Bird watching with Sicklebill Safaris

by Delia on August 19, 2012

Phil Gregory of Sicklebill Safaris, a highly respected bird watching guide, came to Daku for a week in June. His report of the week follows – or you can open the pdf to see it with pictures.

 

 

Fiji Bird Week Jun 13-20

Led by Phil Gregory

This was a very enjoyable, laid-back and successful inaugural Bird Week, set up by Daku Resort at Savusavu as a part of their programme of diverse activities, focussing on the accessible endemics of Vanua Levu and set during the winter season when the temperatures are very pleasant and the nights even cool. Rain is theoretically much less likely, though in fact we hit a few days of distinctly adverse weather, so much so our Islandhoppers flight from Nadi to Savusavu was cancelled and we came on one of the larger ATR 42 planes of Pacific Sun later that day. Weather for the rest of the time was mixed, but it stayed overcast and cool for the important Silktail trip and we had were able to work around the conditions and relax most afternoons.

Itinerary
Wed Jun 13 Nadi to Labasa depart 1200 and transfer across to Savusavu, Daku Resort 1430 on. Heavy showers.
Thurs Jun 14 Daku Resort area, showers.
Friday Jun 15 Daku Hill walk 0700-0800 Savusavu Bay boat trip 0930-1045. Drive to Tukavesi Village along coast of Natewa Peninsula (3 hrs) for overnight stay. Overcast but dry.
Sat Jun 16 Tukavesi village to Natotovo D 0530 A 0630-1100. Return to Savusavu after lunch. Overcast, some sun later.
Sun Jun 17 Waisele NR D0600, A 0700-0900. Rain. Birding roadsides back to Savusavu
Mon Jun 18 Oneva 0700-0900; Waisele 1030-1130 Rain and fog.
Tues Jun 19 Savudrodo 0630-0800, overgrown and slippery! Birding road around Waisele in bright sun.
Wed Jun 20 Depart Savusavu on Islandhoppers for Nadi 1115.

Daku Resort was a very pleasant place to base and we made ourselves at home amongst sundry Tom Robbins motivational course participants, snorkelers and sundry beaders from Australia and NZ. JJ was an excellent and convivial host, and the staff were great, particular thanks to multi-tasking and hard working Keni who bore the brunt of our early mornings and odd requirements, and to his lad John who helped us on the Waisele day and clearly has some talent at bird-related things- I am glad he did not get suspended over the stone-throwing punch-up at his school! Thanks to Sue Gregory and Delia Rothnie-Jones who put together the logistic framework, we look forward to future bird weeks.

Thanks also to an easy-going and convivial group, I hope you enjoyed the birding and the various activities, sorry about the lack of Many-coloured Fruit-Dove, Blue-crested Flycatcher and Polynesian Starling on Vanua Levu, but those who went to Colo-i-Suva after the bird week saw all except the fruit dove, a night or two here may be worth adding to the itinerary for 2013. Vinaka vakalevu.

Phil, Kuranda, Queensland June 2012

Species List

Endemics or near endemics in bold; Introduced species (I)

Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa
One en route from Labasa and two near Savusavu at the fishponds.

Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra
Small numbers seen, all dark phase except for one white phase that flew over the resort one afternoon. A bird on the sports field near Savusavu looked like a pale grey type Reef Heron, with a white chin and throat, but also seemed structurally more like a White-faced, raising the intriguing possibility do they hybridize here/ I have some good photos and will ask the great and the good for their opinions. Personally I think it is an immature White-faced Heron.

White-faced Heron E. novaehollandiae
A couple near Labasa airport, this is quite a recent colonist of the islands.

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster
A couple seen on the boat trip off Daku Resort. A distant booby seen from Daku may have been a brown morph Red-footed but I left it uncertain.

Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel
3 seen over Daku in the stormy conditions after we arrived, with one next day.

Great Frigatebird Fregata minor
This proved to be the commoner frigatebird this trip, with up to 6 seen and some nice white-headed birds over Savusavu

Frigatebird sp. Fregata sp.
Several unidentified distant frigatebirds were seen from Daku.

Swamp (Pacific) Harrier Circus approximans
Just one single over mangroves near Tukavesi, unexpectedly scarce.

Fiji Goshawk Accipiter rufitorques
Common, with 3 or 4 seen each day, often heard calling.

Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
6 on a reef near Tukavesi and then 28 at Savusavu airstrip.

Wandering Tattler Tringa incana
5 on a reef near Tukavesi, and one near Savusavu.

Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii
A few off Daku Resort.

Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana
12+ on the boat trip out of Daku, fishing with Black Noddies.

Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus
3 offshore from Daku Jun 14 then 2 out in the bay on the boat trip.

Black Noddy Anous minutus
Fair numbers >60 off Daku during the rough weather earlier in the trip and 40 on the boat trip.

Feral Pigeon Columba livia (I)
A few in Nadi and Savusavu, much to Dugald’s delight….

White-throated (Metallic) Pigeon Columba vitiensis
Great views of up to a dozen near Tukavesi, one at Waisele and then 10 on a tree near Jerusalemi village near Savusavu.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis (I)
A few around Daku and Savusavu.

Orange Dove Chrysoenas victor
A male at Natovotovo Silktail site gave fantastic views, and we saw another up on the Waisele Trail in the rain, with one heard at Savudrodo and another near Savusavu. The birds were singing well, depressing the tail slightly with each call so the bird gave a quiver, and making the bizarre “click” call.

Peale’s Imperial-Pigeon (Barking Pigeon) Ducula latrans
Common and very vocal in the forests of Vanua Levu.

Collared Lory Phigys solitarius
Great views of them feeding in a bottlebrush at Daku Resort, and small numbers were around in the coconuts at various sites.

Maroon (Red) Shining Parrot Prosopeia tabuensis
Distant and rather frustrating views of singles and twos near Tukavesi and up near Waisele, they were both uncommon and secretive on this island even though we had 5 day records. It’s a striking large parrot with a very strange flight, with deep slow wing-flaps, the wings raised very high over the back.

White-rumped Swiftlet Aerodramus spodiopygius
Quite common, we saw 10+ per day.

Collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris vitiensis
A very distinct form, and the whole complex of 49 taxa is way overdue for radical splitting. We saw the pale and rather Sacred Kingfisher-like vitiensis on Vanua Levu, which looks to be sexually dimorphic with one sex being whitish beneath, the other a rich warm buff, and both very unlike Collared Kingfisher.

Orange-breasted Myzomela Myzomela jugularis
Small numbers daily on Vanua Levu, where we had up to 6 per day. it’s a very striking species with red on the rump.

Wattled Honeyeater Foulehaio carunculata
Common at Daku where they were coming in and chasing around the bottlebrush, this is the race taviunensis with a well-developed orange wattle.

Fiji Wood-swallow Artamus mentalis
Quite common on Vanua Levu with up to a dozen per day.

Polynesian Triller Lalage maculosa
Quite common out in the wooded areas, this is the race woodi which has quite dark blackish upperparts in some birds, more brown in others, presumably a sexual dimorphism.

Fiji Whistler Pachycephala (pectoralis) aurantiiventris
We saw two rather distinctive taxa on Vanua Levu which were new for my collection of “Golden Whistler” taxa: The nominate aurantiiventris was quite common in tall forest and is entirely orange-yellow below, with dark blackish upperparts and no yellow collar; the female is drab brown with a pale throat and buffy underparts.

The Natewa Peninsula race ambigua has a narrow black breast band and yellow underparts, and a richer coloured female. I wish I’d been able to tape the calls, but at least I got a good series for aurantiiventris, which is very vocal at dawn at Daku.

The whole complex of 64 “Golden Whistler’ taxa is way overdue for a massive split-up, which the IOC have now begun with Fiji and White-throated Whistler (Kadavu) here in Fiji.

Streaked Fantail Rhipidura spilodera

This was fairly common on Vanua Levu but only in good tall forest. The race here is erythronata, and Fiji birds seem pretty different to the New Caledonian birds too in both calls and morphology.

Fiji Bush Warbler Cettia ruficapilla
Common by voice but hard to see, with the race castaneoptera on Vanua Levu. We saw one quite well up at the Silktail site. Sorry John!

Slaty Monarch Mayrornis lessoni
First seen up at the Devo Silktail site, the harsh scolding call is diagnostic, then again at Oneva.

Fiji (Lesser) Shrikebill Clytorhynchus vitiensis
Good views up at the Silktail site at Natotovo seeing a couple of birds, then a nice look at one at Oneva in regrowth forest. This is the race buensis with 8 taxa recognized here in Fiji, differing in minor colour and size characters.

Vanikoro Flycatcher Myiagra vanikorensis
Quite common on all 3 islands, we saw rufiventris on Vanua Levu. It is virtually a Fiji endemic, as the nominate is only on remote Vanikoro in the Santa Cruz Islands, Solomons.

