New Calidonia trip on the cheap

Subject: New Calidonia trip on the cheap
From: Niels Poul Dreyer <>
Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 09:16:29 +1100 (EST)
I went to New Calidonia on frequent flyer points which had to be used. I did
not bring any field guide with me, but three bird reports. The first was
Richard Thomas Report from April 25 to May 4 th 1992 which was very usefull
as it also included descriptions of the birds endemic to the area. The other
was Trevor Quested's report which contained more resent practical
information which was very usefull. He went there in October this year and
saw everything possible except the grassbird at Mt Koaghis and the newly
discovered NC Owlet Nightjar. Finally Field Guides went there in 1994 and
gave me the good tip to look for Blue (white-bellied) Goshawk near Yate on
the coast. I got it just at the School in Wao and did not see it anywhere
else except for a poor view at Mt Koghis.

As I went in December and because we have the la Nania (?) (or opposite El
Ninio), the weather was horrificly bad, which made birding less than ideal.
I hired a car in Numea airport near Tontouta brough my tent etc with me and
went to Riverie Blue National Park. The park was open on Sunday so it was
possible to enter and camp there althoug it was closed on the Monday. I
quickly managed to see most of the birds there between showers reasonably
quickly and additionally got cripling views of the Horned Parakeet. However,
there was no sign of the famours Kagu. On the monday morning I walked on the
trail near the Grand Kaori. The friabirds were the most conspicous birds
present and they make a lot of different noises. Hower an special barking
groudling noise from the forest floor appaeared to be so different from what
I have heared before. Whithout any notice a Kagu appeared on the trail and
walked towards me and gave me plenty of time to unpack my camera and flash
which enabled me to get a shot of it on 120 cm with a 100 mm linse.  It was
a nerve breaking compromise between a good shot and spoiling the gear in the
rain! In the afternoon two male Kagu appeared on the bridge and performed a
typical crane dance. After 3 full days at Riviere Bleue NP I saw 5 pairs of
Kagu along the forest road between the two bridges.

 After sorting out 200 New Calidonian friabirds there were still no sign of
the Crow Honeyeater, so  I packed up in order to try for the Blue Goshawk at
the coast. After driving around for a few hours I decided to do a last
attempt south towards Wao. Suddently a kestrel like bird followed me
paralell with the road before it landed in a tree, but it was slaty blue and
short winged. The Blue Goshawk is a distinct bird similar to the Pied
Goshawk on the Solomons but the breast is more grey and the bill is dark not
yellow orange.

After my return to Riviere Blue NP I had an opportunity to talk with Mr Yves
Letocart. He told me that I must get up 4 am in the morning to catch the
Honeyeaters pre dawn call on tape 200-400 metres past the hut where the
Piste Botanique starts. I went thre next morning and exactly 4.20 am the
honeyeater's strange calles engulfed the forest. After breakfest I went back
again and played the tape without any response. I looked into the trees with
deep frustation until somthing black appeared between the vines and fruit.
First I thought it was crows, but the feeding behavior was honeyaeter like
and they did not USE TOOLS. Within a few seconds the head raised above the
foleage and the red eye patch and wattles appeared on the crow size black
bird. There was no yellow on the belly as otherwise discriped by Mr Thomas,
but the yellow legs were conspicpous. I suppose the Crow Honeyeater actually
respond by comming in closer, but do not call back in response to a tape.
Other people apparently do not have so much trouble to see that bird!

Mt Koaghis was a total wash out and practically I did not see anything but a
siluette of a white-throated Pigeon. The Gassbird was probably below water,
so I did not see it. As so much time was spent looking for Clown-feathered
Fruit-Doves, it was not possible for me to do the white-eyes. However, I
leared afterwards that the planes did not go to Lifu Isle on that Friday as
the gale force winds made any landing as dangerous as flying with Thai Airways.

I had only one day left, but Lony Planet saved the day. I camped at Enghouse
beach on the west coast about 20 kilometres south of the airport. It was a
great place, I realised, as a Fairy Tern (probably those who appears in
North Qld) flew by and a Barn Owl (race T alba lifuensis) took off from a
mangrove tree and turned out to the sea before returned to the mainland. One
note calles from the Tattlers plus a distict eyebrow pattern pointed to the
Wandering types. Further out at sea, I could see Common/Rosenate terns
howering around, but they were too far out. There was good snorkling
opportunities from the headland at high tide.

 I had 3 hours left before going to the Airport and the Clown-feathered
Fruit-dove was still on the miss list. Fortunally,  the Lonely Planet gave
me a hint. Just at Col de la Pirogue, 12 km south of the Airport on the main
highway towards Noumera there is a turn off to the east to a Sanatorium. A
trail up to Mt Mou starts 2½ km from the turn off about 100 metres before a
bridge-crossing  stream. I walked uphill to a ridge,so it was possible to
watch the trees at eye level unlike the neck-breaking experience at Mt
Koaghis. Just at the end of the first ridge, I could see a tree with small
red fruits and some were found lying on the trail. I sat down for a half
hour to scan this tree through my binoculars. No movements and activity
occured during that time. Suddently, a green bird near the trunk sitting
quitly appeared clearly in my vision. It had not moved while I was there.
The green bird had destinct barres on the back and wings, yellow belly and
some bands on the breast. Clown-feathered fruit Dove! Just 2 hours before
departure. As I do not like to hang out in airports I continued futher up
past some causarina trees. Some high pitch calles came from the canopy while
some tiny green birds were moving around. It was Red-faced Parrot Finch
found just at the border between rainforest and Causarina stands. Another
good bird seen just before take off time. What a difference good weather can
make! This site is certainly a good substitute for Mt Koaghis especially if
grass warblers live in a submarine environment. The forest here grows at
lower elavation and consequently more likely to be free of the mist and rain.

However I missed Hotel Ibis, Noumera and the good french cuisine. Everything
there is 2-3 times Australian prices.


Niels Poul Dreyer
5/13 George Street
Pialba, Qld 4655

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • New Calidonia trip on the cheap, Niels Poul Dreyer <=

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU