Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
I spent 6 weeks in the south Pacific in March-April 2014. The centerpiece of the trip was an excellent sea voyage with Heritage Expeditions that sailed from New Zealand through Tonga and Fiji from April 2 – April 18. I also birded New Zealand beforehand, which will be a separate document. This report is for April 19 through 28th, and also a bit of April 15 &16. My trip fell during Easter which complicated logistics and may have cost me a lifer or two. I booked part one of the Polynesian Odyssey described above, which ended in Suva the morning of April 15. I negotiated a 3 day extension for part 2 of the trip, which went through Fiji waters for the first 3 days, then sailed off to Vanuatu and the Solomons. Good thing I did because I saw 2 great endemics, Fiji Petrel and Ogea / Versicolored Monarch, as well as killer looks at Tahiti Petrel. Originally Heritage was due to land on Kadavu, which I planned to visit, but due to Easter and customs issues they returned to Suva to clear customs, skipping Kadavu. We also spent a day on the island of Ovalau, which is a short boat ride from Suva and easily accessible. Nothing was seen there that I didn’t see on the other 3 islands. The capital, Levuka, is a World Heritage Site and hadn’t changed since my last visit in 1976, when I spent a month in Fiji as a non-birding traveler.
April is at the end of the rainy season, and with one notable exception on my last day and Des Voeux peak on Taveuni, I had good weather throughout. Weather was generally hot and humid.
Articles & Trip Reports taken from Surfbirds and birdtours.co.uk, including Jon Hornbuckle, Fiji / Samoa 2007. Jon also sent me a couple of recordings. There’s a lot out there on the web, of varying usefulness.
Doug Pratt sent me an extensive list of information. On the Heritage trip Keith Barnes of Tropical Birding also gave me useful reports and info as he had just spent a week on Fiji.
Lonely Planet Fiji, 2012 – I gave it away when I left so don’t have the exact edition number.
The Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific – Pratt, Bruner and Berrett
A Guide to the Birds of Fiji and Western Polynesia – Dick Watling – some poor drawings, but good subspecies information
NAMES AND CONTACTS
Suva – Vilikesa “Vili” Masibalavu – email@example.com Cell: 679-7777040, although he can be hard to reach. Note Vili used to work for Birdlife International but now works for this organization, so the old birdlife e mail mentioned in some trip reports is obsolete. Vili charges F $250 per day and knows spots for Long-legged Warbler, and when I was there, Pink-billed Parrotfinch, normally a nomadic and very difficult bird, missed by many. He did not have a vehicle while I was there, but this could change. He does good work working with locals to preserve habitat and educate people on conservation issues. Highly recommended. You will need to rent a car though.
Taveuni - Bobby Nabogiano’s Farm – Orange Dove, Many Colored Fruit-Dove, Shy Ground-Dove sometimes. 2 hours -$40. firstname.lastname@example.org, 679-828-3677, 679-844-1097, cell 679 923 8612
CARS – Vili was supposed to arrange the rental car however when I arrived the cheaper Jimmys were gone and the next available 4WD costs F$250 / day. I called Quality cars, listed on a tourist brochure, and we got a supposed 4WD for F$205 / day. Turned out the 4WD was broken, but we got to Monsavu dam OK. I have read bad things about Budget in trip reports. When we arrived at the Suva office all their cars were locked away and the key was at the airport, requiring a one-hour wait, so we went with Quality. I used taxis on all 3 islands, which were reasonable in prices. You will need a 4WD for Monsavu Dam.
AIR – Most inter island flights are through Fiji Air / Pacific Airways. However there is also a small company called Northern Air that I used to get to Taveuni. Due to the uncertainty of my arrival (it depended on whether I could get the cruise extension) I couldn’t make advance reservations. As I arrived in Suva on Easter Saturday I couldn’t get any flights until Monday. The one way Northern Air to Taveuni on an 8-seater was F$185. The ticket on Fiji Air from Taveuni to Suva, Suva-Nadi-Kadavu, and Kadavu-Nadi was about F$650 - $353 US was charged to my credit card. Apparently there is a left luggage department at the airlines, although I didn’t use them. Planes are small and the lessluggage the better.
The Fiji dollar was just over 1.80 for 1 US dollar. Credit cards are accepted at many places but not at smaller restaurants and lodges, especially on the smaller islands. Kadavu has no banks so you need to bring Fiji dollars with you. Raintree Lodge will accept US dollars I believe – I charged everything. Prices in the report are in Fiji dollars unless stated otherwise.
ACCOMMODATIONS & FOOD
Accommodation prices vary greatly, but there are usually reasonably priced lodges or homestays, although they’re scarcer on Taveuni and Kadavu. The Raintree Lodge is a well known and good base less than 30 minutes from Suva, and you can leave luggage there as well.
