neil Bostock, Barry Wright and I spent a memorable two months birding the Bismarcks, Manus and the Solomon Islands. After reading Graham Talbot and Chris Campion’s report of their 2002 trip to Micronesian islands east of the Philippines, we decided to follow in their steps when time would allow. Eventually we agreed to go in Jan 2010, and as Barry had to drop out, Norman Williams was invited to take his place, and Dave Pitman joined later. We had an excellent trip, seeing all 39 “Clements” endemics (excluding the almost unknown Pohnpei Mountain Starling), plus Rota White-eye, split by most authorities including HBW, and 5 other splits proposed by Doug Pratt (3 cicadabirds, a scrubfowl and a ground-dove, although the Pohnpei Cicadabird, was only seen by DP). I photographed 59 out of the 104 species I saw, including most of the endemics. We so enjoyed it that we may organize a follow-up tour – contact me if interested.
The key to the logistics of visiting the eight main islands in the shortest time needed to see all the specialities was to book a series of Continental Micronesia Airlines flights, many of which were less frequent than daily. Continental themselves were not very helpful, so I investigated agents in Singapore, the Philippines and UK, before deciding to use the same Rocksun Travel Agency as GT and CC: Erie Leung firstname.lastname@example.org proving very competent. This proved a wise move, as the flight schedule worked almost flawlessly, the only change we made was adding a needed extra day on Rota by leaving for Guam on Freedom Air rather than Continental which didn’t fly that day. The only downside was the tortuous route to reach the starting point in Guam as we had to go via Hong Kong, but the cost was minimized as flights from UK to Hong Kong were very cheap at the time. During the 15 days Guam to Guam we took 12 flights, plus 8 to Guam and back from UK, hired boats on 2 days to visit off-shore islands, and spent three nights traveling. Once on the islands we reached the sites by either rental car or local vehicle.
We stayed in 7 different hotels during our stay, mostly pre-booked as there were 5 of us but none was full because tourism numbers were well down on normal levels. They were not cheap nor really expensive.
Most of the islands are Americanized with fast food, some decent restaurants and stores selling western items. The US dollar is used throughout. Maps are available at tourist offices or car-rental offices at airports.
The weather was mostly a mixture of sun and cloud with heavy showers on half of the days. It rained on and off on two days only. It could have been wetter, especially if we had gone later, eg March-April. The only near-problem was when the flight to Rota could not land due to poor visibility but persevered and made it at the last attempt. Had it failed, it would have flown on to Guam which would probably have cost us a day we could ill afford.
The US border agency now controls entry to Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas (Saipan and Rota) so 3 forms have to be completed for every admission on the Visa-waver programme for Europeans etc. The Federated States of Micronesia (Yap, Chuuk and Pohnpei) also require 2 or 3 forms for each state (and a tax of $ at each airport). Because of American paranoia about unwanted immigrants, citizens of some other countries, eg the Philippines, require visas, probably difficult to obtain, for all these islands. Entry to independent Palau is straightforward. Note that all the Federated States of Micronesia island impose a departure tax, varying from $15 - 20.
Summer Holiday, Saipan email@example.com – $242 for 2 nights in 2 big rooms, airport transfer, and transport first day. Free internet.
Sunrise, Rota – twin rooms $35, single $30, no food. 5 rooms. Tel: 1-670-532-0478 / Fax: 1-670-532-9275. Located near the airport in the village of Sinapalo.
Day’s Inn, Tumora, Guam – 2 rooms for $108, free airport transfer and internet.
Yvonne’s, Pohnpei - $155 for all (2 rooms).
Trukstop Hotel info@TrukStopHotel.com, Chuuk - $242 for 2 nights in 2 rooms
ESA Bay View Hotel, Yap. firstname.lastname@example.org - rooms $66 a night
DW Motel, Koror, Palau – $300+ for 2 rooms for 3 nights.
The success of the trip was greatly attributable to the help received from a number of people to whom we give our heartfelt thanks, most notably:-
Alan Olsen – spent 2 days guiding us on Palau, with his helpful assistant Milang Eberdong and the Museum’s vehicle.
Stan Taisacan – allowed us to visit his property on Rota to see Rota White-eye and told us sites for Guam Rail
Dave Klauber – gave extra info and a cassette of recordings.
John Mendiola – helped us find Guam Rail.
Doug Pratt – gave info and useful contacts.
Mandy Etpison – allowed us to search for owls on her property and gave info.
Pattersen Shed - arranged guiding and transport on Pohnpei.
Mason Fritz – arranged the day trip to Tol South, Chuuk.
Tilus Alfonso – guided us the first day on Yap.
Useful information was also gratefully received from Bill Raynor, Steve Smith, Guy Dutson, Phil Rostron, Daniel Vice and Suzanne Medina.
Sites for birds
We saw 38 of the possible 40 endemics relatively easily, it was just a matter of getting to the right habitat and altitude. Guam Rail was difficult and we didn’t try for Pohnpei Mountain Starling - the only recent documented specimen was collected in July 1995. Our guide claimed to have seen it on two recent occasions after a day’s trek into the upland forest on Pohnpei but as he called Mountain Starling for a Micronesian Starling while we were looking for Long-billed White-eye, I’m not sure it has been seen. The localities where we saw the birds are given in the Log later in the report.
Micronesian Honeyeater/Myzomela and Micronesian Starling are common and widespread.
The birds to see on the islands are as follows:-
Commonwealth Of Northern Marianas (Mariana Islands
Saipan – Micronesian/Mariana Scrubfowl, Guam Swiftlet, White-throated Ground-Dove, Mariana Fruit-Dove, Nightingale Reed-Warbler, Bridled White-eye, Golden White-eye.
Tinian - Tinian Monarch
Rota – Guam Rail, Rota White-eye, Mariana Crow
Federated States Of Micronesia
Pohnpei – Caroline Islands Ground-Dove, Pohnpei Lorikeet, Caroline Islands Swiftlet, Micronesian Kingfisher, Pohnpei Cicadabird, Caroline Islands Reed-Warbler, Pohnpei Fantail, Pohnpei Flycatcher, Grey White-eye, Long-billed White-eye.
Chuuk – Caroline Islands Ground-Dove, Caroline Islands Swiftlet, Caroline Islands Reed-Warbler, Truk Monarch, Oceanic Flycatcher, Caroline Islands/Citrine White-eye, Truk White-eye
Yap – White-throated Ground-Dove, Yap Cicadabird, Yap Monarch, Plain White-eye, Yap / Olive White-eye.
Palau – Micronesian/Palau Scrubfowl, Palau Ground-Dove, Palau Fruit-Dove, Micronesian Pigeon, Palau Owl, Palau Swiftlet, Rusty-Capped Kingfisher, Palau Cicadabird, Palau Bush-Warbler, Palau Fantail, Palau Flycatcher, Morningbird, Dusky White-eye, Giant White-eye.
The Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific – Pratt, Bruner, and Berrett. The field-guide to use for identification with good plates and text, if somewhat dated. A revision is in prep.
Birding In Micronesia with additional notes from Guy Dutson 10th Feb – 6th March 2002 – Steve Smith
Micronesia: 19th December 2002 - 1st January 2003, G Talbot and C Campion
Micronesia Trip Report – April 2004 - Dave Klauber
Jan 7 Fly Manila to Guam 23.10 – 04.40
Jan 8 Fly Guam to Saipan for a two nights stay 07.00 – 07.50. Half day trip to Tinian on Freedom Air.
Jan 9 Saipan
Jan 10 Saipan to Rota for a two nights stay, 11.50 – 12.25.
Jan 11 Rota
Jan 12 Rota to Guam for an overnight stay 10.20 - 11.00 on Freedom Air.
Jan 13 Fly Guam to Pohnpei 08.20 – 13.00.
Jan 14 Bird Pohnpei a.m., fly to Chuuk for a two nights stay 15.00 – 15.11.
Jan 15 Visit Day trip to Toll South by boat.
Jan 16 Fly Chuuk to Yap via Guam for a leisurely three nights stay 15.50 – 17.20, 19.45 – 21.20.
Jan 17-18 Yap
Jan 19 Another day on Yap till fly to Palau for a three and a half nights stay 22.10 – 22.15.
Jan 20 Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary, Babeldoab a.m. Koror p.m.
Jan 21 Day trip to the Rock Islands by boat.
Jan 22 Day on Koror including Long Island Park and the Sewage Farm.
Jan 23 Fly to Guam 02.35 – 05.30, day in Guam, evening flight to Manila 20.00 – 21.40
Arrived in Guam from Manila at about 5 a.m. and flew to Saipan at 7a.m., arriving 07.50. Collected by pre-booked Summer Holiday Hotel 15 mins from airport. Dropped bags and continued in hotel bus to the road to the water tank above the defunct Fiesta Shopping Mall (turn right immediately after the closed mall), forked right at the tank to the radar station atop Mt Petosukara. Dismissed the bus and spent several hours along the lower half of the road, finding a narrow “research trail” on the left, coming down, to give the best birding with Golden and Bridled White-eyes, White-throated Ground-Dove, Mariana Fruit-Dove and Rufous Fantail. Taped out Nightingale Reed-Warbler a little lower down at the entrance to the Hadderantanki Trail and watched a party of Guam Swiftlets, before the bus returned at noon to take us back to the hotel.
After burgers at the nearby MacDonalds, returned to the airport for the ten minute Freedom Air flight to Tinian ($69 return). Once on Tinian walked along the approach road to the airport and soon saw the island endemic, Tinian Monarch. Spent another hour or two birding, seeing a few more Monarchs, Golden White-eyes and other birds, and a Black Rat, before returning to Saipan. Hired a car at the airport with difficulty as all 6 companies claimed to have none available but Avis eventually obliged just before they closed at 6.
At 05.30 took the inland road north to the war memorials, the main aim being to see a Micronesian Scrubfowl. No joy for some time before deciding to concentrate on the forest behind the Korean memorial. Play-back came up trumps here as one responded and gave good views. Celebrated with a good Mac’s breakfast at 10. Returned to the memorials in the afternoon and birded a track opposite, seeing all the endemics except the Reed-Warbler and Swiftlet. Also went to Banzai Cliff and the Bird Island lookout but a Hawksbill Turtle was the only notable sighting. Another attempt at the scrubfowl was unsuccessful. Returned to the water tank area and soon saw the Nightingale Reed-Warbler singing along with good views of Fruit-and Ground-Doves. Good fish meal in a Chinese-type restaurant in Gorapan.
A rainy day. After a lie-in and free internet at the hotel, took the 11.30 flight to Rota. It circled for some time due to rain and low cloud but finally made it at 1 pm, thank goodness. We hired a car from Islander then drove to Sunrise Hotel 5 mins away, after booking rooms (cheapest on Rota I think) by phone. We drove to Songsong, the main village at the other end of the island, hoping to talk to someone from the Fish and Wildlife Dept. It was shut, being a Sunday, with no-one about but we were able to meet Stan Taisacan’s daughter who kindly escorted us up to Stan’s farm atop Mt Sabana. Here we talked to Stan, very helpful, and his son escorted us along a trail through big mossy trees. We soon saw a few Rota White-eyes, with their orange legs, looking like hybrids between Golden and Bridled. Unfortunately it was too wet to use my camera. We returned to Songsong and continued to the small Japanese cemetery, east of the waterfall, a Guam Rail reintroduction site, but no luck. Good food at the pizzeria in Songsong.
Drove to the Duge area east of the airport at dawn to look for Stan’s recommended site for the Rail. We weren’t sure where he meant although later realized we were in the right place, but no joy. Left at 8 and drove to the Mariana Crow area near the Bay viewpoint. Stopping at the first good view of the escarpment, at the end of the paved road, we soon heard a crow calling. It then responded to play-back and eventually came in quite close but partly hidden in the foliage, before returning to the forest. Further efforts to see it were unsuccessful but another crow flew across from higher up. Driving further along the track back to Songsong, we encountered a crow-researcher who told us they were breeding now but only 200 birds remained – Critically Endangered indeed. We went to the Seabird Sanctuary viewpoint and enjoyed the views of breeding Boobies and Tropicbirds, then spent some time trying to contact John Mendiola, the rail expert, finally locating him at his house near the pizzeria! He agreed to come with us to Duge; we heard one rail in response to play-back but no sightings. After failing to find a restaurant near the airport/ hotel, had to return to the pizzeria in Songsong.
We drove to Duge with John before dawn. He lined us up on a grassy trail and when we played the call at first light, there was an immediate response, the bird coming towards us. Two birds were visible but it was rather dim and they soon went into the longer grass. Unfortunately, they could not be enticed out again. Whether a spotlight would have improved the sighting is debatable. We tried elsewhere with no response at all and left at 9 am for the hotel, with a quick stop at Rota Country Club SF to look for waterbirds, only seeing Brown Noddies. At the airport for the 10.20 Freedom Air flight to Guam, we had to wait over an hour for the plane’s arrival. We landed at Guam at 12.30 and booked into Days Inn, after a long wait for its shuttle bus. Keith and I walked to the pleasant beach a mile away, seeing 4 species, most notably a Yellow Bittern flying overhead – so the Brown Snake hasn’t got everything yet.
06.30 shuttle bus to the airport for the 08.20 shuttle flight to Hawaii via various islands including the Marshall Islands. First stop was Chuuk where we had to alight so the aircraft’s seats could be checked for dangerous items! Ticked Caroline Reed-Warbler on the ground and in a Jacaranda bush while waiting to reboard at 11.35. Had to wait 10 mins for flight clearance from San Fransisco on the other side of the Pacific! Landed at Pohnpei at 1 pm and taken to the Conservation Society of Pohnpei’s (CSP) office in Kolonia, as pre-arranged. Then after checking in at Yvonne’s Hotel, we were driven by Reagan and guided by Nixon (don’t know what happened to Clinton), both spaced out on betel nut, to the pumping station where others had seen most of the island endemics. A few stops gave Micronesian Kingfisher, Pohnpei Fantail and Grey and Citrine White-eyes. Walked up a ridge trail through fern forest, suitable for Long-billed White-eye, seeing little in the rainy conditions except Palau Flycatcher. Returned to the office to meet Pattersen Shed, CSP’s Director, then searched nearby mangroves for Pohnpei Cicadabird, said to be a preferred habitat, but only saw Crimson-crowned Fruit-Dove and the smart Pohnpei Lorikeet, the only native parrot of the whole trip. Ate at Yvonne’s restaurant.
