Fiji and Samoa, June - July 2009

Published by Petter Zahl Marki (zoothera87 AT hotmail.com)

Participants: Petter Zahl Marki

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Introduction
After an excellent trip to New Caledonia in 2008, I decided it was time to expand my Pacific list with a visit to Samoa and Fiji. I spent a total of five nights on Samoa and 13 nights on Fiji, which is more than most other birders but it made sure I would get the best possible chance of seeing all my targets. Additionally, I had planned to do some snorkeling, but unfortunately I had an ear infection contracted after snorkeling in Cairns, Australia a week earlier. This meant no swimming during the trip. None the less, the trip was a great success! I saw all of my targets except Great Frigatebird, Friendly Ground-Dove, Long-legged Warbler and Pink-billed Parrotfinch, all of which can be hard to come by. In retrospect I would have skipped Suva altogether, instead going straight from Nadi to the central highlands where chances of finding Long-legged Warbler and Pink-billed Parrotfinch are higher than in the Suva area. This is also what Vili recommends.

Weather
I had heavy rain on every day in Samoa. Fortunately it rarely lasted long and rarely interfered with birding. Consequently the humidity was quite high. I had some rain on every day on Taveuni and Kadavu, but never more than a light drizzle. I had some rain on Viti Levu as well, including some rather heavy showers.

Trip Reports
There are several trip reports from Fiji on the web, but only a few covering Samoa. I found trip reports by Jon Hornbuckle, Graham Talbot and Dave Sargeant especially useful.

Sites visited

SAMOA

Vaisigano

The best place to find all the endemics. Within four hours I had seen all the endemics including the triller which was a relief. Actually, I struggled with the flycatcher, eventually seeing one near the water tank just as I was about to leave. In the valley I also stumbled upon some cows which ran up the valley. After a while I caught up with them and noticed that they had been joined by two very grim looking bulls that didn't seem to be particularly pleased by my presence. Not feeling to comfortable with the situation I slowly started walking back. Fortunately they lost interest and although I didn’t make it all the way up the valley I still found all my targets.

To get here, I followed the instructions in Dave Sargeant’s report. Most drivers will know the Magigai Road (pronounciation was more like Mangani if I’m not wrong) which takes you to the big water tank. At the time of my visit the road was quite bad in places so I can imagine that some taxi drivers might be reluctant to take you all the way to the water tank. On my way back I got a lift to town at the first house I came to, saving me a long walk.

Cloud 9
A great place to stay with a great view! It is worth spending some time birding from the veranda and in the lodge surrounds. All the endemics except perhaps the triller can be found here. I paid 40 Tala a night. The area around the bridge was quite good with Mao showing beautifully on my last day.

Savaii
I took the ferry from Mulifanua to Savaii hoping for some good seabirds. Apart from Red-footed Booby I didn’t see anything new. Unless you’re planning on staying on Savaii it’s probably better to go to Lalomanu and Nu’utele Island for seabirds. However, the Tafua Peninsula Conservation Area is very close to the Salelologa wharf on Savaii and might be worth a visit as Tooth-billed Pigeon has been seen here before. A leaping ray seen from the ferry, which I assume must have been a Manta Ray was a bit of a surprise!

Cape Tanaga, Lalomanu
I spent two hours seawatching from here, eventually seeing a Blue Noddy. I didn’t hire a boat as it cost more than I was willing to spend. Lalomanu is approximately one and a half hours drive from Apia. Unless you’re travelling with others it might not be worth hiring a boat as the Blue Noddies can probably be seen from shore regularly. Interestingly, I didn’t see any Bridled/Grey-backed Terns whilst in Samoa. Access to Cape Tanaga is easy. Coming from the north, take the first left as you enter Lalomanu village and park where the road ends by a small radio mast. From here it is a short walk to a viewpoint.

Vailima
Made a short visit here intending to walk the trail which leads to Robert Louis Stephenson’s grave but as it was very muddy and slippery I couldn’t be bothered. I spent some time around the museum watching and attempting to photograph some Blue-crowned Lorikeets that were feeding in some flowering trees.

FIJI

TAVEUNI

Stayed at Bibi’s Hideaway for $50 a night. Only visited Des Voeux Peak here. I also went on two boat trips which unfortunately didn’t produce anything new.