I saw 53 species, and heard four more on the main three islands, with another 22 plus 1 heard on the Heritage trip for a total of 80 on my Fiji checklist. Best targets were the stunning Orange and Golden Doves and Pink-billed Parrotfinch, plus on the Heritage trip Fiji Petrel and Ogea Monarch. My biggest misses were Whistling/Velvet Dove and Long-legged Warbler, both heard only, and Friendly / Shy Ground-Dove, a regional endemic. Many islands have unique subspecies – refer to the Watling guide for detailed information
Microsoft note: Microsoft put a security block on accessing my e mail so I couldn’t access e mail for 6 weeks, despite filling out their forms and requests. They suck – get a Google or Yahoo account
April 15, Tuesday – Suva and Raintree Lodge
The Heritage trip part one ended here. I was dropped off in Suva at a bank to change money just before 9. Most banks were closed but I found 1 ANZ bank open at 9:10. I had travelers checks, which I hadn’t used for some years and probably won’t use again. I had to wait for the new exchange rates to come in, supposedly around 9:30, after which they did many checks and approvals before finally giving me my money after 10. Just around the corner was a taxi stand (Black Arrow Taxis, James, 9857370), and I got a cab to Raintree Lodge, about a 20 minute ride for $15, arriving after 10:30. As it was already hot I decided to wait at the lodge until early afternoon. I had a “dorm” single room for $65 with shared facilities. It was a fairly small room with a fan and balcony on a small pond. That normally would be nice except there had been a recent outbreak of Dengue Fever so I kept the door closed. They did provide a plug-in device for getting rid of mosquitoes that worked well. There are also cheaper dorm rooms ($25?) and more expensive self-contained cottages or bures for about $150. They have a good restaurant that provides a daily “Taste of Fiji” special for $25 that is tasty and very filling. The rest of the menu isn’t that varied, and beers cost around $5-7. I had previously arranged to meet Vili in the early afternoon and he arrived around 1:30. We talked for about 45 minutes and he told me he had a stakeout roost for Pink-billed Parrotfinch. Vili is a very pleasant guy and is also a Pentecostal pastor, which is how he found the parrotfinch – more on that later. I confirmed 2 days with him for the weekend of April 26-27 and he would arrange the rental car, as previously discussed. Around 3 I checked out a couple of nearby roads that Vili had recommended. One, Marshall Road, was a loop road that started a bit to the right of the Raintree Lodge, where there is the pay station for Colo-I-Suva park. This was open scrub and not productive, and a couple of dogs came after me – not recommended. I then tried what would be a fairly productive track that I subsequently walked a few times from about 4 to 5:30. Turning right from Raintree on the main road, there is a dirt road to the left, opposite Marshall Road, with a small unassuming Methodist church on the corner, about a 2-minute walk. I walked down about 10 minutes and took the first left by a couple of houses, which led into a forested area and eventually down to a small bridge. I had Masked Shining Parrots, Woodswallow, Whistler, Fantail, female Golden and Many-colored Fruit-Doves, Triller, Myzomela, Vanikoro Flycatcher and a few more. Fiji Bush-warblers were heard only. I returned to the lodge before dusk and had a nice dinner and beer.
April 16, Wednesday – Raintree Lodge area
Vili had mentioned another road to the left of Raintree. I walked the main road (Princess Highway) for about 15 minutes, then returned to the same road as yesterday afternoon until 7:30, since I had to return to the boat by 9. I left most of my luggage at the lodge and returned to the Heritage boat at Suva wharf, spending the next 3 days seeing some good seabirds including Fiji!! and Tahiti Petrels, among others, and Ogea Monarch on Ogea Levu.
April 19, Saturday – Suva
My return to Suva wharf was interesting. A zodiac took me to the wharf where I climbed up one of the large rubber tires that serve as cushions / buffers for the boat. There was a taxi at the wharf dropping off a new crew member, so I took it to the airport after going through customs ($35). It was now nearly noon on Easter Saturday and I wanted to get a flight to either Taveuni or Kadavu. I had just missed a flight and the next flight was on Northern Air Monday morning. I had to pay cash and also bought my remaining plane tickets on Fiji / Pacific Air (credit card). Vili was away camping with his daughters so there was nothing I could do but bird around Raintree Lodge and relax for the weekend. The taxi back to Raintree Lodge was $25, and I arrived at 1:30 and had lunch. In the afternoon I tried another road mentioned by Vili. Turn left from Raintree Lodge and walk about 15 minutes to a dirt road on the right just past the Forestry training school. This had some good forest but only went a short way until it reached a gate. Just before dusk I saw a pair of Fiji Goshawks possibly copulating – one was jumping off the other. Many of the same species were seen, with new additions being Fiji Bush-Warbler seen and Fiji Shrikebill.
April 20, Easter, Sunday – Colo-I Suva park
I walked from Raintree Lodge and arrived at the gate to the Colo-I-Suva Park around 6:30, a 10 minute walk, and stayed until 10:15. First light was after 6 and you couldn’t see much before 6:15. There was nobody at the gate but I paid the $5 fee when I left. I walked the main road to the end, down to the lower pools / waterhole and up again, then out. Note the map at the beginning of the trail and through the park is WAY out of scale. It looks like the parking area is about 25% of the way but it’s actually about 80%, with the trail ending about 10 minutes later. The first half hour was fairly quiet except for Whistlers and Barking Pigeons. I got good looks at Fiji-Bush Warblers, and a few minutes past the parking area had an excellent look at a male Golden Dove which conveniently flew in and stayed for about 10 minutes near a female before flying off. Just before the parking area is a green covered structure and a road that goes right, entering open country after a few minutes’ walk. Just before it opened up was the most productive area of the morning. There was a small flock containing Masked Shining-parrot, Pacific Robin, Fiji Parrotfinch, Vanikoro and Blue-crested Flycatchers, and Layard’s White-eyes. The other productive area was at the end of the road, where there several trails down to the lower waterholes. The best birding was along the road itself rather than on trails. I was by myself all morning until about 9:30 when a couple of walkers and cyclists showed up. I rested and read trip reports until about 3:30, and then birded the “Methodist church” track again a bit before Colo-I-Suva, left off the Princess Highway. After the previously mentioned left fork, just before the stream at the bottom of the hill, a small mixed flock was present with most of the same species that I had seen in the morning. Weather was mixed sun and clouds and hot, with a light shower.
