Norfolk Island January 26-29 2013
Phil & Sue Gregory
Two hours and one minute flight from Brisbane on Air New Zealand Boeing 777,
(their “Lord of the Rings” themed safety video is a classic, Air Middle Earth
indeed!) We stayed at Cumberland Resort and Spa in Burnt Pine just 5 min from
the airport, with car included in the $915 flight and accommodation package,
though $23 a day insurance is extra. Internet service was fair, seemed slow and
dropped out at night at times, $20 for 5 hours when it’s free in Cambodia,
Weather quite good throughout, fairly sunny and warm at 24-26°C, but very windy
as the remains of Cyclone Oswald passed over, rising to gale force on Jan 27
and sabotaging my attempts for the Morepork x Boobook that night, though
despite similar conditions next night we did manage to locate one calling.
Life birds were Norfolk Island (Tasman) Parakeet, Slender-billed White-eye and
Norfolk Island Gerygone, whilst Oz ticks were Feral Chicken, California Quail
and Pacific Robin, though why Feral Greylag isn’t included on the national
checklist is mystifying. The Norfolk Island Golden Whistler must be a strong
candidate for a split, and work on what currently constitutes Pacific Robin
might yield up another as these sure don’t look or sound like the Fiji birds.
Trip List total ended up at 45 plus one large raptor sp. I missed Goldfinch and
Nankeen Kestrel and had no sign of Shining Bronze Cuckoo, and think we are
maybe just too early for Little Shearwater (though they say two taxa breed
here, one in summer and one in winter), whilst White-necked Petrel again eluded
me despite seeing so many Black-winged from shore.
I used a couple of Internet trip reports from Dave Torr and Tim Bawden as a
primer but it all seemed pretty easy. I was amazed at how good the
infrastructure was, at how beautiful the island is, and how at good were the
trails and facilities in the national park, it is really easy to do and even
the unfit should manage quite well. The Botanic Garden was amazing with a great
trail and boardwalk system that must have cost a fortune, and it has most if
not all of the endemics. Mt Pitt at just 219m and with a paved road up it is my
kind of mountain. Be aware that shops and cafes seem to be erratic in opening,
but there was always somewhere and also a good choice of places to go eat or
buy food. The Chinese Restaurant and Takeaway opposite Cumberland Resort was
very good as is the Olive Cafe. I really should have contacted the resident
local birder Margaret Christian, who offers part-day tours and would be a mine
of information, but somehow we just never got round to it, I recommend her 2005
book “Norfolk Island…the birds” as the standard reference anyway and also the
excellent “Norfolk Island’s Fascinating Flora” by Peter Coyne.
Bold type denotes a lifer, italic an Oz tick
Feral Chicken Gallus gallus
Common around the north, even seen on the airstrip and very well-established,
we saw about 40 on Jan 26 and 90 on Jan 27 including some males in very fine
wild type plumage, though most seem to be grey-backed or very dark derivatives.
An Oz tick no less.
California Quail Callipepla californica
5 up the Mt Bates Track and 5 near Puppies Point on Jan 26, covey of 15 near
Point Howe and 7 near Capt. Cook Lookout turn-off Jan 27, 5 at Rocky Point Jan
28 and 6 along Capt. Cook Road Jan 29. Also an Oz tick.
Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus
Dozens offshore from Point Howe Jan 26-27. 70+ W off Cascade Jetty Jan 28
Black-winged Petrel Pterodroma nigripennis
About 20 on Jan 26 around the Point Howe area where they are clearly nesting,
with burrows visible in the long clifftop grass, and then dozens next day
heading S past Point Howe and off the Capt. Cook lookout. 100+ W off Cascade
Jetty Jan 28 1530-1600. Very vocal and often heard, the call a shrill “whik
whik whik whik” but sadly too windy to be able to tape it.
Masked Booby Sula dactylatra tasmani
30-50 offshore from Point Howe and Cook’s Lookout, with a small colony on Green
Pool stack, next to the delightfully named Moo-oo (a kind of Cyperus sedge or
grass) stack. 18 there on Jan 29.
Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda roseotinctus
Quite common with 30-50 each day off the north, most without red tail
streamers. One in the bushes at Rocky Point Jan 28 was amazingly tame and just
Little Pied Cormorant
1 flying over Kingston Beach Jan 27.
Little Black Cormorant
1 flying past Rocky Point Jan 28.
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor
One past Point Howe Jan 26 and 2 off Capt. Cook Lookout Jan 27, no doubt the
remnants of Cyclone Oswald have caused the very strong winds these two days
which favour frigatebirds.
Feral (Greylag) Goose
21 at Mission pond and 25 at Kingston pond, clearly long-established and should
be on the Australian list as such, a puzzling omission.
A few around Kingston were of the farmyard duck persuasion
Pacific Black Duck
6 on Mission Pool and 7 at Kingston pond, 10 there next day, though some
hybridization with Mallard looks likely.
1 at Mission Pond Jan 26-27
1 at Mission pond Jan 26 and 3 at Kingston Jan 27 and Jan 28.
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio melanotus
Two along Mission Road and 1 at Kingston Jan 27, 1 Kingston Jan 28.
I over Burnt Pine Jan 26, which looked quite like Whistling Kite, but I did not
see it well enough to be sure and they are not known here.
Pacific Golden Plover
5 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27, 1 Jan 28 and 1 at airport.
1 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27
1 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27
1 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27, distant, then flew closer and called.
Again on Jan 28 with 2 tattler sp.
1 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27 and Jan 28
5 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27, 27 there Jan 28.
Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus kermadeci
A few in the north around Cook’s Lookout where they were on the little stack to
the E in the original landing bay, where you could hear them calling the nasal
“wideawake’, and small number <10 seen at Point Howe and Cascade Jetty
Black Noddy Anous minutus
Quite common, with several hundred both days. A nesting colony in the pines at
Rocky Point Jan 28 had around 80 birds.
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus pileatus
Very scarce, just a couple off Cook’s Lookout Jan 27
Grey Noddy Procelsterna albivitta albivitta
Two distant singles off Point Howe Jan 26, 4 off Capt. Cook’s Lookout Jan 27
and one of Pint Howe same day. 1 W past Cascade Jetty Jan 28 and 1 on the stack
E of at Cook’s Lookout Jan 29.
White Tern Gygis alba candida
Quite common in the N with over 100 both days, evidently nesting in the Norfolk
Pines, and a colony at Rocky Point in the pine forest there with the Black
About 30 on Jan 27, many quite dark coloured and all seemingly descended from 2
birds from Brazil and South Africa which arrived in 1790 on the Sirius, which
was wrecked here.
Pacific Emerald Dove Chalcophaps longirostris rogersi
1 juv. Jan 25 near Point Howe, and 2 at Mt Bates Jan 27, much more
golden-bronze above than mainland birds and pinker less rich below, with grey
and blackish rump bands and yellow bill. Heard at Rocky Point Jan 28 and one
over Mission Road Jan 29.
Sacred Kingfisher Halcyon sanctus norfolkensis
One on Jan 26 and 5 on Jan 27 and Jan 28 with few heard, seems quite
widespread. Most were very whitish below with buff loral spot and bluish rump,
also quite well angled lower mandible on a fairly big bill. Call much as Sacred
5 on Jan 26 and 10 on Jan 27, inc. one subadult with green feathering on wings.
Small nos. Jan 28-29. Seems like a good plan to cull them even on the chance of
competition with the native Parakeet.
Norfolk Island (Tasman) Parakeet Cyanoramphus cookii
One flying over and one heard Mt Bates Jan 26, a brief view but the short harsh
call gives it away, sort of quadrisyllabic quite harsh flat “kek” notes.
Another fly-over calling en route to Capt. Cook’s Lookout Jan 27, and then had
a terrific flyby near eye level, seeing the red crown. This one landed and
began calling, so I was able to get some recordings of it. Also heard twice at
the Mt Bates track late pm. Seems pretty darn rare, this 200 birds population
estimate may be a tad optimistic, but they are easily overlooked. Available
habitat does not seem all that large to me either, and no doubt the rosellas
compete for nest holes. I think Norfolk Island Parakeet is more precise than
the horribly generic Tasman Parakeet, with the name Tasman being used for
species on both Lord Howe and here, whereas the parakeet was not on Lord Howe.
The IOC’s Norfolk Parakeet is even more misleading and really requires the
Norfolk Island Boobook x Southern Boobook Ninox novaezelandiae undulata x Ninox
boobook. We tried along the Mt Bates track at dusk on Jan 28 but the wind was
so strong it was hopeless. Next day we tried around 2030 at Red Road NP car
park, where it was again way too windy, then once more up Mt Bates but only
near the main road area, both unsuccessfully. I then made a final try from the
Display platform at the Botanic Gardens where there was broad vista across a
valley and potentially good soundlines in a more sheltered spot, and this got a
quick response from at least one bird, way down across the valley. It sounded
much like Southern Boobook and was interested in both that tape and the
Tasmanian taxon, calling for several minutes. I did not brave the trails and
steps in the dark and was content to just hear it, maybe 0.5 of an Oz tick?
