Trip Report for New Caledonia, 11-18 October 98

To: "ukbirdnet" <>, "Birding-aus" <>, "Birdchat" <>
Subject: Trip Report for New Caledonia, 11-18 October 98
From: "Trevor Quested" <>
Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:18:46 +1100
Trip Report for New Caledonia

By Trevor Quested

11-18 October 98
New Caledonia is a group of islands 2 ½ hours north east of Sydney
Australia and just above the Tropic of Capricorn. French is the language
but English is spoken at many places in the capital, Noumea. For us it was
an expensive place to visit with the currency (CFP) tied to the French
franc. There are NO health requirements to enter the country including
malaria tablets.

There are 122 bird species recorded, the most interesting is the Kagu
(Rhynocetos jubatus). A large flightless bird with silky-grey plumage, a
large crest, reddish bill and legs.  It is the sole member of its family.
There are 15 endemics including the two white-eyes on Lifou.
There are cracking pigeons, a blue Goshawk, 2 species of Cuckoo-shrike, a
Triller, 2 parakeets, 5 honeyeaters and 2 parrot-finches.

Habitat: Once covered in sensational forest, land clearing and erosion have
taken a heavy toll on the landscape.  There are a few remnant pockets of
forest left and this is where the birds are.   The rainforest is strikingly
attractive and pleasant to walk through.  There were no biting or stinging
insects or leeches when we were there.
There are many international flights per week and, as it is a popular
tourist destination from Australia, there are many flight/accommodation
packages.  We chose to stay at the Hotel Ibis, Baie des Citrons, just south
of Noumea.

Hire car.  We did not need a 4WD to see any of the birds.  From Australia
we hired a Renault Clio (small car) from Hertz for $121 Australian per day.
Petrol was expensive. The only place we could not reach was Le Thy Parc
Territoriale but the species seen here may be seen elsewhere.

Where to go.
There are two necessary sites.  Parc Territorial de la Riviere Bleue and Mt
Koghis.  Other sites are Le Thy Parc Territoriale and Jardin Botanique et
We spent our first afternoon finding our way around town and visited the
Jardin Botanique et Zoologique which has a nice amount of forest
surrounding and is an easy place to see a few species.  There are Kagu and
a few other natives in cages and one can get an idea of the jizz of  the

This can be a challenge but a good map would help enormously.  The map
given to us by Hertz was of very limited use and not clear enough. From the
international airport, take the toll road into Noumea.  The two important
sites are on the Yate Road.  Look out for it on the way into Noumea.  When
you get to your hotel and have your hire car, try and go back to the Yate
road, taking the road to the international airport from Noumea. Once on the
Yate road, there is a sign for Parc Territorial de la Riviere Bleue and
soon near an overhead bridge, a sign for the Auberge de Mt Koghis.

Parc Territorial de la Riviere Bleue.
This park is closed to the public on Mondays.  From the turnoff to the left
on the road from Noumea to the park gates is about 10 minutes and from
the entrance to the rainforest is about 40 minutes.  The park opens at 7am
and there is a charge of 500 francs pervehicle and 100 francs per person.
We had good birds immediately we hit the rainforest and mostly near the
Giant Kauri tree picnic area.
M. Yves Letocart is a scientist ranger who works in the park and helped us
with many of the birds.  He speaks good English and knows the park inside
out.  He is probably responsible for the vastly increased numbers Kagu

To find the Kagu you need bit of luck, we felt.  While with Yves, we met
Derek Scott from Birdquest who, with Harry Howard from the UK, were ticking
all the families in the world in one year. They said they had just seen one
at the picnic table.  We rushed back and it was still there and able to be
approached closely.  When we went back to thank them, Derek spotted
another, which stood beside the road while we photographed it and ourselves
standing next to it!!  The next day we were in the park again and didn't
see one.
The following day Derek and Harry returned. They saw lots of footprints but
no Kagu.  However I don't know of a birder who hasn't seen it when there.
More about the other birds when I list the birds at the end of this report.
Most birders seem to stay in the park.