Ready to leave at 6 am at first light but no sign of Nixon. Saw a few birds while waiting, Micronesian Kingfisher being the best, but he didn’t come till 07.30, claiming he thought we didn’t want him till 8! This was rather frustrating as this leg of the trip was the tightest for time – we only had 6 hours left to find Long-billed White-eye and the Cicadabird. More time was wasted looking for the vehicle, then we drove partly round the island in a southerly direction to Madolenihmw Province, turning inland through a village and up through long grass for some 10 mins before the track ran out at 210m asl. This area was called Oukitor, quite a gamble as we’d never heard of anyone coming here before, the normal route being a hard slog up the main mountain to at least 300m.
We then walked up into a large patch of excellent fern forest, after seeing a Micronesian Pigeon well in flight – a rarely spotted bird on Pohnpei. We climbed to 280m and found a single Long-billed White-eye then spent some time trying to find one of the group who had disappeared, much to the distress of Nixon. He eventually turned up, like a bad penny, and took us to a fruiting tree he’d found where we watched 2 groups of 4 Long-billed White-eyes feeding. He had also seen a male Cicadabird there but it didn’t show before we had to leave in a hurry at 11.50. a couple of stops at mangroves were fruitless, we quickly collected our bags and reached the airport at 13.55 just as the check-in was closing.
The flight left a little late at 3 and landed at Chuuk at 03.30, 1 hr behind Pohnpei. We were taken on heavily potholed roads to the nice Truck Stop Hotel in the main town of Weno. We negotiated a reasonable deal and ate good steaks at the restaurant. We arranged a speed-boat and guides for our trip to Tol South the next day with Mason Fritz the office next door. This was the one occasion when we were exploited: it was very expensive - $300 for a boat with no seats or cover, plus $80 fuel, $50 boatman and $100 for guides, total $106 each. We accepted because we wanted a reliable arrangement – others have had difficulties finding the way up the mountain; we would be going to Munien village where Mason’s wife’s uncle lived and would organize the guides.
An early morning walk along the road gave Yellow Bittern, Grey-tailed Tattler, White Tern, Black Noddy, Caroline Islands Reed-Warbler and our first Barn Swallows of the trip. At 09.50 we set-off for Toll South on the far side of Chuuk lagoon, arriving at 11.00; terns en route included a few Bridled. A slow walk up mount Winipot with numerous guides, steep at times but fairly easy, gave Oceanic Flycatcher, a pair of the smart Truk Monarch and eventually 3 Great Truk White-eyes at 210m. We continued to 280m and watched another 3 White-eyes while having lunch, then descended to the village, arriving at 03.30. Said our goodbyes and headed back to Weno, taking nearly two hours, quite rough at times, so were pleased when we landed, wet-through. A well-organised day, luckily with no rain.
Mason drove us up the hill to the Japanese Gun site on the outskirts of town. We soon saw Blue-faced Parrotfinch, Oceanic Flycatcher and Caroline Islands Ground-Dove. Caroline Island Swiftlets flew very close at the mouth of the gun cave and the marsh far below held our only ducks of the trip - Pintail and Black Duck – and 3 White-winged Black-Terns. We walked back down to the town, having good views of Citrine White-eyes and Caroline Islands Reed-Warbler. Terns fishing and roosting off-shore included Black-naped and both Noddies. Keith and Neil went snorkeling off the jetty, seeing lots of fish. By the time I tried it started raining heavily so I soon gave up. To the airport at 1.45 pm, the flight left on time at 3.50 and arrived at Guam at 5.20, then took the 7.55 flight to Yap, arriving at 9.30 pm. Here we were given flower garlands by bare-breasted maidens before being taken to the ESA Bay View Hotel by its driver Tilus Alfonso.
Tilus, a knowledgeable bird-guide, took us along the Fanif trails and road north of town from 7 till 11.30. We saw Plain and Yap Olive White-eyes, Yap Monarch, a few Micronesian Pigeons in flight and 1 perched up distantly, and White-headed Ground Dove on the roadside. After grilled fish lunch at the hotel, we returned for a similar itinerary to look for the final “endemic-to-be” the Yap Cicadabird. A perched male gave a good view, 3 female types flew over calling and some saw a single female. We stopped to view a men’s house where ceremonial “stone money” was on show – large grinding-wheel like stones brought all the way from Palau in small boats. Also heard about the still active caste system, with 7 castes, and the unique language. Yap was the least spoilt of the islands we visited, with a population said to be only 16, 000. Late afternoon we watched for some time a pair of Olive White-eyes “snuggled together” and allopreening – video’d by Norman.
Birding with Tilus as before 06.30 – 11.30, concentrating on the west end of Tamilyog Trail. Good view of a perched Pigeon this time but the only Cicadabird was one in flight for Norman. Shown clam shell money used for dowries. After a siesta we did our own things – Norman cycled to the south of the island and saw a good selection of waders on the coast including Grey Plover and Greater Sand-Plover. I spent the afternoon on the Tamilyog Trail including the open plateau on the middle of the island, covered mainly by Pandanus-type palms – same birds, but no Cicadabird.