Des Voeux Peak
A great site, with lots of birds seen. I found all my targets here within the first hour. I tried one of the side trails mentioned by others, but didn’t see much so decided to stick to the road. I saw Silktail on three occasions from the road anyway. Besides, I wasn’t too keen on getting lost. Only saw two Orange Doves though, unfortunately both females. It took me almost seven hours (birding along the way), to walk down from the gate to the main road. I arranged transport to the gate through Bibi’s. It cost me $100, but one could probably get it cheaper. The gate is approximately one and a half hours drive from Bibi’s.

Boat Trip
I arranged to go out with a local fisherman on two occasions hoping to perhaps see some petrels. The first trip was rather short and we didn’t see much, but we had good looks at over 50 Brown Boobys roosting on some rocky islets off the coast. Went out with the same guy a few days later hoping to see something different. Apart from a few Brown and Black Noddies, nothing of interest was seen even though we were out for over six hours. He seemed to be familiar with the petrels, but due to rough seas we were not able to go to the area he reckoned would be best. Him and his brother were fishing the whole time, but unfortunately it wasn’t their lucky day either and they didn't catch anything. I only paid $60 for the full six hours.

KADAVU
Stayed at Biana’s Guesthouse for two nights($50 a night). There are no ATM’s or other credit card facilities on the island. Fortunately, there are still no mynas or other introduced birds here.

Vunisea
Walked the road described in Graham Talbot’s report. Although there is some patchy forest found after about 500m from the roundabout, I kept walking for at least 45 minutes before reaching more decent forest. Saw all the endemics and Black-throated Shrikebill along here. As others have mentioned the honeyeater is most easily found in gardens around Vunisea.

VITI LEVU

Pipeline Road

Followed the instructions in Jon Hornbuckle’s report. A good area with all the commoner endemics easily found. Masked Shining-Parroot was especially common here. I walked the road twice hoping in vain to find a Pink-billed Parrotfinch.

Namosi Road
I went here on two mornings with Vili Masibalavu masibalavu@yahoo.com in order to look for Friendly Ground-Dove, Long-legged Warbler and Pink-billed Parrotfinch. Unfortunately none were seen, possibly because we were unable to get there by first light on both occasions. Vili reckons this is a better place than Waivudawa and is definitely easier to access.

Suva Point
Had a quick look here with Vili. The tide was unfortunately high at the time of our visit so Bar-tailed Godwit was the only bird added to the list here.

Itinerary
30.6 Flight from Townsville to Apia via Brisbane and Nadi
30.6 – 4.7 Cloud 9 Lodge, Apia, Samoa
5 – 9.7 Bibi’s Hideaway, Taveuni
9 – 11.7 Biana’s Guesthouse, Kadavu
11 – 17.7 Raintree Lodge, Suva, Viti Levu
17 -18.7 Nadi Backpackers, nadi
18.7 Flight to Norway via Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Amsterdam

Species Lists

* denotes a lifer

White-tailed Tropicbird* Phaethon lepturus
SAMOA: Seen most places including Apia and two from the Savaii ferry. 20+ at Vaisigano, but only about 5 each day at Cloud 9.

Red-footed Booby* Sula sula
SAMOA: 11 from the Savaii ferry and many from Cape Tanaga. Most were of the dark morph. FIJI: Many off Taveuni.

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster
SAMOA: 7 from the Savaii ferry and many from Cape Tanaga. FIJI: Many off Taveuni and two on Kadavu.

Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel
SAMOA: 2 in Apia, 1 at Mulifanua and 1 from Cape Tanaga. Unidentified frigatebirds were seen in Apia and from Cape Tanaga. FIJI: Up to five seen daily on Taveuni and Kadavu.

White-faced heron Egretta novaehollandiae
FIJI: Quite common on Viti Levu.

Pacific Reef-Heron Egretta sacra
SAMOA: Some seen along the coast. FIJI: Fairly common along the coast on all islands.

Swamp Harrier Circus approximans
FIJI: A few on Viti Levu and one on Taveuni.

Fiji Goshawk* Accipiter rufitorques
FIJI: Fairly common throughout.

Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philippensis
SAMOA: Very common! FIJI: One seen near the gate at Des Voeux Peak.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
FIJI: One along the road near Somosomo, Taveuni.

Pacific Golden-Plover Pluvialis fulva
SAMOA: A few around Apia and at the golf course in Mulifanua.

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
FIJI: A few at Suva Point, Viti Levu.

Wandering Tattler Hetroscelus incana
SAMOA: One at Mulifanua and one at Mutiatele.

Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii
FIJI: A few daily along the coast.

Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana
SAMOA: One at Mulifanua and two in Apia. Apparently a relatively recent colonizer of Samoa. FIJI: One off Taveuni.

Black Noddy Anous minutus
SAMOA: A few could be identified from Cape Tanaga. FIJI: A small flock seen on boat trip off Taveuni.

Brown Noddy Anous stolidus
SAMOA: Common. Seen at all sites visited. FIJI: Two off Taveuni

Blue Noddy* Procelsterna cerulea
SAMOA: One seen heading NE towards Namua Island from Cape Tanaga. Had I picked it up earlier, the views would have been great as it was flying quite close to shore.

White Tern* Gygis alba
SAMOA: Fairly common. Seen most places.

Metallic Pigeon Columba vitiensis
SAMOA: Two at Vaisigano. FIJI: One at Bibi’s Hideaway on Taveuni.

Feral Pigeon Columba livia
SAMOA: Fairly common. FIJI: Fairly common in Nandi.

Many-coloured Fruit-Dove* Ptilinopus perousii
SAMOA: A few at Cloud 9 and Vaisigano. Not as common as the next species. FIJI: Small numbers on all islands.

Crimson-crowned Fruit-Dove* Ptilinopus porpyrhaceus
SAMOA: Common at Cloud 9, Vaisigano and Vailima.

Orange Dove* Ptilinopus victor
FIJI: Two on Des Voeux Peak, unfortunately both females. I should probably have visited Bobby’s farm or Qeleni road in order to get better views.

Golden Dove* Ptilinopus luteovirens
FIJI: Several seen along Pipeline Road and Namosi Road, Viti Levu including several beautiful males

Velvet Dove* Ptilinopus layardi
FIJI: 6-7 seen one my first afternoon on Kadavu including one male.

Pacific Imperial-Pigeon* Ducula pacifica
SAMOA: 4 at Cloud 9 and a few at Vaisigano.

Peale’s Imperial Pigeon* Ducula latrans
FIJI: Very common in forest throughout.

Collared Lory* Phigys solitarius
FIJI: 5-10 daily.

Blue-crowned Lorikeet* Vini australis
SAMOA: A few fly-overs at Vaisigano and Cloud 9. Only seen perched at Vailima, where a pair was feeding in some flowering trees near the museum.

Masked Shining-Parrot* Prosopeia personata
FIJI: Quite common in forested habitat on Viti Levu, especially along Pipeline Road where over 40 were seen on my first morning.

Crimson Shining-Parrot* Prosopeia splendens
FIJI: 5-10 on each day on Kadavu.

Red Shining-Parrot* Prosopeia tabuensis
FIJI: 10+ on Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni.

Barn Owl Tyto alba
SAMOA: Seen on several occasions around Cloud 9.

White-rumped Swiftlet* Aerodramus spodiopygius
SAMOA: Fairly common. FIJI: Fairly common.

Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris
FIJI: A few seen on all islands.

Flat-billed Kingfisher* Todiramphus recurvirostris
SAMOA: A few seen daily. Most easily seen around Cloud 9.

Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
FIJI: Fairly common on Viti Levu and Kadavu, less so on Taveuni.

Polynesian Triller* Lalage maculosa
SAMOA: Common everywhere. Often seen hopping around on lawns. FIJI: Fairly common on all islands.

Samoan Triller* Lalage sharpii
SAMOA: Fortunately I was able to locate a pair on my first morning in Vaisigano. They were seen high up in some big trees about 0.5km up the valley. They didn’t call much and were fairly inconspicuous. Probably the hardest endemic.

Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer
SAMOA: Very common. FIJI: Common on Taveuni and Viti Levu.

Island Thrush* Turdus poliocephalus
FIJI: 10-15 on Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni. Most were seen fairly high up the mountain. Only one seen briefly at Namosi Road, Viti Levu.

Fiji Bush-Warbler* Cettia ruficapilla
FIJI: Common on Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni, but only two seen on Kadavu. Also seen on Viti Levu. These forms differ quite a bit so they might be split in the future.

Streaked Fantail Rhipidura spilodera
FIJI: 5-10 on Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni. Also noted on Viti Levu

Kadavu Fantail* Rhipidura personata
FIJI: Fairly common in forest around Vunisea, Kadavu.

Samoan Fantail* Rhipidura nebulosa
SAMOA: Fairly common at Cloud 9, Vaisigano and Vailima.

Slaty Monarch* Mayrornis lessoni
FIJI: Only two on Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni, but quite common on Kadavu. Also seen on Viti Levu.