Mons Koghis
This spot is where birders go to look for the New Caledonia Grass Warbler
which we didn't see but we did see lots of nice pigeons.  From the car
park, walk into the rainforest and follow the Grande Piste signs. After
crossing a rope and wooden bridge the habitat changes to ferns around a
land slip.  It is here that the Grass Warbler has been seen.  Some of my
friends have stood in the rain for four days to see it?.. we didn't.

There are many supermarkets about.  We found the most convenient one on the
way to Riviere Bleue.  It was in a shopping centre called Casino, and had
bread and cheese for our lunches and fresh fruit. We took Muesli but could
have bought it here and we also saw fuel for Trangia stoves on the shelves.
There are any number of restaurants in Noumea for dinner.

We took a tape recorder and directional microphone which did help to see
some birds.  We took two cameras, a Nikon F90X with 400 & 28-200mm lenses,
and an Olympus Centurion APS for prints.  It is possible to get some good
shots of the birds and the forest has many orchids and other beautiful
plants.  In the end we used both cameras to photograph the Kagu, it was so
close.  We took a compass which we used in the rainforest, light backpacks
and light raincoats. We carried water at all times and drank about 1 litre
per day between us.

We experienced mostly very pleasant warm temperatures with light clouds. We
had some very hot patches and some light rain.

Field Guide
We didn't have one.  However we did have a description of the birds.  There
are two field guides in print. Oiseaux de Nouvelle Caledonie et des
Loyautes, Volumes I & II, by F. Hannecart and Y. Letocart. Photographs of
birds and text in French and English.
Birds of South-west Pacific by Ernst Mayr, in English.

The bird we saw on the Grande Terre (main island) of New Caledonia:
Sites: A = Parc Territorial de la Riviere Bleue
B = Mount Koghis

  Little Pied Cormorant    Phalacrocorax melanoleucos   A
  White-faced Heron        Egretta novaehollandiae               A      
  Rufous Night-Heron       Nycticorax caledonicus  Noumea
  Whistling Kite               Haliastur sphenurus               A
  Swamp Harrier              Circus approximans   Noumea
  White-bellied Goshawk  Accipiter haplochrous            B
  Peregrine Falcon           Falco peregrinus        Noumea
  Buff-banded Rail            Gallirallus philippensis   A & B
  Purple Swamphen         Porphyrio porphyrio              A
  Kagu                            Rhynochetos jubatus            A
  Whimbrel                      Numenius phaeopus  Noumea
  Silver Gull                     Larus novaehollandiae  Noumea
  Great Crested-Tern        Sterna bergii                Noumea
  Metallic Pigeon             Columba vitiensis               A
  Spotted Dove                Streptopelia chinensis everywhere
  Emerald Dove                Chalcophaps indica        A
  Cloven-feathered Dove    Drepanoptila holosericea   A & B     
  New Caledonian Imperial-Pigeon   Ducula goliath    A
  Red-fronted Parakeet     Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae  A
  Horned Parakeet           Eunymphicus cornutus       A
  Rainbow Lorikeet           Trichoglossus haematodus common
  Brush Cuckoo               Cacomantis variolosus          A & B
  Shining Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus       A & B
  Glossy Swiftlet              Collocalia esculenta         A
  White-rumped Swiftlet    Collocalia spodiopygius    A & B
  Sacred Kingfisher          Todirhamphus sanctus common
  Fan-tailed Gerygone      Gerygone flavolateralis     A & B
  Dark-brown Honeyeater  Lichmera incana     Very common
  New Caledonian Myzomela Myzomela caledonica  A & B
  New Caledonian Friarbird  Philemon diemenensis   A & B
  Crow Honeyeater           Gymnomyza aubryana     A
  Barred Honeyeater         Phylidonyris undulata      A & B
  Yellow-bellied Robin       Eopsaltria flaviventris       A & B
  New Caledonian Whistler Pachycephala caledonica A & B
  Rufous Whistler            Pachycephala rufiventris  common
  Grey Fantail                 Rhipidura fuliginosa          A & B
  Streaked Fantail           Rhipidura spilodera          A & B
  Southern Shrikebill        Clytorhynchus pachycephaloides A & B
  New Caledonian Flycatcher  Myiagra caledonica   A
  New Caledonian Crow    Corvus moneduloides      A & B
  White-breasted Woodswallow   Artamus leucorynchus Common
  Melanesian Cuckoo-shrike     Coracina caledonica A & B
  New Caledonian Cuckoo-shrike  Coracina analis   A
  Long-tailed Triller          Lalage leucopyga  A & B
  Striated Starling           Aplonis striata            A & B
  Silver-eye                            Zosterops lateralis  A & B
  Green-backed White-eye      Zosterops xanthochrous A & B
  Red-throated Parrotfinch       Erythrura psittacea    B
  Chestnut-breasted Munia      Lonchura castaneothorax Near Airport


