We had a very successful week in New Caledonia, seeing all 28 possible endemics and regional specialties on the main island and Lifou Is. The highlights were seeing all the mainland endemics except Crow Honeyeater in the vicinity of the new Parc des Grandes Fougeres in 3 days. This included views of up to 3 New Caledonia Grassbird on the road into the Parc. We then visited Parc Riviere Bleue on two days, seeing 4 Crow Honeyeaters in three different locations within the Parc. Kagu were seen at both sites, with a total of about 8 birds seen overall. The large Lifou White-eye proved to be the hardest endemic to see, taking about 3 hrs searching in dense forest about 1.5 km south of the airport. Trip total was not large (60 spp) but we were focused on the specialties.
For Australians, New Caledonia holds many attractions as a tropical island getaway only 2 hrs from the eastern states. Sandra and I had been to New Caledonia in 1984, before we began birding and so when Ron suggested a short trip, we were interested to revisit the territory and the 28 possible endemics including the unique Kagu were a major incentive. We flew Air Caledonie from Brisbane and hired a small Citroen at the airport through Airport Rentals. This was a near new 1.0 l Citroen Uno, which was quite tight for three people plus their luggage. However, it made up for the lack of power and space by being very fuel efficient and we averaged about 80 mpg (18 km/l). We stayed in two places during the trip, the Refuge Farino (http://www.office-tourisme.nc/en/le-refuge-de-farino) which is set in nice forested surroundings along a small river about 5 km from the new Parc des Grandes Fougeres. It is near the best know site for the New Caledonian Grassbird. We then treated ourselves and stayed 4 nights in a large two bedroom apartment at the Casa del Sol in southern Noumea from which we drove to Parc Provincial Riviere Bleue. Food is expensive in New Caledonia, so we wanted accommodation with kitchens as we had brought most of our food for the week from Australia. Both places worked out very well and the prices were reasonable (Refuge Farino @A$90/nt and Casa del Sol @A$120/nt for three people).
21 Sept – Arrived at 22:30, picked up hire car and drove to Refuge Farino.
22 Sept – AM Birded around the Refuge picking up several of the more common endemics, including Cloven-feathered Dove and New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon. PM visited the Parc des Grandes Fougeres, seeing two Kagu and New Caledonian Cuckooshrike.
23 Sept – AM Birded road into Parc des Grandes Fougeres, picking up New Caledonian Grassbird, a flock of Red-throated Parrotfinch and a New Caledonian Goshawk sitting in a roadside tree. PM did a longish walk on two trails in the Parc des Grandes Fougeres without seeing anything new.
24 Sept – Early AM birded the entrance road again, seeing both Horned and New Caledonian Parakeets. We then drove to Noumea via Mt Koghis. We had intended to stay at the chalet there, but it was closed. PM drove to Noumea town via the airport to make sure we knew the way.
25 Sept – Flew to Lifou on first flight of the day at 7:00. Walked south of the airport going straight across the first intersection and then turning west (Right) at the T-intersection down the road. Saw several Small Lifou White-eye, the unusual black-faced local race of Silvereye and two Long-tailed Trillers in the roadside scrub. We then walked west for about 2 km until the forest disappeared near the first T-intersection for another road heading south. We then turned around in our tracks and headed back towards the airport, exploring side trails into the forest looking for Large Lifou White-eye without luck. Most trip reports describe seeing Large Lifou White-eye in more mature forest, so we eventually decided to make our own path into the densest, most natural forest along the road, which was about 0.5 km before the airport T-intersection. We then spent the rest of the morning walking around in this forest searching for the White-eye. Eventually heard the call about 11:30 and followed a mixed flock of White-eyes that included 1 or 2 Large Lifou White-eye. We all had reasonable views of one bird after chasing the flock through the forest for about 15 min. PM went back to the airport and visited the park to the east of the airport entrance trying to track down calling Red-bellied Fruit-dove that only Ron had seen briefly. After about 30 min searching for calling birds in dense mango trees in the park, we had good views of a pair calling from the dense vegetation. Flew back to Noumea at 15:00.
26 Sept – AM drove to Parc Riviere Bleue arriving before 7:00, got permit at entrance and then drove down to the dam only to find out that the bicycle hire did not open until 8:30. Waited around talking with other visitors and even convinced a group of French soldiers to give us a lift for the 5 km to the edge of the forest. Found out they were not actually going far after we had gotten into the back of their truck. Waited for the bicycle hire to open and then rode around to the forest, arriving about 9:00. Birded a bit along the road and Ron thought he saw a Crow Honeyeater among a flock of birds flying over. Stopped at the Grand Kauri tree at about 10:30, but little bird activity. PM birded trails further into the Parc without seeing anything of note. Left parc at 17:00 to drive back to Noumea.
27 Sept – AM Negotiated for the bicycle hire man to leave three bicycles out overnight by paying for a second day of hire in advance. Arrived at Grand Kauri trail by 7:45 and heard Crow Honeyeater calling past the Grand Kauri. Bird then flew into the lower branches of a tree close to the trail where we had excellent views as it probed a dead stump. A second bird flew into the Grand Kauri tree itself and we had good views of it as well. Continued on Grand Kauri trail and saw a third bird at the opposite end of trail in low vegetation. Birded along the road and on side trails for the rest of the day. Stopped on road about 3 km from Grand Kauri on the way back to entrance when a Crow Honeyeater flew across road. Bird sat in roadside bush at eye height for about 5 min.
28 Sept – Went swimming and sightseeing around Noumea in morning before driving out past the airport to Tontauta where we had lunch by the river. Flew back to Brisbane at 16:00.
Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa
Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus
Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos
White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae
Rufous Night-Heron Nycticorax caledonicus
Swamp Harrier Circus approximans
Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus
New Caledonia Goshawk Accipiter haplochrous
Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus
Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Silver Gull Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae
Great Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii
Metallic Pigeon Columba vitiensis
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica
Red-bellied Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus greyii
Cloven-feathered Dove Drepanoptila holosericea
New Caledonian Imperial-Pigeon Ducula goliath
Shining Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus
Barn Owl Tyto alba
Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta
White-rumped Swiftlet Aerodramus spodiopygius
Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Horned Parakeet Eunymphicus cornutus
New Caledonian Parakeet Cyanoramphus saissetti
Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus
New Caledonian Myzomela Myzomela caledonica
Cardinal Myzomela Myzomela cardinalis
Dark-brown Honeyeater Lichmera incana
Barred Honeyeater Phylidonyris undulatus
Crow Honeyeater Gymnomyza aubryana
New Caledonian Friarbird Philemon diemenensis
Fan-tailed Gerygone Gerygone flavolateralis
White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus
South Melanesian Cuckooshrike Coracina caledonica
Long-tailed Triller Lalage leucopyga
New Caledonian Cuckooshrike Analisoma analis
New Caledonian Whistler Pachycephala caledonica
Rufous Whistler Pachycephala rufiventris
Gray Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa
Streaked Fantail Rhipidura spilodera
Southern Shrikebill Clytorhynchus pachycephaloides
Melanesian Flycatcher Myiagra caledonica
New Caledonian Crow Corvus moneduloides
Yellow-bellied Robin Eopsaltria flaviventris
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
New Caledonian Grassbird Megalurulus mariei
Large Lifou White-eye Zosterops inornatus
Green-backed White-eye Zosterops xanthochroa
Small Lifou White-eye Zosterops minutus
Silver-eye Zosterops lateralis
Striated Starling Aplonis striata
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild
Red-throated Parrotfinch Erythrura psittacea
Tree Martin Petrochelidon nigricans
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer