Lesser Florican - August 2023

Total Pageviews

Sunday 30 April 2023

Western Pacific Odyssey: Part 3 (New Caledonia)

26th March 2023

After our arrival into port, and after a swift lunch, it was time to disembark onto New Caledonia for an afternoons birding up Mt Koghi. With 50+ birders, it of course started rather hectic, but myself, Barry Reed and Ed managed to sneak off pretty much by ourselves and away from the crowds, enjoying a wealth of endemic birds along the forest trails, and eventually, on the approach road. 

The forests here were lush and there was constant activity - in fact, we managed to see pretty much everything during only a three hour vigil. The highlight for many was a responsive New Caledonia Thicketbird, a true mega in every sense and a very smart bird. However, the Red-throated Parrotfinches were just stunning and very tricky to see. 

We first hit the forest and soon found mixed species flocks containing NC Myzomelas, NC Whistlers, Fan-tailed Gerygones, Streaked FantailGreen-backed White-eyes and Yellow-bellied Flyrobins, but the call of a few New Caledonia Crows soon had us watching what is renowned to be the world's most clever bird - we even saw one with a twig in its bill, plucking out food from a small hole in a tree! A couple of South Melanesian Cuckooshrikes dwarfed everything close-by. 

As the light began to fade, we headed out of the forest and walked down the approach road, finding our only Long-tailed Triller of the trip, both Barred and Grey-eared Honeyeaters, a NC Friarbird, all while Satin Swiftlets were buzzing around us. The views looking back down to the coastline were superb. We had seen lots, but we still had a few more bits to see, and we basically struck gold. We just happened to luck into another group who were watching a NC Thicketbird - probably the hardest endemic to see on the island! It even showed well enough for many to get some excellent photos, though I was wrongly positioned. Next up was a Melanesian Flycatcher, which meant we had pretty much cleaned up on the mountain - always a nice feeling, but we still had one more magical birding experience on the island the following day.

New Caledonia Crow

Grey-eared Honeyeaters

Red-throated Parrotfinches

views from Mt Koghi

27th March 2023

Today was the day I had long been waiting for. Kagu has been on my wish list for years, and this trip provides an almost guaranteed opportunity to see this bizarre, flightless bird. However, one still has to get up to Grand Riviere Bleue, perhaps a 90-minute drive from Noumea. It didn't start too well when our bus decided to go AWOL, with a dodgy braking system which gave off an unwelcome alarm, but thankfully the driver ignored this and kept going... Kagu wins all day over safety, in my opinion!

We eventually arrived at the park, but then had to scramble into minibuses to the start of the actual forest. By now, it was very light and time was ticking by. As we waited at the start of the forest for other group members, we scored NC Cuckooshrikes and New Caledonia Parakeets, so an excellent start and my target list had lost a few more. 

After a introduction by the foghorn that was Chris Collins, in true army style, we began the 'charge' into the forest along the main track. I was upfront with the keenest, and we were told to not pass the leaders, make any noise, or anything else. Anyway, a tracker slowed the charge and off to our right, a ghostly figure emerged from the forest... a magnificent Kagu! Just such an amazing moment!!

After a few more Kagu sightings as I went off-piste into the forest, Barry Reed and I again managed to lose the crowd and we rushed off down the track until we were on our own. This proved to be an excellent move. We had lovely views of the remarkable Cloven-feathered Dove (probably the best dove I've seen), no fewer than three Crow Honeyeaters, a Southern Shrikebill and a few Horned Parakeets. More of the other endemics seen yesterday were seen again in good numbers today, making this a most enjoyable morning. Barry and I had some mega Kagu sightings next to the Le Grand Kaori tree, which is apparently 1,000 years old. 

I then walked back to the forest entrance by myself having seen all I had wanted from the morning and again saw several Kagu. 

It was then a case of being picked up and driven back to the vessel for our afternoon departure from New Caledonia. There was just one endemic which I failed to find, this being the NC Goshawk... one of the easiest, but I wasn't too fussed. 23/24 endemics in only 8 hours of birding was nothing short of a miracle. 

The late afternoon journey was inside the reef system and through the southern part of the island and out onto the Vanuatu side of NC. Many good bits were seen in the few hours we had, with several Sea Snakes, a Turtle, Ospreys, hundreds of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and a few Tahiti Petrels


New Caledonia Parakeet

New Caledonia Cuckooshrike

Crow Honeyeater

Coaches to buses

The forest entrance

Moments before the charge

Riviere Bleue reserve

Le Grand Kaori