Silktail Lamprolia victoriae
Probably the highlight of the stay was the finding of the rare kleinschmidti taxon of Silktail in the forest at Natovotovo, at the site of the former Silktail Lodge. Eddie the landowner took us right to the spot after a fairly easy walk crossing one shallow creek, and we had nice views of at least two birds. I was surprised at how small they seemed, and the way they were foraging high in branches and creepers, picking about like a creeper. The head had a dull bluish iridescence, and the tail was silky satin white with a narrow black border and tip. No vocalizations were heard. It occurs only on the eastern part of the Natewa Peninsula and must be pretty darn rare as the forest is pretty disturbed and not too extensive, though they have 2500 acres here, which they are currently preserving. It’s also amazing how Blue-crested Flycatcher does not overlap with it.

Pacific (Scarlet) Robin Petroica (multicolor) boodang
Good views of a male at Oneva and another at Savudrodo next day, this is the race kleinschmidti. It was heard up behind Daku Resort as well but was very skulking.

Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
A few around Savusavu.

Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (I)
Small numbers on Vanua Levu; it’s actually quite an attractive species!

Layard’s White-eye Zosterops explorator
Common in the wooded habitats.

Silvereye Z. lateralis
Not as common as the endemic white-eye, but still seen most days with one or two birds.

Jungle Myna Acridotheres fuscus (I)
A few around Daku and Savusavu, much less common than the abundant Common Myna.

Common Myna A. tristis (I)
Common around the coast on Vanua Levu.

Red Avadavat Amandava amandava (I)
Small flocks abound Savusavu and at Tukavesi, quite an attractive small finch and probably harmless here.

Fiji Parrot-Finch Erythrura peali
A group of about 4 feeding by the roadside en route to Waisele was a good find and gave nice looks.

Mammals

Samoan Flying-fox Pteropus samoensis
A few up near Tukavesi may have been this species, they looked paler and more silvery, but these Pteropus are hard to distinguish in the field.

Pacific Flying-fox Pteropus tonganus
This was quite common on Vanua Levu with camps of 40 + and 100+ in day out in the degraded woodlands, and often seen flying over Daku. The buffy neck fur seemed to go onto the mantle, which I think, makes it this species and not the rather larger Samoan Flying Fox.

Indian Mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus (I)
Regrettably seen every day on Vanua Levu where it is obviously abundant and explains the lack of Buff-banded Rails and Purple Swamphens!

Phil Gregory, Daku Resort, Vanua Levu, Fiji June 20 2012

info@sicklebillsafaris.com
www. sicklebillsafaris.com
www. cassowary-house.com.au

Open up this file Report Fiji Bird Week June 2012-1 to see the same report with pictures.

Fiji Bird Week Jun 13-20 2012

Daku Resort, Savusavu, Vanua Levu

Led by Phil Gregory

This was a very enjoyable, laid-back and successful inaugural Bird Week, set up by Daku Resort at Savusavu as a part of their programme of diverse activities, focussing on the accessible endemics of Vanua Levu and set during the winter season when the temperatures are very pleasant and the nights even cool. Rain is theoretically much less likely, though in fact we hit a few days of distinctly adverse weather, so much so our Islandhoppers flight from Nadi to Savusavu was cancelled and we came on one of the larger ATR 42 planes of Pacific Sun later that day. Weather for the rest of the time was mixed, but it stayed overcast and cool for the important Silktail trip and we had were able to work around the conditions and relax most afternoons.

Itinerary

Wed Jun 13 Nadi to Labasa depart 1200 and transfer across to Savusavu, Daku Resort 14230 on. Heavy showers.

Thurs Jun 14 Daku Resort area, showers.

Friday Jun 15 Daku Hill walk 0700-0800 Savusavu Bay boat trip 0930-1045. Drive to Tukavesi Village along coast of Natewa Peninsula (3 hrs) for overnight stay. Overcast but dry.

Sat Jun 16 Tukavesi village to Natotovo D 0530 A 0630-1100. Return to Savusavu after lunch. Overcast, some sun later.

Sun Jun 17 Waisele NR D0600, A 0700-0900. Rain. Birding roadsides back to Savusavu

Mon Jun 18 Oneva 0700-0900; Waisele 1030-1130 Rain and fog.

Tues Jun 19Savudrodo 0630-0800, overgrown and slippery! Birding road around Waisele in bright sun.

Wed Jun 20 Depart Savusavu on Islandhoppers for Nadi 1115.

Daku Resort was a very pleasant place to base and we made ourselves at home amongst sundry Tom Robbins motivational course participants (at $10,000 a throw!), snorkelers and sundry beaders from Australia and NZ.JJ was an excellent and convivial host, and the staff were great, particular thanks to multi-tasking and hard working Keni who bore the brunt of our early mornings and odd requirements, and to his lad John who helped us on the Waisele day and clearly has some talent at bird-related things- I am glad he did not get suspended over the stone-throwing punch-up at his school!Thanks to Sue Gregory and Delia Rothnie-Jones who put together the logistic framework, we look forward to future bird weeks.