April 21, Monday – fly to Taveuni
I birded the grounds of Raintree, mostly my balcony and the restaurant from 6:30 to 8, had breakfast, then took a taxi to the airport, leaving at 9 and arriving before 9:30-$20. I got some more Fiji dollars from the airport ATM. Note that Suva airport is actually quite small, surprising for the main city. Nadi airport is the main transport center. The 8-seater plane on Northern Air actually left 45 minutes early, since all 8 of us were there. Flight time was one hour, ten minutes. Keith Barnes had recommended the First Light Inn, next to the more expensive Garden Island Resort, which overlooks the water. I took a cab which took about 15-20 minutes from the airport. Nobody was home, and a shop owner called them, and they said if I didn’t have a reservation it was full. They were actually away on holiday. Older trip reports had mentioned a dormitory at Garden Island Resort, but they haven’t had a dorm since 2009, and the cheapest room was $210 US. The taxi had waited and took me a couple of kilometers north to Chottu’s Motel (email@example.com). Rooms were quite large with a fan and self-contained and were a good deal at $65. Chottu owns the shop next door and was a very helpful guy. It’s not a scenic location, but it’s in the village and practical. I had called Bobby of Bobby’s farm from Suva to arrange a 3 PM visit. Chottu found a driver, Sepu (932-9931), who took me there, waited, and drove back for $80. There is little traffic there so it’s essential to arrange round trip transport unless you have your own vehicle. It’s about a 45 minute drive from Chottu’s. When we arrived there was a group of people there having tea with Bobby’s wife. Bobby was in Suva, but his wife took me around the “farm” – actually a chicken farm and second growth forest- making Orange Dove call notes, an odd clucking sound. When I called Bobby he said he hadn’t seen or heard Friendly Ground-Dove for 6 months, so this was one disappointment of the trip. However after walking around for 40 minutes or so Bobby’s wife spotted a male Orange Dove in a fruiting tree behind their house, apparently THE dove tree. I had great close looks as it descended and roosted at eye level. Male and female Many-colored Fruit-Doves also came in, as well as a female Orange Dove. I stayed till 5, and all I saw were a pair of each species, as well as some other common birds like Triller, Collared Lories, Red Shining-parrot, and Vanikoro Flycatcher. It was $40 for the 2 hours. On the way back I saw the only Australasian Magpie of the trip as a roadside flyby. Everything was closed for the Easter holiday, but Sepu found a restaurant that was open where I got some take-away chicken and rice (mostly rice) for $8. I had seen Boro’s name mentioned in trip reports as a bird guide, and Sepu referred me to him, so we stopped by his house to arrange for tomorrow (since we couldn’t get through on his cell). He used to work at the Garden Island Resort but is now retired. He was pretty hammered on kava and wanted $100. He quickly went down to $50 and we arranged to meet him the next morning at 5AM, as he lives next to the Des Voeux Peak Road.
April 22, Tuesday – Taveuni, Des Voeux peak
Roosters woke me at 3 and 4 AM. Sepo had arranged for Simal to drive me to Des Voeux peak and spend the morning with me for $150, which seemed to be the going rate based on trip reports I read. He arrived on time, we picked up Boro, who was grunting and coughing, and drove up the rough track, arriving around 6. There is a gate just past the lower village, and Boro spent 5 minutes waking up the gatekeeper and getting the key. I paid the $5 on the way back. It was overcast, windy and cold at the top – bring a windbreaker. We parked by the second gate and Boro proceeded to take me on overgrown / nonexistent trails to the left, where we stood in dense growth. Boro was grunting and coughing, we couldn’t see most of the birds, and this seemed a pointless exercise. A Bush-warbler was seen at close range and Boro insisted it was a Fantail. I would not recommend him, as his main usefulness seems to be that he knows where a couple of trails are, as well as the bird calls. After about 30 minutes I was getting concerned, since I had read Silktails were often not seen after 7:15. I asked to get out to the main road and the curve to the left, just past the gate, mentioned in several reports as good for Silktail. Immediately I saw 2 dark birds halfway up a tree on the left at the curve. I mentioned it to Boro who ignored me and kept walking up the road. They flew across the road to the right side and sure enough they were Silktails. I got fairly good looks a couple of times before they disappeared into the bushes. I had read they creep along branches at lower levels, but that was not my experience with them. After 10 minutes or so I asked Boro if we could try a trail that Keith had told me about. This is just downhill from the gate, on the left as you descend, “200 paces” from the gate, according to Keith. It’s very hard to see the trail as it’s overgrown, but it descends and opens up a bit right away. Keith had mentioned walking as far a small log bridge, which I never did find. Boro kept bushwhacking into fairly dense growth. Giant Honeyeaters were heard but I only got one halfway decent view of the top third of the bird, seeing its distinctive yellow bill. Island Thrushes were common but very hard to pin down as they moved quickly. Boro said he was the one who had created all the trails up there. I didn’t really get anything from him except the Honeyeater, although he did know bird calls. It started raining fairly hard so we stopped and waited under trees. The next 45 minutes were mostly rain with some pauses. I never saw any more Silktails, just Whistlers, Fantails, and some common species. Around 8:30 I wanted to walk down the road, where someone had seen the Ground-Dove. I saw the parrots, Fiji Parrotfinch on the trail, and Boro did find a male Orange Dove, but we didn’t see that much. It was raining off and on. Unfortunately we left good forest after less than an hour, and it was second growth scrub, accompanied by a road repair crew. Simal picked us up around 10:30 (he had waited by the upper gate), I paid the gatekeeper and Boro, and I returned to Chottu’s. I decided to try Vidawa forest the next day, which is on the other side of the island, and Chottu was very agreeable regarding late checkout, which officially was 10 AM. Around noon I took a cab to Matei and Bibi’s place near the airport for $20. Bibi’s is a lovely location on a large property with palm trees and fruiting trees – passionfruit, papaya, and more. The manager Pauline was a very pleasant friendly person who gave me my own bungalow for $80. Relaxing on the porch with a distant sea view was a good way to spend the next couple of hours. There may be cheaper alternatives. There is only electricity from 6 to 9, but the well ventilated bungalows were fairly comfortable, except for about an hour in early evening. I did a little swimming and snorkeling at a nearby “private” beach next to the resorts in mid-afternoon. Pauline arranged a driver to take me to Vidawa forest the next day. About 15 minutes down the road is the Tramonto restaurant, in a beautiful setting facing the ocean, great for watching sunsets while having a beer. I had a fish dinner for $25. While walking to the restaurant I saw the Goshawk, and Pacific Reef-Heron and flying foxes were seen from the restaurant. If you have the time I recommend spending extra time on Taveuni, as it’s a beautiful relaxing place. NOTE: Another driver with 4WD used by a couple of people is Samir, 679-955-2964 or 679-902-8375, firstname.lastname@example.org. He also charges $150 and knows where the trail near the gate is, according to Keith Barnes.
