Monday, 11 May 2015

The WPO: New Caledonia & my 60th birthday!

OK! It is the 12th April, which is my birthday & I am 60 years old today! I really can’t believe I am that old. I mean I don’t feel old, but 60, my god! I opened my birthday card from Rowan, which she had placed in my luggage a few weeks ago, then saw my name on the internal TV screens. So it must be true then!
I had survived the night unscathed, the cyclone’s path had moved further north than previously anticipated but a look outside revealed quite heavy rain & blustery conditions. 2,000+ Short-tailed & 300+ Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were seen in the squally conditions; a few Gould’s Petrels were also noted. I didn't dare take many photos because of the heavy rain.

 The conditions just outside Noumea Harbour!
Gould's Petrel

The pilot came aboard & steered us into Noumea around 10.45 am. New Caledonia! Excited to be here, lots of great birds to be seen, but the conditions don’t look too good.

Disembarking from the ship - it was very wet!

Me in Noumea on my 60th birthday!
Great isn't it?

After an early lunch on board the birding group left the ship & that of course, was the signal for torrential rain! We trudged on to an area of scrub & found a Dark Brown Honeyeater, my first NC endemic! Further up the road two Green-backed White-eyes were watched quite well, while three Coconut Lorikeets flew over & landed in a nearby tree. Two Glossy Swift-lets were also noted. No photographs were taken because of the atrocious conditions. It was a wet walk back to the ship.
It is 3.30 am on 13th April & this is the big day! It is very dark & pouring with rain! I know this because I am standing on the dock, without shelter, wondering why the bus hasn’t turned up! The driver finally deems to turn up & when questioned about his lateness, he just gives a Gallic shrug.

Dawn, looking across at 
Riviere Blue National Park.

 The bridge was still intact after the typhoon!
This made life a lot easier for us.
Jane, Sav & Kat sharing a light-hearted moment.

We are off into the night & two hours later arrive at the famous Riviere Blue National Park. It is still not looking too promising, as there is little sunshine but we set out on our walk.

 My first view of this amazing bird!


Within a short time we spied our first Kagu. I of course know what a Kagu looks like, but I am a little unprepared for the bizarre spectacle which unfolds. This bird is totally nuts! I eventually see seven different Kagus throughout the morning, they are pretty amazing birds! We then start looking for the other endemics & a brilliant morning of birding slowly unfolds:

 New Caledonian Parakeet

New Caledonian Parakeets give us good views & we spy three Horned Parakeets but I fail to get any  photos.

New Caledonian Myzomela

A nice male New Caledonian Myzomela shows well.

New Caledonian Cuckooshrike

 Streaked Fantail

 Southern Shrikebill

Both Southern Melanesian Cuckooshrike & New Caledonian Cuckooshrike are seen with Streaked Fantail & the wonderful Southern Shrikebill nearby.

Birding on New Caledonia
Photo courtesy of Kat.
Melanesian Flycatcher
 Yellow bellied Fly-robin

New Caledonian Friarbird

Melanesian Flycatcher also entertains us (just look at that bill)! While Yellowbellied Fly-robin & a New Caledonian Friarbird are seen nearby.
All in all I saw 17 new birds today, so we did really well in the time available.

 Vanuatu Petrel

Tahiti Petrel

Back on board we sailed north down the western side of New Caledonia. A petrel which is almost certainly Vanuatu Petrel was seen. 350+ Gould’s Petrels were also seen as well as around ten Tahiti Petrels.
We decided that tonight was the night to celebrate my birthday! So it turned into a bit of a late one!

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