Thanks also to an easy-going and convivial group, I hope you enjoyed the birding and the various activities, sorry about the lack of Many-coloured Fruit-Dove, Blue-crested Flycatcher and Polynesian Starling on Vanua Levu, but those who went to Colo-i-Suva after the bird week saw all except the fruit dove, a night or two here may be worth adding to the itinerary for 2013. Vinaka vakalevu.

Phil, Kuranda, Queensland June 2012

Species List

Endemics or near endemics in bold; Introduced species (I)

Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa

One en route from Labasa and two near Savusavu at the fishponds.

Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra

Small numbers seen, all dark phase except for one white phase that flew over the resort one afternoon. A bird on the sports field near Savusavu looked like a pale grey type Reef Heron, with a white chin and throat, but also seemed structurally more like a White-faced, raising the intriguing possibility do they hybridize here/ I have some good photos and will ask the great and the good for their opinions. Personally I think it is an immature White-faced Heron.

White-faced Heron E. novaehollandiae

A couple near Labasa airport, this is quite a recent colonist of the islands.

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster

A couple seen on the boat trip off Daku Resort. A distant booby seen from Daku may have been a brown morph Red-footed but I left it uncertain.

Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel

3 seen over Daku in the stormy conditions after we arrived, with one next day.

Great Frigatebird Fregata minor

This proved to be the commoner frigatebird this trip, with up to 6 seen and some nice white-headed birds over Savusavu

Frigatebird sp. Fregata sp.

Several unidentified distant frigatebirds were seen from Daku.

Swamp (Pacific) Harrier Circus approximans

Just one single over mangroves near Tukavesi, unexpectedly scarce.

Fiji Goshawk Accipiter rufitorques

Common, with 3 or 4 seen each day, often heard calling.

Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva

6 on a reef near Tukavesi and then 28 at Savusavu airstrip.

Wandering Tattler Tringa incana

5 on a reef near Tukavesi, and one near Savusavu.

Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii

A few off Daku Resort.

Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana

12+ on the boat trip out of Daku, fishing with Black Noddies.

Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus

3 offshore from Daku Jun 14 then 2 out in the bay on the boat trip.

Black Noddy Anous minutus

Fair numbers >60 off Daku during the rough weather earlier in the trip and 40 on the boat trip.

Feral Pigeon Columba livia (I)

A few in Nadi and Savusavu, much to Dugald’s delight….

White-throated (Metallic) Pigeon Columba vitiensis

Great views of up to a dozen near Tukavesi, one at Waisele and then 10 on a tree near Jerusalemi village near Savusavu.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis (I)

A few around Daku and Savusavu.

Orange Dove Chrysoenas victor

A male at Natovotovo Silktail site gave fantastic views, and we saw another up on the Waisele Trail in the rain, with one heard at Savudrodo and another near Savusavu. The birds were singing well, depressing the tail slightly with each call so the bird gave a quiver, and making the bizarre “click” call.

Peale’s Imperial-Pigeon (Barking Pigeon) Ducula latrans

Common and very vocal in the forests of Vanua Levu.

Collared Lory Phigys solitarius

Great views of them feeding in a bottlebrush at Daku Resort, and small numbers were around in the coconuts at various sites.

Maroon (Red) Shining Parrot Prosopeia tabuensis

Distant and rather frustrating views of singles and twos near Tukavesi and up near Waisele, they were both uncommon and secretive on this island even though we had 5 day records. It’s a striking large parrot with a very strange flight, with deep slow wing-flaps, the wings raised very high over the back.

White-rumped Swiftlet Aerodramus spodiopygius

Quite common, we saw 10+ per day.

Collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris vitiensis

A very distinct form, and the whole complex of 49 taxa is way overdue for radical splitting. We saw the pale and rather Sacred Kingfisher-like vitiensis on Vanua Levu, which looks to be sexually dimorphic with one sex being whitish beneath, the other a rich warm buff, and both very unlike Collared Kingfisher.

Orange-breasted Myzomela Myzomela jugularis

Small numbers daily on Vanua Levu, where we had up to 6 per day. it’s a very striking species with red on the rump.

Wattled Honeyeater Foulehaio carunculata

Common at Daku where they were coming in and chasing around the bottlebrush, this is the race taviunensis with a well-developed orange wattle.

Fiji Wood-swallow Artamus mentalis

Quite common on Vanua Levu with up to a dozen per day.

