SW Pacific voyage Solomons-Vanuatu

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Subject: SW Pacific voyage Solomons-Vanuatu
From: "Dion Hobcroft" <>
Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2007 16:15:13 +1100
>From Guadalcanal we made good time to the island of Rennell, a world
heritage site and home to five endemic species and a bunch of
subspecies. One trip report I read commented on there being more endemic
birds than vehicles on the island. They were the Bare-eyed White-eye,
one of the aberrant Woodfordia species: abundant; Rennell White-eye:
uncommon and inconspicuous; Rennell Shrikebill: ditto; Rennell Fantail:
scarce and inconspicuous; Rennell Starling: the least common of the lot
and the near endemic Silver-capped Fruit-Dove that is both stunning and
common. We managed a few encounters with the poorly known Rennell Flying
Fox; like a small Grey-headed familiar to those who live on the east
coast. It is a fascinating island in the Solomons group, highly
Continuing east we made a visit to Santa Anna. With Melanesian Scrubfowl
and Pied Goshawks nesting in the village it was remarkably good birding.
An all black form of Chestnut-bellied Monarch, abundant Sooty Myzomelas
and the strikingly beautiful White-headed Fruit-Dove continued the good
form despite torrential rain on occasions. Tracking now well to the east
we enjoyed some excellent pelagic birding with fairly frequent
encounters of Tahiti and Collared Petrels plus Tropical Shearwaters (a
split from Audubon's and the form reported occasionally as a vagrant in
subtropical Australia). There were plenty of White-tailed Tropicbirds,
single Long-tailed Jaeger and Wilson's Storm-Petrel and we hit the tail
of Short-tailed Shearwater migration. The biggest highlight was a
stunning adult Grey-backed Tern that encircled the bridge.
Our visit to Nendo was somewhat marred by tribal conflicts making it
difficult to access good forest where they could anchor the ship. The
constant bird-liming of Cardinal Myzomelas that are used as feather
money has exacted a heavy toll on the small passerines in the area we
visited; no white-eyes here! It was still very interesting with a
sighting of the rare Temotu Flying Fox (a bright golden buff) plus
Wandering Tattler, Red-bellied Fruit-Dove and Polynesian Triller.
Now the Oceanic Discoverer headed south to Vanuatu. First stop
Ureparapara, an isolated island in the Banks group. Hiking up into the
hills here in steep terrain a couple of folks lucked onto the rare Royal
Parrotfinch and the elusive Baker's Imperial-Pigeon could be heard. I
was mostly on more level coastal terrain but enjoyed a male Tanna
Fruit-Dove that came as a surprise as it was not found in a literature
search of this location. Southern Shrikebill put in an appearance. 
Espiritu Santo is the most bird rich island in Vanuatu. With limited
time we made a dash to the nearest forest patch. From previous visits my
sound recording had the inconspicuous Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher
chattering back and with patience we managed super views. Buff-bellied
Monarch was the next big hit, this is a superb bird. Other pleasant
sightings included giant Melanesian Cuckoo-shrikes, a White-throated
Pigeon plus a shy Shining Bronze-cuckoo. The rest of our journey was
highlighted by the fantastic Rom dancers on Ambrym and a visit to the
volatile Yasur volcano on Tanna. The latter was having a fairly quiet
day. Still exploding chunks of red hot glowing magma the size of
Volkswagens preceded by explosive booms saw me heading for the forest.
Pacific Robin ended the voyage trip list that excluding the Tari section
in the beginning and New Caledonia that was to follow totalled 208

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