A pre-breakfast walk to the causeway gave a scarce Grey Heron and Black-tailed Godwit. After breakfast, 3 of us had an outing in the lagoon on Klaus’s diving boat, while Norman cycled and Neil rested due to illness. We cruised through mangroves along the German canal to a Manta Ray “cleaning station” where the divers saw rays on the bottom and Keith saw many fish by snorkeling, then went to another snorkeling area where I joined in and saw many colourful reef fish. After lunch, Keith and Dave joined a fishing expedition with Klaus in the hope of seeing some interesting seabirds and mammals – a pod of Spinner Dolphins was the highlight. I walked across the island on the Tamilyog Trail – a nice walk with good views of Olive White-eyes. 8.30 pm shuttle bus for the hour long flight to Palau, arriving at 22.20. Met by the DW Motel bus and taken to the hotel for a short night’s sleep.
Collected by Alan Olsen and Milang at 05.25 and drove to the newly established Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary (Ngerutechei IBA), the first official bird sanctuary on Palau, which mainly consists of swamp forest, on the big island of Babeldoab. Soon saw Micronesian Pigeon, Nicobar Pigeon in flight, Dusky White-eye, Palau Fantail, Palau Fruit-Dove, Palau Flycatcher, a displaying pair of Micronesian Kingfisher and found a pair of Palau Bush-Warbler feeding low in the undergrowth. Missed Morningbird and the ground-dove but eventually saw a single White-breasted Wood-Swallow of the scarce local race with black, not grey plumage. A good start! Visited Etpison Museum, to view the interesting displays and contact the owner Mandy Etpison, renowned for her excellent bird photos. Spoke to her on the phone, and was invited to meet her at her Neco Bar later. After brunch at Rock Island Café, some of us went to the Belau National Museum where Alan worked. Viewed the exhibits and toured the finely painted bai (men’s meeting house), then returned to the hotel. Visited Sam’s Dive Tours to arrange a day trip to the Rock Islands on the morrow - $425 dollars for a good, large fast boat with seats and cover, and a young bird guide. Had to buy a Koror State Government permit to visit the islands - $35 each.
To Neco bar at 6 where we all had the rare experience of being bought a drink by an attractive blond! Mandy agreed to escort us up the very steep drive to her house to look for Palau Owl. Owls were calling when we arrived at 7 and responded excitedly to playback, even calling in flight, when a couple were seen as shapes. Couldn’t get a decent view so went behind the large house and at 7.25 pm managed to call in and spot-light one bird well. Back to the Rock Island Café for supper.
Collected from hotel at 6ish, taken to Sam’s dive centre, left for Ulong Is. at 6.30. Soon saw 4 Tropical (Audubon’s) Shearwaters, though one flew like a Pterodroma. Ashore after 40 mins, walked right, along the bottom edge of the cliff and had good views of Micronesian Scrubfowl, Palau Ground-dove and Morningbird, plus several rats. Left at 09.30 for Margie’s Beach on Urukthapel island, a 30 min ride. As I stepped off the boat, I slipped and the tip of my big lens dipped into the shallow sea – the end of bird photography for the day. We looked for the Cicadabird where sometimes seen, without success but did find a perched imm. Nicobar Pigeon, and a few Giant White-eye, among numerous Myzomelas, feeding on the flowers of huge wax-apple trees. We left at 1.30 on a scenic journey through the limestone Rock Islands, all heavily forested. The strong trade winds gave some choppiness, but not bad. We stopped to snorkel for a goodly period – lots of fish and fine coral – and returned to Sam’s at 4.30 just as the heavens opened. Celebrated a great day with the best beer of the trip – draught Red Rooster, brewed on Palau.
Alan and Milang picked us up at 6 and took us to Long Island Park, a recreation area running along one side of a rock island in the middle of the causeway connecting Koror to Malakal, by a Mobil station. Almost the first bird we saw was a Micronesian Kingfisher on a wire, followed by a flock of Parrotfinch and close Palau Flycatchers and Fantails. We walked to the end of the paved road and saw a movement in a tree halfway up the cliff. It was a Palau Cicadabird, elusive at first but soon a pair appeared and dropped down to a nearby forest patch. I cursed the fact that my camera was still defunct but enjoyed wonderful views of the birds feeding and preening for at least 10 mins as close as 4m at times – would have made great shots! One took an orange berry but dropped it – they are primarily insectivorous. They moved away to more extensive forest, so we returned to the car, having seen our last objective. There I discovered my camera had dried out and was working, so I returned to the Cicadabird site (at 9 am) only to find bird activity had died. A Yellow Wagtail was the only bird of note.
