BIRDING AROUND THE WORLD

Subtitle

NEW CALEDONIA  14-17 December 1999

 

I made a short trip to New Caledonia from Sydney to see as many of the mainland specialities as possible. I was satisfied with my 19 ticks, including stellar views of the incomparable Kagu, missing only the difficult Grassbird and White-bellied Goshawk, the latter probably due to continuous rain on my third day. Three other endemics appear to be extinct, although a sighting of the owlet-nightjar was claimed earlier in the year. With an extra day, I would have flown to Lifou for the two endemic white-eyes and Red-bellied Fruit-Dove.

COST

Flight: South Pacific airpass $440 plus tax = c£280. Car hire: c£70 from Avis ((3 day rental, 150 km per day free, extra km would have been expensive) using ABA discount no. AWD A843000; petrol £13.

Drink, tolls, Parc entrance fees and food bought on New Cal (most was taken with me from Oz) c.£12 including 2 beers for nearly £5.Beat that for a budget tour of this expensive island.

LOG

Dec 14

Arrived 01.15, 6 hours late due to an Air Calin plane failure (discovered before I left for Sydney airport fortunately). Picked up Avis car, despite late hour, and drove to Riviere Bleue. After 3 hrs sleep in car outside entrance, was directed at 06.55 by the Parc chief to the Grand Kaori where Yves Letocart awaited me; Dark-brown Honeyeater and New Cal Cuckoo-shrike en route. 07.30-14.30 with Yves in that area, seeing 13 of the specialities including great views of Kagu, Cloven-feathered Dove, and Crow Honeyeater. Rest of day birding alone without additional specialities, overnighting in car at Pont Germain “camp site”. Sun and cloud, dry all day.

Dec 15

05.00-11.00 birding in the Parc, only adding Myzomela, Red-fronted Parakeet and poor view of Barred Honeyeater. Slow drive out with stops failed to give expected Parrotfinch. Drive to Mt Koghi. Walk up Grande Piste to Belvedere and Vue Pointe, adding New Cal Flycatcher and Barred Honeyeater, before heavy rain stopped play. Overnight in car (thought of going to the recommended YHA in Noumea but couldn’t be bothered) after 2 beers at the Auberge. Cloudy in morn, rain most of afternoon.

Dec 16

05.00-10.00 Mt Koghi in the rain, trying for Grassbird (not even heard) but only adding Melanesian Cuckoo-shrike and poor view of Red-throated Parrotfinch. Drove to Noumea, checking coast at Magenta Bay and Anse Vata, for waders (Bristle-thighed Curlew possible according to Wheatley), only seeing Wandering Tattler, and looking for fresh water without success. Drove to Mt Mou but too wet to be worth climbing. Tried coastal strip at Nde – still no Parrotfinch but an accipiter caused brief excitement till I found it was Brown Gos. Overnight in car below Mt Mou. Rain all day, heavy at times. Half wished I’d gone to Lifou but later learnt there was 56mm of rain there compared to only 7mm in Noumea!

Dec 17

05.00-06.20 Mt Mou 350-550m, dry at last, finally spotting single Parrotfinch in tree amongst a flock of Waxbill. 08.00 flight to Sydney.

SITES

Parc Provincial de la Riviere Bleue

Holds all the existing endemics although some are difficult to see, especially the grassbird. Essential to contact Christophe Lambert, Yves Letocart’s boss for permission for Yves’s help – fax 243256. He will contact Yves and presumably tell you if he is not available. Make sure you ask for a day during Tues – Friday and bring red wine for Yves. Permits unnecessary, pay at gate which is open 07.00-17.00.

Mont Koghi

Cuckoo-shrikes, New Cal Fly, Striated Starling and in my case Barred Honeyeater seem to be easier here than at Riviere Bleuee and Grassbird is possible. If dry, raptor watching from vicinity of Auberge would probably give the Gos. 

Mont Mou

This site might be better than Mt Koghi. Take the road to the international airport (45km from Noumea) and as it winds upwards some 30km from Noumea, at the highest point take an unsigned unmetalled road on the right to the Sanatorium. After 2km park at a pull-in just before a bridge over a stream, perhaps 500m before the Sanatorium entrance. Walk back c100m to an inconspicuous track, steep at first, which goes up the hillside. It soon enters good forest, then stunted forest with an excellent view-point at 550m – the Gos should be a certainty from here on a decent morning. The grassland higher up looked good for the Grassbird but I did not have time to reach it.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Many thanks to Neil Bostock, Peter Lansley and Jan Vermeulen for helpful advice, but especially to Yves Letocart for helping me find the birds at Riviere Bleue.

