Here's a prelude to the latest on Bougainville birding.
Trip report of a three-day tour extension to Buka, North Solomons, Aug
Buka is the small island immediately to the north of the
recently-troubled Bougainville, the large island which dominates the
North Solomons. Air Niugini had been flying there regularly during the
entire time of the 9-year war with Papua New Guinea, and up to about
1997 Buka was the field HQ of the PNG army. For the next two years it
was to be the field HQ of the UN and other peace-keeping agencies, but
now (2000) they have transferred to south Arawa, the capital of
By the time we arrived on 31st July 1999, both the PNG army and
most of the peace-brokers had left. The small town of Buka, right on the
southern shore and only a few hundred yards from mainland Bougainville,
was so peaceful and orderly it was a pleasant surprise. Like many
northern and south-western PNG towns it was just as safe as walking
The locals told us that we were only the second party of tourists
they had seen in nearly 10 years. Two or three intrepid lone birders had
visited or passed through but probably no birding tour had ever been
that way before.
First we had to walk around the town and adjacent areas for a day
and a bit, winkling out some fine birds in the process, never-the-less.
Brahminy Kite, (that day and every other day), Variable Goshawk
A.hiogaster (frequently seen on the tallest tree in town), Grey Fruit
Pigeon, Ducula pistrinaria ,seen flying over from the main island every
day, Solomons Cockatoo C.ducorpsi, flying over daily in ones or twos,
Cardinal Lory Chalcopsitta cardinalis, very common, Eclectus Parrot, one
of the most common parrots of lowland northern Australasia, Sacred
Kingfisher, Willie Wagtail, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, one Bougainville
Crow C. meeki, seen much better two
days later and not as common as we had anticipated, and Pacific
Mino kreffti of the islands bordering the north Solomons Sea and
which Schodde split almost 20 years ago from Yellow-faced Myna of the
Papua New Guinea mainland, was seen every day. This bird has such a
distinctive voice to M. dumontii that we immediately named it Musical
Myna when we heard it for the first time in New Britain in 1997. Others
of the Starling Family that
day were Singing Starling, seen every day, and Metallic Starling, also
seen on the 2nd.
Kuri Lodge, our comfortable lodgings with good food and caring
management, is beside the western end of the airport. As we wandered
over the runway to get to the gardens and forest edge on the second day,
we saw a Pacific Black DucK and an Osprey flying over and a Pied Goshawk
A. albogularis perched tamely on a runway marker. It was there nearly
every time we went past
and an excellent bird at close quarters. There are three forms - dark
grey, light grey, and light grey with a rusty collar - this one was the
latter and was quite striking at close quarters with its yellow legs and
cere and orange eye, all contrasting with the light grey of the top half
and the pure white of the underside. They are quite common and we saw
several in the next two days.
On our morning circuit we spotted four species of shorebird;
Whimbrel, Siberian Tattler, Pacific Golden Plover, Greater Sand Plover;
scoped a Claret-breasted Dove Ptilinopus viridis perched at the back of
town, saw several Red-knobbed Pigeons Ducularubricera flying over, and
our first Rainbow Lorikeets. Would that they were one of the three
Charmosyna spp recorded on Buka
but we never saw any of those. We did see a few Brown-winged Starlings
Aplonis grandis perched in the town that day and the next, and
On Monday 2nd August, we had a pre-dawn breakfast then drove around
the airport and inland to the north-west into the low hills of the
Parkinson Range. This gravel road leads to the western side and has
potential for good birding along most of itís length. Scenic too.
We were looking for passerines and although we never saw a
Honeyeater or a Whistler new birds for us were two Steel-blue
Flycatchers Myiagra ferrocyanea, two White-winged Fantails Rhipidura
cockerelli, Midget Flowerpecker D. aeneum, and more than ten
Yellow-throated Whiteyes Z. metcalfii. I thought I heard and glimpsed
Island Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus poliocephalus, recently split from P.
trivirgatus now of the Oriental Region only, but its presence on Buka
Other new forest birds we saw were Song Parrot Geoffroyus
heteroclitus, Papuan Hornbill Aceros plicatus, (from which Blythís was
recently split and re-named Plain-pouched and is now purely an Oriental
species), and Glossy Swiftlet.
The road winds in and out of numerous gullies, paralleling the
coast which we eventually got down to at a 4km strip of lovely beach
between the villages of Kahule and Tung. We spent some time with the
villagers of Tung, waching for seabirds between the shore and the line
of reef and islands about 2 km out. And although we saw Brown Booby,
Lesser Frigatebird, Eastern Reef Egret, Little(Striated) Heron, Eastern
Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Greater Crested Tern and a species of Noddy,
we were most interested in the large pelagic feeding flock we could see
just outside the reef.
We felt a pelagic coming on but no-one had any fuel for the boats.
ìBring fuel, no problemî, they said.
By the time we reached Skotlan, a small missionary village further
along and about 40 km from Buka, it was lunchtime and it was warm. A
pair of Beach Kingfishers was flushed but not much was moving of its own
Suddenly, sailing up on the thermals, was one of our most
hoped-for, a Solomons Eagle or Sanfordís Sea Eagle, Haliaeetus
sanfordi! It quickly soared away up a small valley. Not a great look
but two others were seen on the way home as we approached the highest
point of the road above Kahule. They too, were soaring above the
forest. This was also the spot where we had good
scoped views of two Solomons Cockatoos.
Our early morning walk before the plane the next day added no new
birds to the 41 species we had seen on Buka out of the 95 species ever
recorded there. We were quite happy with seeing 9 of the 14
area-endemics recorded from Buka, i.e. Solomons Eagle, Pied Goshawk,
Cardinal Lory, Steel-blue Flycatcher, White-winged Fantail, Bougainville
Crow, Midget Flowerpecker, Yellow-
throated Whiteye, and Brown-winged Starling.
Next time we will probably stay at Kuri Lodgeís new tourist resort
right on the water beside the Buka passage. We will probably
go down to Arawa on mainland Bougainville to see Woodfordís Rail and
Imitator Sparrowhawk. Over a weekend as Buka shuts down on Sat & Sun so
we must be on Buka only on week-days and take plenty of two-stroke fuel
when we travel out of town.
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