April 23, Wednesday – Taveuni – Vidawa Forest, fly to Suva
The driver was 15 minutes late, arriving at 5:30. He drove fast and we arrived at the Vidawa forest starting place in 30 minutes. The road was in good condition. I recommend arriving by 5:30, since it’s a good 40 minutes before you get to the forest. Tony was my guide. He was very pleasant and knew where the Silktails were, but didn’t know much about the other birds. I had read in the log they have in the “office” that Ben seems to be the better bird guide. We walked uphill through second growth, not arriving in the forest until just before 7. Note that when you reach a large bench under a tree it’s about 10 more minutes till the forest begins. At the beginning of the forest something flushed which may have been the ground-dove –w e never did see it. After a few minutes Tony stopped in an area with good sight lines and we waited. A few birds appeared, including what I believe was a female Black-faced Shrikebill, as the bill was much thicker than the Fiji Shrikebills that we saw later. Shortly after a couple of Silktails appeared, mid-level in the forest with a mixed flock: Blue-crested Broadbills, Whistlers, Fantails, Shrikebills. After the flock went away we continued slowly through the forest. We found another group of birds with at least 3 Silktails, allowing good close views of the spangles – surprisingly not that striking – and the white rump when it flicked its wings. They were moving like typical flycatchers, and I didn’t see the creeping movements mentioned by others. It sometimes picked at leaves like a foliage-gleaner. I would guess if you just walked through the forest without stopping it would take less than an hour. Surprisingly I didn’t see Giant Honeyeater, thrushes, or Trillers. I got back to the road by 10:30, paid the $60 fee, and returned to Bibi’s to relax until it was time for my flight, which left 15 minutes early, just past 4:30. I took a cab to Raintree Lodge and had dinner there,
April 24, Thursday – fly to Nadi-Kadavu – Namara Road
I birded from my porch from 6:15 to 7:15 in a vain attempt to see Giant Honeyeater, then another 30 minutes from the restaurant before having breakfast. I took a cab to the airport, flew to Nadi, then to Kadavu after a wait. There were only 3 of us on the Twin Otter to Kadavu, which arrived around 12:30 to a pair of Masked Lapwings at the airport. I turned left to find the “Airport Inn”, recommended by Detleff Davies. It’s easy to miss, as there’s no sign, and I walked past it 3 times. After turning left from the airport, in a minute there is a large building on the right with a green roof. There is a track opposite on the left and the second or third house has a sign saying Hone Center. This is a small home stay in a private house with only four rooms sleeping seven people maximum. Fortunately there was a spare room, which cost $70 including 3 meals. The owners are Mary and David, cell 679 869 5083, also 679 3607970 and 6797822505, email@example.com. It’s a good idea to call in advance if possible. There is another home stay for the same price, Biana guest house, apparently a kilometer or so from the airport in the opposite direction. There’s not much else here in the small town. The place to bird is the Namara Road. I’m not sure exactly how far it is to Namara, but the point is not to go to Namara but the road, which has good forest and supposedly some trails as well. Vili had suggested getting a cab to about kilometer 5 to 10 and walking back. Mary said she could arrange it, but when I checked around 2 she said she couldn’t reach the guy. Two of her girls (Mary takes in homeless kids and orphans) walked me into the town center. I talked to a friendly local and asked if he could send a cab my way, and walked up the hill, then down the Namara Road around 2:30. There’s a roundabout and it’s the second right. There is a sign for Namara, but it’s between the first two roads. Don’t take the first or lower road, which descends to a field and houses. It was fairly hot and the first kilometer is open scrub, then secondary forest. A cab did appear, thanks to the local, and took me to about km 4, a bit past the waterfall area. He didn’t really want to drive that far as he had other customers. It was ferry arrival day, so the few cabs were busy with that traffic. I had the fantail and Whistler fairly soon, and didn’t really see that much more on my walk back: White-eye, Silver-Eye, Barking Pigeon, and the Crimson Shining-Parrot near town. Somewhere between km 1 and 2 I heard the whistling sound of the Whistling / Velvet Dove fairly close to the road in open country. I spent about 5 minutes looking in vain and figured I would try and get to town before dark to see the Honeyeater, not found along Namara Road, based on trip reports I’d read. This was probably the biggest mistake of the trip, as I never did see the dove, and I didn’t see any Honeyeaters in town. I had a flight out at 1 the next day, so decided to spend the first 30 minutes the next day looking for the Honeyeater. I had Mary call the cab driver and ask for a pickup at 7, along the road if necessary. I had a nice home-cooked meal at Mary’s. There is power most of the time, but it goes off between 12 and 6 at night.