We drove to Koror Sewage Farm where a good selection of waders included Marsh Sandpipers and a Long-toed Stint, while 3 Whiskered Terns gave great views in flight. It was surprising to see at least 4 of the waders, all different species, were ringed with metal rings and blue rings on the same tibia, which had been done in Japan. A distant warbler in a small bush was puzzle, unlikely to be resolved. We revisited the Museum and made a contribution to its funds, for the help received by employees Alan and Milang, then had an excellent lunch at Kramers Café, while Black-headed Gulls and Crested Terns fished in the harbour close by. A visit to the dump was notable for the many Rufous Night-Herons and nearby waders which included Tattlers and another stint. Returning to Long Island proved disappointing with only a Morningbird of note in the forest, and a few Black Noddies and Black-naped Terns fishing in the sea. After supper at a Chinese restaurant, because Rock Island Café was closed, we rested at the hotel before going to the airport at 12pm for the 02.35 flight to Guam, en route to Manila. There are direct flights to Manila, which would have saved us a day, but the extra cost would have been approx $500!
Arrived in Guam on time at 05.30, transferred to a large room at Days Hotel where 4 of us shared 2 large beds. DP disappeared, returning later with food and drink and a hire-car, his “treat” to celebrate the end of a great trip. We failed to find any notable birds, apart from some 25 Yellow Bitterns flying to and from the coast to a small island covered with low vegetation, in the sea, but did enjoy a barbeque lunch, courtesy of locals at the coast who were having birthday celebrations. This “ended in tears” when the car keys were lost and we had to wait for Thrifty to come with another set, and a big bill (greatly reduced later). We caught the 8pm flight to Manila for a good night’s sleep prior to going home via Hong Kong and Qatar.
Tropical Shearwater Puffinus bailloni: 4 in flight from the boat not far from Koror on the Palau Rock Islands trip.
White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus: Small numbers on Rota, Pohnpei, Truk (Chuuk) and Palau.
Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda: 5 along the Bird Sanctuary cliffs, Rota.
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster: 5 at the Bird Sanctuary on Rota and off-shore at Guam.
Red-footed Booby Sula sula: 150+ breeding at the Bird Sanctuary on Rota.
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor: 4 over the Bird Sanctuary on Rota, 1 in Chuuk lagoon.
Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis: Widespread and fairly common throughout, the highest concentration being 25 on a low islet off Guam.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea: One on Yap. A rare wanderer to Micronesia.
Great White-Egret Ardea alba: 1 or 2 on Palau.
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia: One on Yap and 2 on Koror, Palau.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta: One at Koror Sewage Farm (SF), Palau.
Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra: 1 or 2 on most islands except Saipan, with up to 15 on Yap.
(Eastern) Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis coromandus: 1 or 2 on Truk and Palau, with up to 10 on Yap.
Rufous Night-Heron Nycticorax caledonicus: 3 on Truk and 25 on Palau, mainly at the tip.
Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa: 10 at the marsh on Weno, Truk.
Pintail Anas acuta: A pair at the marsh on Truk.
Accipiter sp. One in flight on Rota on Jan 11 (NB), Chinese Goshawk being the most likely.
Micronesian Megapode / Scrubfowl) Megapodius laperouse: One of the nominate form on Saipan, now proposed as separate species – Mariana Scrubfowl – from the Palau form Palau Megapode / Scrubfowl Megapodius senex of which 3 were seen on Ulong in the Rock Islands
Banded (or Buff-banded) Rail Rallus philippensis: singles at Koror SF and Koror tip, Palau.
Guam Rail Rallus owstoni: 2 seen briefly at dawn at Duge on Rota and 1 heard calling the previous evening. The introduction programme in progress, from captive bred birds on Guam (where it is now extinct due to predation of eggs and young by the introduced Brown Tree Snake) is said to be struggling for success.
White-browed Crake Porzana cinerea: 4 at a small pool on Yap.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus: 3 on Truk.
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva: Widespread and often common, with a max of 50 on Saipan + Tinian.
Black-bellied/Grey Plover Pluvius squatarola: 1 on Yap.
Greater Sandplover Charadrius leschenaultii: 2 on Yap.
Black-tailed Godwit limosa limosa: 1 on Yap.
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus: Singles on Truk and Palau, up to 9 on Yap.
Common Redshank Tringa tetanus: 1 at Koror SF.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis: 3 at Koror SF.
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia: 4 at Koror, Palau.
Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta: singles at Koror SF and near Koror tip. A second stint at the SF was considered to be a Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii by DP who returned there in the afternoon: “a classic Temmincks with short greenish yellow legs, good breast band, white outers in flight, and right calls”.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola: 5 on Palau.
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes: Singles on Truk, up to 50 on Yap and up to 8 on Palau.
Common Sandpiper Actitus hypoleucos: widespread in small numbers excluding the Marianas with a max of 9 at Yap.
Turnstone Arenaria interpres: locally common and widespread with a max of 22 at Yap, 20 at Palau and 11 on Tinian airstrip.
Swinhoe's Snipe Gallinago megala: 2 at Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary, Palau.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus: One on Yap and 6 at Koror. Another at one of Palau’s Rock Islands.
Crested Tern Sterna bergii: 2-4 at Pohnpei and Truk, up to 8 on Palau.
Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana: Up to 13 on Truk, 22 on Yap and 30 on Palau.
Bridled Tern Sterna anaethetus: 2 in Truk lagoon and 15 during on the Rock Island boat trip, Palau.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida: 3 at Koror SF, Palau. 3 distant marsh terns over pond and marshes from Japanese Gun above Weno, Truk were thought to be White-winged Black Terns Chlidonias hybridus.
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus: Widespread and often common on all major islands, with a max of 250 at the Bird sanctuary on Rota.
Black Noddy Anous minutus: Common in Palau with small numbers at Truk and Yap.
White/Fairy Tern Gygis alba: Widespread and common on all major islands except Guam.
Island Collared-Dove Streptopelia bitorquata: Fairly common on Saipan and Rota, where it has been introduced, with a few on Guam and Palau.
Nicobar Pigeon Caloenas nicobarica: Two singles flew surprisingly high over Babeldaob and 2 flushed from Margies Beach, Palau, one of which, an immature, perched up.
White-throated Ground-Dove Gallicolumba erythroptera: Commonly seen in flight on Saipan, with one nest-building, and a few on Tinian and 1 or 2 on Rota. The form on Yap is a proposed split -
White-headed Ground-Dove Gallicolumba yapensis – up to 4 daily.
Caroline Islands Ground-Dove Gallicolumba kubaryi: A male at Pohnpei and a total of five at Truk.
Palau Ground-Dove Gallicolumba canifrons: two in flight at Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary and 2 males and 2 females of these shy birds on Ulong Island.
Crimson-crowned/Caroline Islands Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus (porphyaceus) ponapensis: 10 at Pohnpei, 2 on both days at Truk.
Palau Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus pelewensis: Up to 7 daily on Palau.
Mariana Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus roseicapilla: A few on Saipan and Rota.
Micronesian (Imperial) Pigeon Ducula oceanica: 1 in flight on Pohnpei (rarely seen here), 3 or 4 daily on Yap, 5 seen at Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary in Palau and heard on the Rock Islands.
Pohnpei Lory (or Pohnpei Lorikeet) Trichoglossus rubiginosus: Fairly common on Pohnpei.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita: 3 of these introduced birds on Ulong, Palau‘s Rock islands, and 1 on Koror.
Eclectus Parrot Eclectus roratus: Two singles of this introduced species over Palau’s Rock Islands
Palau Owl Pyrrhoglaux podargina: one in the spotlight on Palau, 2 sightings of dark shapes and others heard calling. A locally common bird but difficult to see and often missed by birders.
Palau Swiftlet Aerodramus pelewensis: Very common and widespread in Palau.
Guam Swiftlet Aerodramus bartschi: 10 on Saipan.
Caroline Islands Swiftlet Aerodramus inquietus: 20-25 on Pohnpei and up to 50 on Truk.
Collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris: Up to 5 daily on Palau. The White-headed Kingfisher Halcyon c. albicilla was common on Saipan and Tinian, as was Rota Kingfisher Halcyon c. orii on Rota.
Micronesian Kingfisher Halcyon cinnamominus occurs in 2 forms: Rusty-capped Kingfisher pelewensis: a pair displaying at Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary in Palau and a single at Long Island Park, Palau; and Pohnpei Kingfisher Halcyon c. reichenbachii: 1 on 13th and 4 on 14th on Pohnpei.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rusticola: Up to 10 on Truk and 20 in Palau. A swallow by the mangroves on Yap was thought to be a Pacific by the only one of the group to see it well.
Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens: this rarity was claimed by DP at Koror SF when he revisited by himself.
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus: Unfortunately common on Rota, where it has been introduced.
Mariana Crow Corvus kubaryi: Two were seen and a third bird heard on Rota.
Slender-billed Cicadabird Coracina tenuirostris: the 3 forms of this species in Micronesia, all scarce, are best considered separate species. Doug Pratt says he will split them in his revised version of the field-guide as follows:-
Palau Cicadabird Coracina monachum: A pair feeding at Long Island Park gave spectacular views.
Yap Cicadabird Coracina nesiotis A perched male seen well on the Tamilyog Trail, 3 female-types flew over calling and 2 singles were seen by only one or two of us.
Pohnpei Cicadabird Coracina insperatum: Another uncommon bird, the only sighting being a male in the forest at Oukitor on Pohnpei (DP).
Morningbird Colluricincla tenebrosa: This fine songster, classed as a Shrike-thrush, was not uncommon on Palau, especially on Ulong Island.
Yap Monarch Monarcha godeffroyi: Fairly common on Yap, with up to 10 daily. The immature plumage is very different from the black and white adults.
Tinian Monarch Monarcha takatsukasae: Fairly common on Tinian.
Truk Monarch Metabolus rugiensis: A pair half-way up the mountain on Truk south, was the only sighting, the mainly white male was very striking and had an unusual call for a monarch.