Lifou Island, one of the Loyalty Islands, east of New Caledonia. 16-10-98
6.30am to 2.30pm.
Flights leave daily and cost us $310 Australian each.  A lot of money for a
half hour flight!
We caught the 6.30 am flight to Lifou from the domestic airport in Noumea.
>From the air as the plane is landing, good forest is visible all around.
>From the airport terminal, walk out and up the road about 1 km. As you are
walking on the left is a football field.  It has long grasses where others
have seen the Blue-faced Parrot Finch. We saw it in a garden further along.

At the T intersection walk left down to the coconut grove, then turn around
and walk the other way.  Keep going until you get to the coconut grove up
the other road.  You repeat this until you have seen all the birds.  We
did.  The main aim is to see the two endemic white-eyes. The harder one to
see doesn't have a white-eye.  To compensate for these dull birds, there is
a beautiful Fruit-dove and a red & black honeyeater (Cardinal).

Food: We took our food (baguette & cheese) with us as well as water.  At
the football field there are taps to top up your bottle. In the Lonely
Planet guide, it mentions a new cafe open at the airport.  It was open when
arrived but remained closed after we left.  We had coffee & tea and a
croissant. (the only food they had).

Species Seen: 18

  Buff-banded Rail  Gallirallus philippensis 1 beside road
 Red-bellied Fruit-Dove  Ptilinopus greyii  relatively common
  Shining Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus calling
  Asian Golden-Plover  Pluvialis fulva    6 seen on the airport grass
  Long-tailed Triller   Lalage leucopyga 1
  Silver-eye     Zosterops lateralis common
 Small Lifou White-eye  Zosterops minutus  common
 Large Lifou White-eye                 Zosterops inornatus
 2 birds in trees near 3 large electricity poles
 before the coconut grove to the left of the main airport road
  Dark-brown Honeyeater  Lichmera incana common
 Cardinal Myzomela Myzomela cardinalis    common
  Sacred Kingfisher  Todirhamphus sanctus  common
  Striated Starling    Aplonis striata     4
  Streaked Fantail  Rhipidura spilodera In more open forest than on the
  Golden Whistler  Pachycephala pectoralis common.
The call was very different to the Australian one.
  Fan-tailed Gerygone Gerygone flavolateralis common
  White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus    2
  Melanesian Cuckoo-shrike  Coracina caledonica    1
  Blue-faced Parrotfinch   Erythrura trichroa
    2 in garden of the last house on the left as you leave
the airport going towards the first T  intersection

At the airport terminal one can see large photos on the walls showing this
is a beautiful island in areas we did not reach.  Of all the airports in
the world, this one could be the most entertaining when the plane arrives
carrying those who had been on the main island, being greeted by those
coming to meet the plane and those leaving with us.  The amazing baggage
pick up with boxes of every imaginable thing. The greetings, the order of
importance of certain people, communication with facial expressions and eye
movements, made up for marching up and down the road in the blazing sun.

It may be the airline staff can sense it if you have not seen both
White-eyes and you may have to stay another day!

I can send this as a Word Document upon request.
Trevor  & Annie Quested
Sydney,  Australia

Phone   +61 2 9955 6266
Fax  + 61 2  9959 4005

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