November voyage thru the SW Pacific (PNG-Solomons)

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Subject: November voyage thru the SW Pacific (PNG-Solomons)
From: "Dion Hobcroft" <>
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2007 21:05:19 +1100
Touching down in Port Moresby it was refreshing to see Little Curlews
wandering the airstrip. We spent several nights in the Tari Valley
before joining the ship in Port Moresby. The big highlight of birding
here in November was the nocturnal spotting. I nearly had my head taken
off by a Feline Owlet-nightjar, found the same Rufous Owl three nights
in a row, spotted a Grass Owl flying at the gap late in the afternoon
with the locals taking us to a Sooty Owl stake out. On top of this
spotlit Striped Possum, Black-tailed Giant Rat and a Chestnut Tree
Mouse. Many of my favourite birds of paradise put in an appearance
ranging from Lawe's Parotia, Stephanie's and Ribbon-tailed Astrapia to
the incredible Blue Bird of Paradise. 
Aboard the Oceanic Discoverer we left Port Moresby with first stop Bona
Bona Island. Best birds here were Beach Stone-Curlew, Mangrove Robin and
Mangrove Golden Whistler. Silver-eared Honeyeater was common in the
coconut gardens. The next morning we were in Alotau and had a great
birding morning. Highlights included a superb scope view of a pair of
typically ultra shy Great Black Coucals drying themselves off after
overnight rain, a male Raggiana Bird of Paradise that landed repeatedly
in a bare tree and two pairs of Glossy-mantled Manucodes that actually
came to blows in a territorial dispute. The local guide spotted a pair
of Papuan Frogmouths and several Blyth's Hornbill whooshed overhead like
express trains. Some colleagues joined us from a successful visit to
Fergusson Island for Goldie's Bird of Paradise.
Next day it was the Laughlan Islands, remote atolls off Woodlark Island;
rarely visited. We were now sailing thru an intense tropical low
pressure system that went on to become Cyclone Guba. It chucked it down
with torrential rain and wind strength picked up as the day progressed
peaking at 60 knots! Birding conditions were less than ideal, so
sightings of Pacific Imperial-Pigeon and White Tern in PNG were much
appreciated in a list of 20 species. Later in the day we picked up
Collared Petrel.
Arriving in the Solomons a pair of Heinroth's Shearwaters was seen well
off Simbo Island. Kolombanggra was magic. Here we picked up several
scarce endemics ranging from Roviana Rail, Sanford's Sea-Eagle, Solomon
Islands Cuckoo-shrike and Kolombanggra Pied Monarch. Not so scarce but
decidedly skulky the muppet-like head of a giant Buff-headed Coucal was
a welcome spot in a dense vine tangle. Rodrick Bay, Nggela is home to
the rusting wreck of the World Discoverer. After enjoying the cultural
festivities we turned our attention to birding with Ultramarine
Kingfisher a welcome sight. 
Honiara under clear blue skies was sweltering. The gravely steep roads
of Mount Austen also made life uncomfortable. Stunning Yellow-bibbed
Lories evaporated the pain but dipping on the ultra rare White-eyed
Starling seen by one group behind us reignited it. Still with a bunch of
good endemics under our belt, the afternoon at sea was to provide a
glimpse into the blue planet. With over a thousand Sooty Terns wheeling
over the ocean I new this was going to be big. A giant school of
Yellowfin Tuna were boiling the ocean and we came right on top of a
school of Whaler type sharks in the fray. I thought initially they were
Pygmy Killer Whales. This amazing scene finished with a herd of 50
White-bellied Spinner Dolphins plus a bunch of frigatebirds, boobies,
shearwaters, mixed tropical terns and the odd jaeger in the feeding

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