April 25, Friday – AM Kadavu, Namara Road, PM fly to Nadi, bus to Suva
I woke up and heard what I thought was the Honeyeater, but at 6 it was still too dark to see well. I walked up the dirt path away from the main road until I reached a large building and open area, probably a school. Still no honeyeater seen well, so I returned to Mary’s where I had one in the yard next to her house. I had a couple of pieces of fruit at Mary’s and set off towards Namara Road, asking Mary to send the cab driver along the road to find me. He never showed. The police saw me walking in town and gave me a lift to the start of the Namara Road. I had the deadline of my airline flight so had to be conscious of the time and how far I walked. I did manage to walk in at least 5 kilometers under mostly cloudy skies with some wind the first couple of hours. Although I heard the dove’s whistle I never did see any doves, not even flybys – only the Barking Pigeon. Most dove calls were not very close to the road. Another miss was the distinctive subspecies of Island Thrush, which, based on trip reports, isn’t seen by many. If the cabbie had showed and taken me to kilometer 10, my chances might have improved. Most people had seen the 4 endemics in just half a day, but unfortunately this was not the case for me. I wanted to spend 2 nights on Kadavu, but the Easter holidays messed up my plans. I got back at noon, talked to the airport guy who gave me 15 minutes to get back with my luggage. I gobbled down a quick lunch and caught the flight back to Nadi. The Suva taxi driver I had been using had said he would meet me and charge me $70 to Raintree, since they often had empty cabs returning from the Suva to Nadi run. He wasn’t there so I got the bus (Sunbeam - $16) at 2:15, arriving in the hectic Suva bus station at 6:30 – there was an athletic competition going on and traffic was terrible. The bus driver had arranged for his cabbie brother to meet me so I took a cab to Raintree Lodge, somewhat disappointed in my biggest trip miss, Whistling Dove. On the bus was a huge TV screen and I had the pleasure of seeing the last version of Die Hard and another action flick. I tried to call Vili again but only got his voicemail. Around 10security came to my room to say Vili would be there at 7 AM. There was heavy rain and wind during the night.
April 26, Saturday – Namosi Road and Parrotfinch
The day didn’t start out well. Vili didn’t arrive until 7:45 and said he couldn’t get a 4WD rental for $150, as he previously said. The next cheapest was $250. I didn’t have much choice so we took a cab to Budget. They had a vehicle, but they were all locked in an adjacent building and the guy with the key was at the airport. They said I would have to wait an hour. There were tourist brochures in the office listing rental companies, and Vili made a couple of calls. I saw Quality rentals on the brochure, he called them, and they had a vehicle available for $205 per day. We took a cab to their office, which was in a building next to a gas station, with just a few vehicles parked outside. Their credit card machine was down so I had to pay cash – there was an ATM next door. They wanted cash for the deposit but I said they would have to accept the credit card. We finally got on the road after 9, arriving at the Namosi Road around 10, essentially missing the best part of the morning. It was overcast and a bit cool, with occasional light showers, which helped somewhat temperature-wise. Giant Honeyeaters were common here, and I finally got a good look at a few. Some had a yellow stripe below the bill – immatures? We drove and stopped at various places. This road eventually cuts through to the Monsavu dam road, but we found out it was closed further up due to a landslide. Many of the endemics were seen – Blue-crested Flycatcher, Whistler, White-eyes, Fantail, female Golden Dove, and a great look at seven Many-colored Fruit-doves that flew into a roadside tree. We tried the recording in several places for Black-faced Shrikebill, but with only one response, and that bird flew across the road and disappeared. Around 1:30 we started returning for the stakeout place Vili had recently found for Pink-billed Parrotfinch, a nomadic rare species that is usually tough to locate. We made a brief stop at the Agricultural College in Nausori, near the airport, where I saw a pair of Java Sparrows on the wires. On the main road, after a main bridge, there were some Pacific Black Ducks in the river. We turned off on a road that is also the road for Monsavu dam. En route we stopped along the way at a spot where Vili had seen the Ground-dove fly across the road a week earlier. There were Fiji Bush-warblers and Slaty Monarch, but no doves. The next day that small patch of trees had been cut down. After about 30 minutes we turned left, then left again to arrive at a small village. Vili is also a Pentecostal pastor, and the local pastor had asked him to speak to the villagers a couple of months ago. While there, in tie and dress shirt, he heard the Pink-billed Parrotfinches. He excused himself briefly and found a tree where they came in to roost. He returned and gave a talk / sermon about nature and the environment, working the nature theme into the religious sermon. We walked past a house to the trees where the birds come in to roost around 4:45. Vili thought they usually came in before dusk. Originally he had found a pair but recently found as many as six. After about 10 minutes he heard their call – a tsip, followed by a double tsip tsip, more emphatic and louder than Fiji Parrotfinch. In the adjacent tree we saw 2 birds, along with a couple of Fiji Parrotfinches. It was clearly a bulkier bird than Fiji Parrotfinch. I watched one feed, picking at the moss along branches. After several minutes they flew off. We heard a nearby Black-faced Shrikebill, and tried to get it to come in. I got a naked eye look, but it disappeared before I could get the bins on it. We returned to the parrotfinch tree and heard a couple flying by, but did not see any more in their usual roosting trees. We left at dusk, and got back to the Raintree Lodge about 45 minutes later, gassing up the car en route.
