birding-aus Norfolk Island trip report (fairly long)

Subject: birding-aus Norfolk Island trip report (fairly long)
From: Alexandra Appleman <>
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999 07:48:31 +1000
My partner and I spent 26 Nov - 2 Dec 1999 on Norfolk Island -  on the
Norfolk Ridge roughly halfway between New Caledonia and New Zealand -
ostensibly to relax after University exams, but I had a [hidden?] agenda of
wanting to watch seabirds and add the Island's endemics to my Australian

In planning the trip I studied the trip report of January 1999 on Frank
O'Connor's website ( and Chris Lester's
report from February 1998 (birding-aus archive) for helpful information on
the Island's top birding spots. I also consulted the Island's own website
http://www.norfolkisland, which is light on wildlife and ecotourism at the
moment, but gave useful information on locations and getting around. I
managed to find a copy of the Neil Hermes Book 'Birds of Norfolk Island',
which is out of print, in an antiquitarian bookshop in Townsville and used
Peter Harrison's 'Seabirds' guide.

By visiting the Island in late November we had good weather though a little
cool by North Queensland standards, and avoided the windy conditions that
dogged Frank's trip. We also got to see both Little Shearwaters before they
departed on their annual migration and early-returning Black-winged Petrels.

ACCOMMODATION: Most of the accommodation is clustered around the
restaurants and duty free shopping outlets in Burnt Pine - the business
centre - and we chose the Shiralee Self-contained cottages, for convenience
and to give ourselves the option of self-catering.  This was comfortable
and quiet and Managers Gary and Lynne were very helpful and obliging. 

TRANSFERS: transfers to and from the airport, plus a half-day trip of the
island were included in the tariff. The island's inhabitants are
descendents of the Bounty Mutineers and we were met at the airport by John
Adams in a bright tropical shirt that belied the cool temperature. John had
a rapier wit and was totally unfazed by our disinterest in all the usual
touristy things; as with all the people there he was friendly and very

CAR HIRE: car hire is essential (and very inexpensive) for getting around
on Norfolk, some motels include a car in the package but we were a bit wary
after Chris Lester's description of 4 people squeezing into a gutless auto
of matchbox proportions.  There are several car-hire outlets on the island
and we were recommended 'Father's Autos' for good value.  Within minutes of
ringing up (local phone calls are FREE) a sleek black Mitsubishi arrived at
our cottage, complete with automatic transmission, plenty of room for
Norm's long legs, power windows and central locking that activated -
imprisoning us in the vehicle and causing much great humour - whenever we
reach 30 kph. All this for $25 per day.  I should mention there is a speed
limit on the island of 50 kph and you have to give way to cattle and horses.

FOOD & GROG: Most of the restaurants are licenced and do takeaways; we also
had a superb meal at the RSL Club on our first night.  We discovered The
Homestead Restaurant, run by Peter & Donna Mengetti opposite Rocky Point
reserve (one of the best birding spots) - fairly late in the trip.  The
Mengetti's are planning on adding accommodation at some stage so this would
be worth checking out. [WARNING: the restaurant will destroy your
waistline]. Alcohol is obtainable from the bond store but check on opening
and closing times and days for all eateries and the bond store as we got
caught out once or twice.

INFORMATION: The young man in the Tourist Bureau turned pale when I asked
where the sewage farm was - all the Island's homes and accommodation are on
a septic tank system - and he quickly referred me to the National Parks and
Wildlife Office when I said I was interested in birds. This is located next
to the Botanic Gardens and we were given both useful information and were
shown the captive breeding aviaries for the Red-crowned Parakeet by John
Henderson, the Park's Deputy Superintendent. Sadly we dipped out on seeing
the parakeet in the wild and I am too ethical to tick birds in aviaries,
however rare they are. We saw the even rarer NI Boobook - a stuffed
specimen in the flora and fauna display and I didn't tick that either.

THINGS TO DO: besides birding we played golf on the Kingston Golf Course
(the par 3 fourth is particularly challenging) and went horse riding with
Silky Oaks stables.  You can go on half day trail rides to several places,
including part of the national park and this might be a good way to see
some of the birds if you are comfortable in the saddle. We also walked to
the summit of Mt Pitt (315m) for panoramic views - one company tried to
sign us up for a 4WD tour there and was aghast when we said we had walked
it. [Norm commented drily that holidaying with a birder was like an army
survival course].


BLACK-WINGED PETREL     - one seen nesting on the stacks from Capt Cook
Lookout, and                    one flying over Anson point

WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER - several seen from Rocky Point reserve and Anson

LITTLE SHEARWATER       - seen close inshore from Anson Point.

RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD -  1 roosting Point Ross; several off Point
Blackbourne and                         a pack of 15 circling and chasing off 
Headstone Reserve.

MASKED BOOBY            - 12 counted roosting on stacks from Capt Cook Lookout; 
seen close inshore from Pt Blackbourne 

WHITE-FACED HERON       - 1 seen at Watermill Dam and Kingston Common; pair on
5th                     fairway of Kingston Golf Course (no penalty allowed)

GREAT EGRET             - 1 seen at wetland near to airport

AUSTRALIAN KESTREL      - pair seen Anson Pt; single bird seen near Botanic

PACIFIC BLACK DUCK      - pair seen at wetland near airport

MALLARD X               - these seem to have mated with most of the Pac Blacks 
even with domestic geese at Watermill Dam & Kingston Common

FERAL CHOOK             - widespread across the island, in small groups; ones at
Rocky Point resembling Red Junglefowl 

CALIFORNIA QUAIL        - coveys seen in the National park, Pt Blackbourne 
                        and Anson Pt

PURPLE SWAMPHEN - plentiful at Kingston Common; some at Watermill Dam

PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER - common at Kingston Common and the airport

RUDDY TURNSTONE - several birds at Kingston Common and the reef off Pt Hunter

WHIMBREL                - reef off Pt Hunter

WANDERING TATTLER       - several on reef off Pt Hunter

RED KNOT                - pair at Kingston Common marsh area

SOOTY TERN              - Pt Hunter, Capt Cook Lookout; Rocky Pt Reserve

COMMON NOODY            - a few seen from Pt Hunter

BLACK NODDY             - Anson Pt; Capt Cook Lookout; roosting at Rocky Pt 

GREY TERNLET            - 1 seen roosting from Capt Cook Lookout; several in 
        around Napier Island       

WHITE TERN              - everywhere on island; roosting in NI pines

FERAL PIGEON            - small groups at Selwyn Reserve and the Golf Course

EMERALD DOVE            - single birds in the National Park; Botanic Gdns; 

CRIMSON ROSELLA - widespread on island

SACRED KINGFISHER       - much paler than their mainland counterpart; seen
everywhere                      on island; especially on the powerlines

NI GERYGONE             - Botanic Gardens; Pt Blackbourne Res

SCARLET ROBIN           - Botanic Gardens

GOLDEN WHISTLER - v .commmon in the national park; Botanic gardens

GREY FANTAIL            - the back is browner than on mainland birds: found on  
edges of the national park and some in pasturelands.

SILVEREYE               - small groups, particularly around habitation

SLENDER-BILLED WHITE-EYE - Rocky Pt Res; nr Anson Pt

BLACKBIRD               -  everywhere, except cliff edges

SONG THRUSH             - single birds seen along roadsides

COMMON STARLING - everywhere, including cliff edges

HOUSE SPARROW           - around habitation

GOLDFINCH               - in lantana behind the Colonial of Norfolk; in pasture
adjacent to the Trail Ride stables

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