About 30 on wires near Burnt Pine both days, small numbers at Kingston and 2 at
Capt. Cook’s Lookout.
(Norfolk Island) Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta
Two at Mt Bates Jan 26 and one near Capt. Cook Lookout Jan 27, hen plumaged and
very distinctive, has dull whitish chin and throat and a diffuse buffy breast
band with brown upperparts and tail. Voice typical Pachycephala but short
phrases were all I heard. 2 in Botanic gardens Jan 28, with a pale mark at bend
of wing and pale yellowish vent and belly. One at Mt Bates Jan 29 but I was
unable to get any calling birds close enough to tape and they were very quiet,
just giving short song phrases. Must be a good candidate for a split as very
distinctive, if Rennell Whistler is a split then so is this one.
Masked Woodswallow Artamus personatus
2 males and a female along New Farm Road near the airport Jan 29, one of the
more surprising colonists here and in very low numbers as yet.
(Norfolk Island) Grey Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa pelzelni
Small numbers on Mt Bates and near Cook’s Lookout, surprisingly distinctive
with pale grey upperparts, buff wing bars (juvs and subadults), not much white
in tail and very buffy underparts, reminded me of Mangrove Fantail. Vocally
some notes like Grey Fantail, but also a tinkling silvery trill quite like
Mangrove Fantail, which sadly I failed to record.
Fairly common, far more so than in the UK these days!
Norfolk Island Gerygone Gerygone modesta
Quite common at Mt Bates, it was the first endemic we heard with its short
sweet typical Gerygone-type song. Lacks an eyestripe, very brown above, dull
below with whitish chin and belly, pale tail tips and a broad diffuse dark bar
when it fans its tail. Bill black, legs dark brownish, diffuse pale area just
above eye and thin broken white eye ring. A presumed juv. had pale yellow chin
and throat and seemed paler below with a faint eye-ring. Also heard in the
gardens in Burnt Pine at the Golden Orb Café and Cumberland Resort.
Pacific Robin Petroica multicolor multicolor
Seems very scarce, but likes dense gully forest and thickets so you need to be
in or near deep cover. A F at Mt Bates Jan 26 had a red breast, small black
stripe behind eye and a very quiet high-pitched drawn out call, also looked
quite large for a Petroica. A pair at the Botanic gardens in Ferny Gully Jan
28, male singing well, and 2 F in the Rainforest Gully, then a fine male just
past “Lindisfarne” in the forest on the bend on Capt. Cook Road en route to
Capt. Cook Lookout, with 2 others singing close by. Legs browny, bill blackish.
One call is a distinctive harsh scolding series not unlike the parakeet call,
and the song is a quiet dry rattly sequence. An Oz tick anyway and an
interesting taxon, be good to know what others in the assemblage sound like,
these seem big to me with longish tails, and I don’t recall the Fiji birds
singing or calling like this one.
Common, saw c. 100 Jan 27 and good numbers in the more open country to the
south on Jan 28 and 29.
Silvereye Zosterops lateralis lateralis
Common, one of the most frequently seen or heard birds, but hard to see well,
looked big billed with a pale flesh-pinkish lower mandible.
Slender-billed White-eye Zosterops tenuirostris tenuirostris
Uncommon, saw 2 Jan 26 at Mt Pitt, 3 or 4 Jan 27 in the NP there and a couple
on Jan 28 at the Botanic Gardens, the bill looked very long and slightly
decurved when seen close but not so obvious at distance. Upperparts greenish
tinged grey-green on mantle chin, throat and upper breast yellow. A presumed
hybrid at the Botanic gardens had greyish-green mantle, quite extensive yellow
chin and throat, dirty greyish underparts and yellow undertail coverts, with a
Silvereye-type stout bill. I was unable to distinguish any obviously
distinctive calls amongst the general Zosterops notes, but it was hard to see
what was actually calling
Quite common in the towns
Rare, just 2 by the airstrip Jan 28.
Field Guides / Sicklebill Safaris / Cassowary House / Cassowary Tours
P.O. Box 387
Phone: +61 (0)7 4093 7318
Fax: +61 (0)7 4093 9855
Website 1: Http://www.sicklebillsafaris.com
Website 2: Http://www.cassowary-house.com.au
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