Oceanic Flycatcher Myiagra oceanica: Three similar forms of this are classed as one species by HBW11 but split by other authorities, eg Clements, into 3 island species, all fairly common. This one is confined to Truk.
Palau (Mangrove) Flycatcher Myiagra (oceanica) erythrops: Up to 10 a day on Palau.
Pohnpei Flycatcher Myiagra (oceanica) pluto: Common on Pohnpei.
Palau Fantail Rhipidura lepida: Fairly common in Palau.
Rufous Fantail Rhipidura rufifrons: Common on Saipan, Tinian, Rota and Yap.
Pohnpei Fantail Rhipidura kubaryi: Common on Pohnpei. Classed as a form of Rufous Fantail by HBW11.
Palau Bush Warbler Cettia annae: Widespread and fairly common in Palau, although more often heard than seen.
Nightingale Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus luscinia: Only 1 was seen on Saipan, although we did not try hard for others. Classed as Critically Endangered, probably appropriate .
Caroline Islands Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus syrinx: Only 1 seen on Pohnpei but seemed common on Truk in scrappy habitat, even seen in the small garden at the airport.
Warbler species: the most enigmatic bird of the trip was a distant warbler in a lone bush at Koror SF on top of flat-roofed building. It did not appear to be a Bush-Warbler, more like an Accrocephalus but seemed too small for an Oriental Reed-Warbler so what could be? Seemed to be medium sized, unmarked, unstreaked with chestnut in plumage.
Micronesian Starling Aplonis opaca: Common and widespread throughout except Guam.
Micronesian Honeyeater (or Micronesian Myzomela) Myzomela rubratra: Very common and widespread throughout, except Guam where none seen.
Bridled White-eye Zosterops conspicillatus (saypani): Very common on Saipan and Tinian. Pratt et al lump this form with Rota White-eye Z.rotensis, which looks quite distinct – like a hybrid of Bridled and Golden White-eyes. Pratt says he will split it, as already done by HBW, in the revised field-guide.
Rota (Bridled) White-eye Zosterops rotensis: Only a few seen on Stan Taisacan’s property on Rota. Classed as Critically Endangered, probably appropriate because it needs hill forest, which is in short supply.
Caroline Islands White-eye Zosterops semperi: Common on Truk but seemed uncommon on Pohnpei and Palau.
Dusky White-eye Zosterops finschii: Locally common on Palau.
Grey (or Grey-brown) White-eye Zosterops cinereus: Common on Pohnpei.
Golden White-eye Cleptornis marchei: This lovely bird was not uncommon on Saipan. Classed as Critically Endangered, though Endangered would probably suffice.
(Great) Truk White-eye Rukia ruki: Two parties of 3 birds were seen on Tol South at 210-250m. Classed as Critically Endangered, probably correctly as it appears to occur in hill forest on only this one island.
Yap/Olive White-eye Rukia oleaginea: Uncommon, though a total of 12 was seen on our full day in the field.
Long-billed White-eye Rukia longirostra: The need to climb up to nearly 300m on Pohnpei makes it difficult to assess how common this species is. We saw 1 feeding alone, then 4 together in a fruiting tree and possibly another 4.
Giant White-eye Megazosterops palauensis: Restricted to Palau’s Rock Islands – common on Peleliu, the outermost island we didn’t go to. We saw at least 5 feeding in flowering wax-apple trees but may have struggled to see it without taking the longer trip to Peleliu if these trees had not been flowering. An unusual, mechanical-type call was distinctive.
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla [flava] tschutschensis: One on the coast at Long Island Park, Palau and a wagtail seen briefly by NW on Yap was likely to have been this sp.
White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorhynchus: Only 1 of this scarce endemic form at Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary, Babeldaob on Palau.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus: This introduced species was locally common on Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Rota, Yap and Palau.
Blue-faced Parrotfinch Erythrura trichroa: At least 2 at the Japanese Gun site on Truk, and 10 at Long Island Park and 5 at Koror SF, Palau.
Scaly-breasted Munia) Lonchura punctulata: Up to 30 daily of this introduced species on Yap.
Chestnut Munia Lonchura atricapilla: Up to 20 daily of this introduced species on Palau.
Hunstein's Munia Lonchura hunsteini: 1 of this introduced species on Pohnpei
Polynesian Rat Rattus exulans: a few on Ulong Island, Palau.
Black Rat Rattus rattus: Singles on Tinian and Rota, Yap and Palau.
Chuuk (or Truk) Flying Fox Pteropus insularis: a few?
Marianas Flying Fox Pteropus mariannus: small numbers on Rota and Pohnpei.
Palau Flying Fox Pteropus pelewensis: up to 20 daily on Palau.
Yap Flying Fox Pteropus yapensis: small numbers on Yap.
Pacific Sheath-tailed Bat Emballonura semicaudata : up to 15 daily on Palau.
Spinner (Long-snouted) Dolphin Stenella longirostris:- pod of at least 10 accompanied boat for 10 minutes just outside reef to SE of Yap.