April 27, Sunday – Monsavu Dam area
Unfortunately this last day was the worst of the whole trip, weather-wise. We left Raintree Lodge 15 minutes late at 4:15 for the Monsavu dam road, a bit less than 3 hours drive. Vili says past the Monsavu dam Long-legged Warblers are fairly common. However currently there are military people at the dam building. You can get to the dam, but not further. There are a few birds along the road well before the dam, but I didn’t realize what I was up against. They favor steep hillsides near streams, and according to Vili, rarely fly up, but move on the ground. This is dense growth and it’s hard to get openings or decent sightlines. If possible I would recommend trying to get permission to access the area whenever they make it accessible, and spend at least a night there to increase your chances of seeing the warbler. Apparently there was a cooperative pair in October that several visitors got to see well along the road before the dam – but not today. Our vehicle turned out not to actually have 4WD, and something started rattling about 30 minutes into the drive. It got progressively worse throughout the day and I had my fingers crossed hoping it wouldn’t break down, as we didn’t see another vehicle until mid-afternoon on the way back. It had rained heavily during the night, and it rained off and on during the drive up the dirt road. When we arrived at the first location we heard at least 3 separate Long-legged Warblers calling in an area covering about 200-300 meters. Unfortunately there was light rain and wind making an already difficult task nearly impossible. After an hour Vili led me through a short overgrown trail along the base of the hill. He then left for a bathroom break and did not return. It was a good open area in the undergrowth but he had the recordings so my chances of seeing the warbler were minimal. I did have close looks at Fiji Bush-Warbler and the Robin, and a Black-faced Shrikebill called close by but not within sight. After 30 minutes I called out to Vili, who for some reason had been waiting along the road –maybe because his windbreaker was two toned bright lime green and black. The weather was still windy with light drizzle, and we didn’t hear the warblers again. We eventually drove to the dam buildings and chatted with the soldiers there and had lunch by the reservoir. The only White-faced Heron of the trip flew by and there were a few Pacific Black Ducks on the water. My only Swamp Harrier of the trip flew by, and another Black-faced Shrikebill called but again remained out of sight. We did see a male Golden Dove through the fog a bit later. We later returned to the original spot, but more rain and fog rolled in so we left around 2:15. En route we had a few Metallic Pigeons and a Goshawk perched on a telephone wire. We finally encountered a few vehicles and a bus on the return. We got back to Raintree Lodge around 5 and it was still raining
April 28, Monday – Pipeline Road AM, bus to Nadi and flight home
Since we hadn’t started birding until after 9 the first day Vili had offered to accompany me to Pipeline Road, which is behind Raintree Lodge, for an hour or two.. I’m guessing it would take around 30 minutes walking. You turn left from the lodge, and after about 10 minutes take the first left – I forget the name of the road. In a few minutes is another road to the left that passes through a village. Eventually you reach a large water tank on the left, with a gated road going off to the left. Vili says all the endemics excepting the warbler can be found here in the first 200 meters, although the parrotfinch is rare. We birded the area from about 6:30 to 8:15 not seeing much, although Giant Honeyeater was easier to see here. Island Thrushes were heard but not seen. We continued straight past the water tower to the first building on the left, mentioned in some reports as Jim’s farm I think, where the road was gated. Vili said the Ground-dove is sometimes seen there and on the road to the right that goes downhill. We finally heard Black-faced Shrikebill calling nearby a short distance down the road to the right, and after some effort got a good look at an adult male and an immature male with gray instead of white on the face. We left around 8:15, washed the vehicle at the lodge, and returned the car by 9. We said our goodbyes and I caught a cab back to Raintree Lodge. I booked an “express” bus that left from the Holiday inn at 2:30 for Nadi airport, arriving around 8, and caught my 10 PM flight to Los Angeles, where I spent the night before catching 2 flights home.
ENDEMICS or near endemics are in capitals
I = Introduced species
H = heard only – 5 species
Heritage – seen on the Heritage trip, probably not possible on a normal trip without chartering a boat, although taking ferries might result in some of these species, especially boobies. Listed for completeness and because I want to.
Pacific Black Duck - Anas superciliosa- - on the river past a bridge by Suva airport and Monsavu reservoir
Kermadec Petrel – Pterodroma neglecta – Heritage
Collared Petrel - Pterodroma brevipes - Heritage
FIJI PETREL (E) – Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi - Heritage – chumming from Zodiacs near Gau from 4- 5:45; Petrel showed at 5:15 – thick bill, long wings, and noticeably smaller than Tahiti Petrel
Tahiti Petrel - Pseudobulweria rostrata – Heritage
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – Puffinus pacificus - Heritage
Tropical Shearwater – Puffinus bailloni - Heritage
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – Oceanites oceanicus - Heritage
White-tailed Tropicbird - Phaethon lepturus – Heritage
Lesser Frigatebird - Fregatta ariel - Heritage, but a frigatebird near Taveuni airport was probably this species
Masked Booby - Sula dactylatra - Heritage
Red-footed Booby – Sula sula – Heritage, common
Brown Booby – Sula leucogaster - Heritage
White-faced Heron – Egretta noveahollandiae - one flyby at Monsavu dam reservoir
Pacific Reef-Heron – Egretta sacra - Taveuni and also near Pacific Harbor on Viti Levu from the bus to Nadi
Swamp Harrier – Circus approximans - one flew past at Monsavu dam
FIJI GOSHAWK (E) – Accipiter rufitorques - all 3 islands including Ovalau, fairly common, especially late afternoon
Masked Lapwing – Vanellus miles - 2, then 3 at Kadavu airport – a recent addition apparently
Pacific Golden-Plover – Pluvialis fulva - a couple at Suva airport, also on Ogea Levu
Gray-tailed Tattler – Tringa brevipes - Heritage on Ogea Levu
Ruddy Turnstone – Arenaria intepres - Heritage on Ogea Levu
Brown Noddy – Anous stolidus - Heritage
Black Noddy – Anous minutes - Heritage
White Tern – Gygis alba – Heritage
Sooty Tern – Onychoprion fuscatus - Heritage
Great-crested Tern – Sterna bergii - seen along coast near Pacific Harbor on Suva to Nadi bus, also on Heritage trip
Long-tailed Jaeger – Stercorarius longicaudus - Heritage
Rock Pigeon (I) – Columba livia - Suva, also Ovalau waterfront and Suva
Metallic / White-throated Pigeon – Columba vitiensis- a couple seen on Monsavu Dam road, also 1 on Ogea Levu
Spotted Dove (I) – Streptopelia chinensis - Viti Levu and Taveuni, common
FRIENDLY GROUND-DOVE (NE) – Gallicolumba stairi – NOT SEEN OR HEARD, another big miss. Possibly glimpsed on Kadavu, Namara Road, maybe also in Vidawa forest Taveuni.
MANY-COLORED FRUIT-DOVE (NE) – Ptilinopsis perousii - a couple at Bobby’s farm, Taveuni, flock of at least 7 on Namosi Road, and a female near Raintree lodge on the “Methodist church” road
Crimson-crowned Fruit-Dove (H) – Ptilinopsis porphyraceus - Heard only on Ogea Levu. Beware confusing this with female Many-colored Fruit-Dove. On Fiji both have yellow undertail coverts. Pratt shows a different race with red undertail coverts in his book. Many-colored also has stronger breast streaking and more yellow edgings on the wing coverts. I believe all birds around Raintree Lodge are Many-colored, according to a local guide. I think it’s the same for Taveuni and Kadavu.
ORANGE DOVE (E) – Ptilinopsis victor - Stunning, a trip highlight. Male and female seen at Bobby’s farm, male on DesVoeux peak road, and female in Vidawa forest. Has to be one of the world’s prettiest birds.
GOLDEN DOVE (E) – Ptilinopsis luteovirens - male at Colo-I-Suva park and Monsavu dam road, females seen near Raintree Lodge, Namosi Road and Ovalau. Another stunner. The yellow feathers have an overcoat type look with green streaks
VELVET (WHISTLING) DOVE (E) (H) – Ptilinopsis layardi - Heard only, the biggest miss of the trip
PACIFIC IMPERIAL-PIGEON (NE) – Ducula pacifica - Heritage trip on Ogea Levu
PEALE’S (BARKING) IMPERIAL-PIGEON (E) – Ducula pacifica - abundant at Raintree Lodge, seen on all islands
Fan-tailed Cuckoo (H) - Cacomantis flabelliformis – Heard only near Monsavu Dam – an endemic subspecies that some think warrants a split
Barn Owl (H) – Tyto alba - heard on the grounds of Bibi’s lodge on Taveuni around 5 AM
WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTLET (NE) – Aerodramus spodiopygius - common throughout, all 3 islands
Collared Kingfisher – Todirhamphus chloris - all 3 islands. The kingfisher story on Fiji and Tonga is interesting. There seems to be some confusion as to which species is where. From what I’ve seen and discussions with Heritage leaders, Collared is whiter. They sometimes have a faint rufous wash along the sides and a rufous supercilium. Sacred has strong rufous underparts, seemed a bit larger, and has a different call. Both species were seen together on a couple of Tongan islands
Sacred Kingfisher – Todirhamphus sanctus - Heritage trip – Ogea Levu only.
COLLARED LORY (E) – Phigys solitarius - common throughout, all 3 islands & Ovalau, a very colorful parrot
BLUE-CROWNED LORIKEET (NE) – Vini australis - Heritage trip, Ogea Levu flybys
CRIMSON SHINING-PARROT (E) – Prosopeia spendens - Kadavu, not overly common but fairly easy to see in town & forest
RED SHINING-PARROT (E) – Prosopeia tabuensis - Taveuni – same comment as above
MASKED SHINING-PARROT (E) – Prosopeia personata - Easy at Raintree Lodge, also in forests. The shining parrots are striking birds with long broad tails
ORANGE-BREASTED MYZOMELA (E) – Myzomela jugularis - all 3 islands, fairly common in second growth and open areas
WATTLED HONEYEATER (NE) – Foulehaio carunculata - Viti Levu and Taveuni, common
GIANT HONEYEATER (E) – Gymnomyza viridis - Viti Levu and Kadavu. Quite hard to see for me. It’s a treetop bird that stays hidden although it calls a lot. Other reports said it was easily seen from Raintree lodge, including the restaurant. It calls before dawn, but I couldn’t see one despite spending nearly every morning at Raintree checking the trees. Finally seen well on Namosi Road, also along Monsavu dam road and Pipeline Road. Although it’s clearly bigger than Wattled, beware immature Wattleds that are all olive, especially at a distance.