Polynesian Triller Lalage maculosa

Quite common out in the wooded areas, this is the race woodi which has quite dark blackish upperparts in some birds, more brown in others, presumably a sexual dimorphism.

Fiji Whistler Pachycephala (pectoralis) aurantiiventris

We saw two rather distinctive taxa on Vanua Levu which were new for my collection of “Golden Whistler” taxa: The nominate aurantiiventris was quite common in tall forest and is entirely orange-yellow below, with dark blackish upperparts and no yellow collar; the female is drab brown with a pale throat. and buffy underparts.

The Natewa Peninsula race ambigua has a narrow black breast band and yellow underparts, and a richer coloured female. I wish I’d been able to tape the calls, but at least I got a good series for aurantiiventris, which is very vocal at dawn at Daku.

The whole complex of 64“Golden Whistler’ taxa is way overdue for a massive split-up, which the IOC have now begun with Fiji and White-throated Whistler (Kadavu) here in Fiji.

Streaked Fantail Rhipidura spilodera

This was fairly common on Vanua Levu but only in good tall forest. The race here is erythronata, and Fiji birds seem pretty different to the New Caledonian birds too in both calls and morphology.

Fiji Bush Warbler Cettia ruficapilla

Common by voice but hard to see, with the race castaneoptera on Vanua Levu. We saw one quite well up at the Silktail site. Sorry John!

Slaty Monarch Mayrornis lessoni

First seen up at the Devo Silktail site,the harsh scolding call is diagnostic, then again at Oneva.

Fiji (Lesser) Shrikebill Clytorhynchus vitiensis

Good views up at the Silktail site at Natotovo seeing a couple of birds, then a nice look at one at Oneva in regrowth forest. This is the race buensis with 8 taxa recognized here in Fiji, differing in minor colour and size characters.

Vanikoro Flycatcher Myiagra vanikorensis

Quite common on all 3 islands, we saw rufiventris on Vanua Levu. It is virtually a Fiji endemic, as the nominate is only on remote Vanikoro in the Santa Cruz Islands, Solomons.

SilktailLamprolia victoriae

Probably the highlight of the stay was the finding of the rare kleinschmidti

taxon of Silktail in the forest at Natovotovo, at the site of the former Silktail Lodge. Eddie the landowner took us right to the spot after a fairly easy walk crossing one shallow creek, and we had nice views of at least two birds. I was surprised at how small they seemed, and the way they were foraging high in branches and creepers, picking about like a creeper. The head had a dull bluish iridescence, and the tail was silky satin white with a narrow black border and tip. No vocalizations were heard. It occurs only on the eastern part of the Natewa Peninsula and must be pretty darn rare as the forest is pretty disturbed and not too extensive, though they have 2500 acres here, which they are currently preserving. It’s also amazing how Blue-crested Flycatcher does not overlap with it.

Pacific (Scarlet) Robin Petroica (multicolor) boodang

Good views of a male at Oneva and another at Savudrodo next day, this is the race kleinschmidti. It was heard up behind Daku Resort as well but was very skulking.

Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica

A few around Savusavu.

Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (I)

Small numbers on Vanua Levu; it’s actually quite an attractive species!

Layard’s White-eye Zosterops explorator

Common in the wooded habitats.

Silvereye Z. lateralis

Not as common as the endemic white-eye, but still seen most days with one or two birds.

Jungle Myna Acridotheres fuscus (I)

A few around Daku and Savusavu, much less common than the abundant Common Myna.

Common Myna A. tristis (I)

Common around the coast on Vanua Levu.

Red Avadavat Amandava amandava (I)

Small flocks abound Savusavu and at Tukavesi, quite an attractive small finch and probably harmless here.

Fiji Parrot-Finch Erythrura peali

A group of about 4 feeding by the roadside en route to Waisele was a good find and gave nice looks.

Mammals

Samoan Flying-fox Pteropus samoensis

A few up near Tukavesi may have been this species, they looked paler and more silvery, but these Pteropus are hard to distinguish in the field.

Pacific Flying-fox Pteropus tonganus

This was quite common on Vanua Levu with camps of 40 + and 100+ in day out in the degraded woodlands, and often seen flying over Daku. The buffy neck fur seemed to go onto the mantle, which I think, makes it this species and not the rather larger Samoan Flying Fox.

Indian Mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus (I)

Regrettably seen every day on Vanua Levu where it is obviously abundant and explains the lack of Buff-banded Rails and Purple Swamphens!

Phil Gregory, Daku Resort, Vanua Levu, Fiji June 20 2012

info@sicklebillsafaris.com

www. sicklebillsafaris.com

www. cassowary-house.com.au

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