Fiji Shrikebill* Clytorhynchus vitiensis
FIJI: A few on Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni, Kadavu and on Viti Levu.

Black-throated Shrikebill* Clytorhynchus nigrogularis
FIJI: A female showed unexpectedly well on my first afternoon on Kadavu. I even managed to get some (bad) photos of it. Also tried looking for it at Namosi Road with Vili, but no luck.

Vanikoro Flycatcher* Myiagra vanikorensis
FIJI: Seen daily throughout, but especially common on Kadavu.

Samoan Flycatcher* Myiagra albiventris
SAMOA: Only one at Vaisigano, near the water tank. A few noted around Cloud 9, where one seemed to have a liking for the antennas on the veranda.

Blue-crested Flycatcher* Myiagra azureocapilla
FIJI: 7 seen on Des Vouex Peak, Taveuni, some of which showed very well. Several were also seen along Namosi and Pipeline Road, Viti Levu. A beautiful bird!

Silktail* Lamprolia victoriae
FIJI: Saw my first one at the sharp bend 100m above the gate on Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni. I was actually looking for a Blue-crested Flycatcher when a Silktail appeared instead! Also saw a single and a pair below the gate.

Scarlet Robin* Petroica multicolor
SAMOA: Only one male at Vaisigano. FIJI: 10+ at Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni. Also seen on Viti Levu.

Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis
FIJI: Fairly common on Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni, Kadavu and on Viti Levu.

Samoan Whistler* Pachycephala flavifrons
SAMOA: Common at Vaisigano. Surprisingly, none were seen at Cloud 9.

Layard’s White-Eye* Zosterops explorator
FIJI: A few flocks here and there on Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni, Kadavu and on Viti Levu.

Silver-Eye Zosterops lateralis
FIJI: Fairly common throughout.

Orange-breasted Myzomela* Myzomela jugularis
FIJI: Fairly common throughout.

Cardinal Myzomela Myzomela cardinalis
SAMOA: Common

Wattled Honeyeater* Foulehaio carunculata
SAMOA: Common. FIJI: Fairly common on Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni and on Viti Levu.

Kadavu Honeyeater* Xanthotis provocator
FIJI: A few were seen in early morning in gardens near Biana’s, but only one along the forest road, Kadavu.

Giant Forest Honeyeater* Gymnomyza viridis
FIJI: Two on Des Vouex Peak, Taveuni were the first birds seen after getting out of the car. Also saw one or two a bit further down from the gate. Quite common in forested habitat on Viti Levu.

Mao* Gymnomyza samoensis
SAMOA: 4-5 at Vaisigano. On my last evening I spent over an hour watching and photographing a pair which showed beautifully by the bridge and steep hill just before Cloud 9. A trip highlight!

Fiji Woodswallow* Artamus mentalis
FIJI: Fairly common on Viti Levu, with only a few seen on Taveuni.

Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen
FIJI: One on the runway at Matei Airport and one in Somosomo, Taveuni.

Polynesian Starling* Aplonis tabuensis
SAMOA: Common at Vaisigano, with a few also seen at Vailima and Cloud 9. FIJI: A few daily on Taveuni.

Samoan Starling* Aplonis atrifusca
SAMOA: Common at all sites. The most common endemic.

Jungle Myna Acridotheres fuscus
SAMOA: Very common. FIJI: Very common on Taveuni and Viti Levu.

Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
SAMOA: Very common. FIJI: very common on Taveuni and Viti Levu. According to Vili, they have unfortunately colonized Kadavu.

Red Avadavat Amandava amandava
FIJI: A few small flocks seen on Viti Levu.

Fiji Parrotfinch* Erythrura pealii
FIJI: Fairly common on Des Voeux Peak, Taveuni and on Viti Levu. A few also seen on Kadavu.

Red-headed Parrotfinch* Erythrura cyaneovirens
SAMOA: One at Vaisigano and two fly-by’s at Cloud 9. Still lumped with birds in Vanuatu.

MAMMALS:

Tongan Flying-Fox Pteropus tonganus

Fairly common throughout.

Samoan Flying-Fox Pteropus samoensis
Seen on all islands except on Taveuni, but always less common than the previous species. Seems to roost singly or in small groups.

REPTILES:
Several species of Emoia skinks were seen. Haven’t identified all of them yet, but at least Emoia nigra was seen on Samoa. I have some photos so I if you think you might be able to identify them let me know!