KADAVU HONEYEATER (E) – Xanthotis provocator - one or two seen next to Airport Inn, none seen on Namara road
FIJI WOODSWALLOW (E) – Artamus mentalis - fairly common on wires on all 3 islands and Ovalau
Australasian Magpie (I) – Gymnorhina tibicen - one flyby seen along the road returning from Bobby’s farm, Taveuni
POLYNESIAN TRILLER (NE) – Lalage maculosa - all 3 islands plus Ovalau, also Ogea Levu – different subspecies
WHITE-THROATED WHISTLER (NE) – Pachycephala vitiensis - Kadavu and Heritage trip, Ogea Levu. Clements now splits Golden Whistler into White-throated and Fiji Whistler
FIJI WHISTLER (NE) – Pachycephala graeffii - Viti Levu and Taveuni, easier to hear than see. The much duller females look somewhat like shrikebills.
SILKTAIL (E) – Lamprolia victoriae - Taveuni: 2 on Des Voeux peak and at least 5 Vidawa forest. Other reports described feeding behavior as creeping along branches, almost nuthatch like. The ones I saw acted like typical flycatchers, and sometimes picked at dead leaves, seen from low to mid level in forest. They look all dark unless they flick their wings and reveal the white rump. The blue spangles aren’t that easy to see.
STREAKED FANTAIL (NE) – Rhipidura spilodera - fairly common on Viti Levu and Taveuni
KADAVU FANTAIL (E) – Rhipidura personata - seen along Namara Road, Kadavu
OGEA MONARCH (E) – Mayrornis versicolor - Heritage trip, Ogea Levu
SLATY MONARCH (E) – Mayrornis lessoni - all 3 islands, have a scolding call that I sometimes confused with the bush-warbler, fairly common
FIJI SHRIKEBILL (NE) – Clytorhynchus vitiensis - all 3 islands, uncommon. The biggest challenge is separating female Black-faced Shrikebills from this. The larger thicker bill of Black-faced seems to be the main character, although some Fiji Shrikebills have thicker bills than others.
BLACK-THROATED SHRIKEBILL (NE) – Clytorhynchus nigogularis - very tough to see. Vili said they are usually responsive to recordings, but I didn’t get a decent look at a male until the last day on Pipeline Road. 1 female seen in Vidawa forest – much thicker bill than the Fiji Shrikebills. Another field mark is a horn tipped bill, but I wasn’t looking for this (forgot!).
VANIKORO FLYCATCHER (NE) – Myiagra vanikorensis - fairly common all 3 islands, Ovalau & Ogea Levu
BLUE-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (E) – Myiagra azureocapilla – Viti Levu & Taveuni. One of Fiji’s prettier birds. Both male and female are striking, with orange bills. Generally uncommon and usually with mixed flocks.
PACIFIC (SCARLET) ROBIN (NE) – Petroica multicolor - Colo-I-Suva and Monsavu Dam road, heard only on Des Voeux peak, Taveuni. Not particularly common
Pacific Swallow – Hirundo tahitica- Viti Levu and Kadavu
Red-vented Bulbul (I) – Pycnonotus cafer - common on Viti Levu, even in forested areas
FIJI BUSH-WARBLER (E) – Cettia ruficapilla - all 3 islands, different subspecies, the Kadavu race is paler with a bright rufous cap, the Taveuni race is darker. Can be tough to see in the scrub, but fairly common
LONG-LEGGED WARBLER (E) (H) – Trichocichla rufa - heard only, a very frustrating bird. See notes on Monsavu dam in text
LAYARD’S WHITE-EYE (E) – Zosterops explorator - all 3 islands, more in forested areas, not as common as expected
Silver-eye – Zosterops lateralis - all 3 islands, fairly common in all habitats
Island Thrush – Turdus poliocephalus - only seen on Taveuni on Des Voeux peak. Heard only on Viti Levu. Another miss was the Kadavu race, which has an orange head
POLYNESIAN STARLING (NE) – Aplonis tabuensis - all three islands, not particularly common
Jungle Myna (I) – Acridotheres fuscus - common on Viti Levu
Common Myna (I) – Acridotheres tristis - common on Viti Levu and Taveuni
Red Avadavat (I) – Amandava amandava - A few seen near Raintree Lodge, and lower Monsavu dam Road. One pair seen at sea approaching Suva harbor
FIJI PARROTFINCH (E) – Erythrura pealii - Viti Levu and lower Des Voeux peak road, Taveuni.
PINK-BILLED PARROTFINCH (E) – Erythrura kleinschmidti - a trip highlight was seeing 2 of these birds feeding in the roosting tree found by Vili. They picked at the moss along tree branches. They were noticeably bulkier than Fiji Parrotfinch. The pink bill and black head also were easy to see, even given poor views. The calls that I heard (and Vili had recorded) were stronger than Fiji Parrotfinch, although similar in tone; one call was a tsip followed by two tsips.
Java Sparrow (I)) – Padda oryzivora - a pair on telephone wires at the Agricultural college near Suva airport
MAMMALS / Other
Mongoose – only 1 seen on Monsavu Dam road
Small rat – Namara road near waterfall on Kadavu
Flying foxes – not sure of species, supposedly there are 2