 

SYSTEMATIC LIST

Little Pied Cormorant                           Phalacrocorax melanoleucos

Singles Riviere Bleue and Noumea

 

White-faced Heron                                Egretta novaehollandiae

1 Riviere Bleue

 

Pacific Reef-Egret                                 Egretta sacra

2 Noumea

 

Whistling Kite                                      Haliastur sphenurus

4 Riviere Bleue

 

Swamp Harrier                                                 Circus approximans

1 Riviere Bleue and 2 near Noumea

 

Brown Goshawk                                   Accipiter fasciatus

Singles near Noumea and Mt Mou

 

Kagu                                                    Rhynochetos jubatus

8 Riviere Bleue on 14/12 and 4 on 15/12, including 3 feeding at the campsite late pm and early am.

 

Wandering Tattler                                             Heteroscelus incanus

2 on rocks Noumea

 

Silver Gull                                            Larus novaehollandiae

Common on coast

 

Great Crested-Tern                               Sterna bergii

1 Noumea

 

Black-naped Tern                                 Sterna sumatrana

2+ Nde

 

Metallic Pigeon                                    Columba vitiensis

2 singles Mount Koghi

 

Emerald Dove                                                  Chalcophaps indica

2 singles Riviere Bleue

 

Spotted Dove                                       Streptopeia chinensis

Fairly common Noumea area

 

Cloven-feathered Dove                         Drepanoptila holosericea

Singles Riviere Bleue and in flight Mount Koghi with several heard including 1 on Mt Mou

 

New Caledonian Imperial-Pigeon         Ducula goliath

3 Riviere Bleue and 1 Mount Koghi with others heard

 

Red-fronted Parakeet                            Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae

Only 1 Riviere Bleue 15/12

 

Horned Parakeet                                               Eunymphicus cornutus

Only 1 Riviere Bleue 14/12

 

Rainbow Lorikeet                                 Trichoglossus haematodus

Fairly common throughout

 

Fan-tailed Cuckoo                                Cacomantis flabelliformis

Heard Riviere Bleue and Mt Koghi with 1 seen at the latter

 

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo                       Chrysococcyx lucidus

2 heard Mt Koghi

 

Barn Owl                                              Tyto alba

1 near Noumea at night

 

Glossy Swiftlet                                     Aerodramus esculenta

A few throughout

 

Uniform Swiftlet                                   Aerodramus vanikorensis

Only 1 identified, at Mt Koghi

 

Sacred Kingfisher                                            Todirhamphus sanctus

3 Riviere Bleue and 2 Mt Koghi and near Noumea

 

Fan-tailed Gerygone                             Gerygone flavolateralis

Fairly common Riviere Bleue and  Mt Koghi with a few elsewhere

 

Dark-brown Honeyeater                        Lichmera incana

Common throughout

 

New Caledonian Myzomela                  Myzomela caledonica

3 Riviere Bleue and 2 Mt Koghi and Mt Mou

 

New Caledonian Friarbird                     PhileMou diemenensis

Fairly common Riviere Bleue but only 2 seen Mt Koghi, heard Mt Mou

 

Crow Honeyeater                                  Gymnomyza aubryana

Only 1 Riviere Bleue

 

Barred Honeyeater                                Phylidonyris undulata

2 in flight Riviere Bleue and 2 Mt Koghi

 

Yellow-bellied Robin                            Eopsaltria flaviventris

6+ Riviere Bleue and Mt Koghi

 

New Caledonian Whistler                     Pachycephala caledonica

2+ Riviere Bleue and Mt Koghi

 

Rufous Whistler                                               Pachycephala rufiventris

10 Riviere Bleue and 2+ Mt Koghi, Mt Mou and Noumea

 

Grey Fantail                                         Rhipidura fuliginosa

3 Noumea and 2 heard Mt Koghi

 

Streaked Fantail                                   Rhipidura spilodera

2+ Mt Mou and near Noumea, with 2 heard Mt Koghi

 

Southern Shrikebill                              Clytorhynchus pachycephaloides

Only 1 seen Riviere Bleue but 3 heard there and 1 heard at Mt Koghi

 

New Caledonian Flycatcher                  Myiagra caledonica

2+ Mt Koghi

 

New Caledonian Crow                                      Corvus Moueduloides

4 Riviere Bleue on 14/12 only – using stalks to extract grubs from trunks

 

White-breasted Woodswallow               Artamus leucorynchus

6+ Riviere Bleue, 4 Mt Koghi and 1 Noumea

 

Melanesian Cuckoo-shrike                   Coracina caledonica

2+ Mt Koghi and 1 Mt Mou

 

New Caledonian Cuckoo-shrike            Coracina analis

1 in flight and 2 heard Riviere Bleue, and an imm. Mt Koghi

 

Long-tailed Triller                                Lalage leucopyga

6+ Riviere Bleue and singles Mt Koghi, Mt Mou and Noumea

 

Striated Starling                                   Aplonis striata

Only 1 Riviere Bleue but 8+ Mt Koghi

 

Common Myna                                     Acridotheres tristis

Common Noumea and beyond

 

Silver-eye                                             Zosterops lateralis

Common Noumea and beyond

 

Green-backed White-eye          Zosterops xanthochrous

6+ Riviere Bleue and 10+ Mt Koghi and Mt Mou

 

House Sparrow                                                Passer domesticus

Common around Noumea

 

Common Waxbill                                 Estrilda astrild

Common around Noumea (introduced) and beyond including Mt Mou

 

Red-throated Parrotfinch                      Erythrura psittacea

4 in flight at Mt Koghi and 1 Mt Mou

 

Chestnut-breasted Munia                      Lonchura castaneothorax

2 of this introduced sp. at Magenta near Noumea

 

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