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New Caledonia Birding Trip Report

14-17 December 1999

by Jon Hornbuckle

kagu1.jpg (83115 bytes)I made a short trip to New Caledonia from Sydney to see as many of the mainland specialities as possible. I was satisfied with my 19 ticks, including stellar views of the incomparable Kagu, missing only the difficult Grassbird and White-bellied Goshawk, the latter probably due to continuous rain on my third day. Three other endemics appear to be extinct, although a sighting of the owlet-nightjar was claimed earlier in the year. With an extra day, I would have flown to Lifou for the two endemic white-eyes and Red-bellied Fruit-Dove.

COST

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

Drink, tolls, Parc entrance fees and food bought on New Cal (most was taken with me from Oz) c.£12 including 2 beers for nearly £5. 

LOG

Dec 14

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

Dec 15

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

Dec 16

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

Dec 17

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

SITES

Parc Provincial de la Riviere Bleue

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

Mont Koghi

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

Mont Mou

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

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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

Jon Hornbuckle  35 Grove Road, Sheffield S7 2GY

SYSTEMATIC LIST

Little Pied Cormorant  Phalacrocorax melanoleucos

Singles Riviere Bleue and Noumea

White-faced Heron  Egretta novaehollandiae

1 Riviere Bleue

Pacific Reef-Egret  Egretta sacra

2 Noumea

Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus

4 Riviere Bleue

Swamp Harrier  Circus approximans

1 Riviere Bleue and 2 near Noumea

Brown Goshawk  Accipiter fasciatus

Singles near Noumea and Mt Mou

Kagu  Rhynochetos jubatus

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

Wandering Tattler  Heteroscelus incanus

2 on rocks Noumea

Silver Gull  Larus novaehollandiae

Common on coast

Great Crested-Tern  Sterna bergii

1 Noumea

Black-naped Tern  Sterna sumatrana

2+ Nde

Metallic Pigeon  Columba vitiensis

2 singles Mount Koghi

Emerald Dove  Chalcophaps indica

2 singles Riviere Bleue

Spotted Dove  Streptopeia chinensis

Fairly common Noumea area

Cloven-feathered Dove  Drepanoptila holosericea

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

New Caledonian Imperial-Pigeon  Ducula goliath

3 Riviere Bleue and 1 Mount Koghi with others heard

Red-fronted Parakeet  Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae

Only 1 Riviere Bleue 15/12

Horned Parakeet  Eunymphicus cornutus

Only 1 Riviere Bleue 14/12

Rainbow Lorikeet  Trichoglossus haematodus

Fairly common throughout

Fan-tailed Cuckoo  Cacomantis flabelliformis

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

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo  Chrysococcyx lucidus

2 heard Mt Koghi

Barn Owl  Tyto alba

1 near Noumea at night

Glossy Swiftlet  Aerodramus esculenta

A few throughout

Uniform Swiftlet     Aerodramus vanikorensis

Only 1 identified, at Mt Koghi

Sacred Kingfisher  Todirhamphus sanctus

3 Riviere Bleue and 2 Mt Koghi and near Noumea

Fan-tailed Gerygone  Gerygone flavolateralis

Fairly common Riviere Bleue and  Mt Koghi with a few elsewhere

Dark-brown Honeyeater  Lichmera incana

Common throughout

New Caledonian Myzomela  Myzomela caledonica

3 Riviere Bleue and 2 Mt Koghi and Mt Mou

New Caledonian Friarbird  Philemou diemenensis

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

Crow Honeyeater  Gymnomyza aubryana

Only 1 Riviere Bleue

Barred Honeyeater  Phylidonyris undulata

2 in flight Riviere Bleue and 2 Mt Koghi

Yellow-bellied Robin  Eopsaltria flaviventris

6+ Riviere Bleue and Mt Koghi

New Caledonian Whistler  Pachycephala caledonica

2+ Riviere Bleue and Mt Koghi

Rufous Whistler  Pachycephala rufiventris

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

Grey Fantail  Rhipidura fuliginosa

3 Noumea and 2 heard Mt Koghi

Streaked Fantail  Rhipidura spilodera

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

Southern Shrikebill  Clytorhynchus pachycephaloides

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

New Caledonian Flycatcher  Myiagra caledonica

2+ Mt Koghi

New Caledonian Crow  Corvus moueduloides

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

White-breasted Woodswallow  Artamus leucorynchus

6+ Riviere Bleue, 4 Mt Koghi and 1 Noumea

Melanesian Cuckoo-shrike  Coracina caledonica

2+ Mt Koghi and 1 Mt Mou

New Caledonian Cuckoo-shrike  Coracina analis

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

Long-tailed Triller  Lalage leucopyga

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

Striated Starling  Aplonis striata

Only 1 Riviere Bleue but 8+ Mt Koghi

ComMou Myna  Acridotheres tristis

Common Noumea and beyond

Silver-eye  Zosterops lateralis

Common Noumea and beyond

Green-backed White-eye  Zosterops xanthochrous

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

House Sparrow  Passer domesticus

Common around Noumea

Common Waxbill  Estrilda astrild

Common around Noumea (introduced) and beyond including Mt Mou

Red-throated Parrotfinch  Erythrura psittacea

4 in flight at Mt Koghi and 1 Mt Mou

Chestnut-breasted Munia  Lonchura castaneothorax

2 of this introduced sp. at Magenta near Noumea


Copyright © 1992-2012 John Wall