Birdwatching with Phil Gregory 10 – 17 June 2013
Please note: this programme has changed since it was first posted: details below are the latest ones.
The island of Vanua Levu is a great but little known birding destination. It is home to some of Fiji’s most spectacular endemic birds including the Silktail, the Orange Dove and the Red Shining Parrot. We hope to see these and a number of the other Fiji specialities including the the Barking Pigeon, the Fiji White-eye, the Slaty Monarch, the Collared Lory, the Orange-breasted Myzomela, the Fiji Bush Warbler, the Fiji Woodswallow, the Fiji Goshawk and the Fiji Parrotfinch during the birdweek. We will be visiting the site of Devo to see the Silktail.
The week is lead by Phil Gregory of Sicklebill Safaris, who returns to Daku after a successful first visit in 2012. He is a well-known tour leader, working for Field Guides Inc. and Sicklebill Safaris, and is one of Australia’s foremost birders. He has written species and family accounts for three volumes of the Handbook of the Birds of the World covering monarchs, bristle birds, the Acanthizidae and berrypeckers and longbills, and is involved as an advisor with the IOC and their World Checklist and Recommended English Names of Birds projects. He’s written a full report on the 2012 week on the Daku Resort blog, and a list of the bird species he observed are given below.
Phil will lead daily expeditions varying from the very easy – some are found in the grounds of Daku Resort itself – to the arduous. You are welcome to drop out of anything that you consider too hard and we will arrange for you to do something else instead – a snorkelling trip, a bushwalk or just a day of relaxing by the pool. We have described everything in detail below. Phil will also be giving lectures in the evening, with one evening put aside for a birding clinic when you can ask all the questions you want answered of things like binoculars or taxonomic system- and another for a bird trivia night.
In addition to a great birding week, the programme is designed to show you something of the Fijian way of life and culture and to enjoy its marine life as well as its bird life. It’s also designed to be a holiday in Fiji with time for swimming, lying by the pool, maybe having a spa massage and certainly having some fun.
Cost: A$2000 twin shared accommodation
$350 single room supplement.
- 7 nights twin share accommodation at Daku Resort
- All meals on the island of Vanua Levu when based at Daku and on excursions from Daku
- Airport transfers from Savusavu airport
- Travel to Svusavu
- Travel insurance
For further enquiries please contact us.
To make a booking, please fill in the booking form.
Fly to Savusavu.
There will be time for a walk up the hill behind Daku resort in the afternoon.
Evening: Traditional Fijian welcome ceremony.
Bird watching trip to Waisele Nature Reserve. The reserve is about a 40 minute drive up the mountains to the north west of Savusavu, with some beautiful views as you go. . Return to Daku late morning.
Afternoon visit to Savusavu.
4.00 – 5.00 pm The Tree of Life: talk on the many uses of the coconut in Fijian life.
5.00 – 5.45 bird watching on Daku Estate.
6.00 Pearl presentation at Daku
7.00 Dinner and evening surgery – a chance to ask all your birding questions
8.00 – 11.00 Morning boat trip.
11.30 leave for Devo; picnic lunch with sandwiches en route.
We will first drive to Tukavesi where we will spend the night. Tukavesi is a small Fijian village about 1½ hrs drive away. The bird watching area, Devo, is another 40 minutes drive. This breaks up the journey – the road in the latter stage is quite rough and tiringIt is also a chance to experience Fijian village life. Please bring a sulu to wear in the village – this is a Fijian sarong and can be purchased in Savusavu before we leave for approx A$12. The drive takes you east along the southern edge of the island; the first section is tar sealed and the rest is a fairly rough dirt road. We will arrive at 4.45 and settle in to the accommodation. There will be time for a beach walk before dark at 5.45.
Accommodation in Tukavesi will be simple: we will stay in a large house with a number of bedrooms and a pleasant living area. There is only one bathroom and toilet but they are clean and tiled. There is electricity from 6.00p to 10.00pm.
We will have dinner in the house and afterwards the village will entertain us with a traditional meke dance. Early bed.
We will have a cup of tea / coffee and some bread and jam before we leave at 5.30 am. The track into the forest is easily accessible and not too steep, although if there has been rain it will be muddy. Please wear sturdy waterproof boots with a good grip. There is a small stream to cross as we arrive: you might like to wear reef shoes or rubber sandals and then put your boots on afterwards. You can leave your sandals behind in the lodge. We will return to Devo lodge later in the morning and have time to rest, relax and have something to eat. Once we’ve rested, we’ll drive back to Tukavesi to collect any bags you’ve left, and then drive back to Daku, getting there in the afternoon. There will then be free time until dinner.
Morning bird watching at Waisele – second trip
Afternoon free for swimming / relaxing / taking your own snorkeling trip/ option to visit pearl farm at 1.30 (F$25)
5.00 pm Masi (Fijian bark cloth) making demonstration
6.00 evening presentation by Phil
Bird watching trip to Savudrodro. This is also about a 20 minute drive with an
easy walking track. Return to Daku late morning.
3.00 Afternoon: trip to Oneva
7.00 Dinner and trivia night
Endemics or near endemics in bold; Introduced species (I)
Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa
One en route from Labasa and two near Savusavu at the fishponds.
Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra
Small numbers seen, all dark phase except for one white phase that flew over the resort one afternoon. A bird on the sports field near Savusavu looked like a pale grey type Reef Heron, with a white chin and throat, but also seemed structurally more like a White-faced, raising the intriguing possibility do they hybridize here/ I have some good photos and will ask the great and the good for their opinions. Personally I think it is an immature White-faced Heron.
White-faced Heron E. novaehollandiae
A couple near Labasa airport, this is quite a recent colonist of the islands.
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster
A couple seen on the boat trip off Daku Resort. A distant booby seen from Daku may have been a brown morph Red-footed but I left it uncertain.
Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel
3 seen over Daku in the stormy conditions after we arrived, with one next day.
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor
This proved to be the commoner frigatebird this trip, with up to 6 seen and some nice white-headed birds over Savusavu
Frigatebird sp. Fregata sp.
Several unidentified distant frigatebirds were seen from Daku.
Swamp (Pacific) Harrier Circus approximans
Just one single over mangroves near Tukavesi, unexpectedly scarce.
Fiji Goshawk Accipiter rufitorques
Common, with 3 or 4 seen each day, often heard calling.
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
6 on a reef near Tukavesi and then 28 at Savusavu airstrip.
Wandering Tattler Tringa incana
5 on a reef near Tukavesi, and one near Savusavu.
Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii
A few off Daku Resort.
Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana
12+ on the boat trip out of Daku, fishing with Black Noddies.
Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus
3 offshore from Daku Jun 14 then 2 out in the bay on the boat trip.
Black Noddy Anous minutus
Fair numbers >60 off Daku during the rough weather earlier in the trip and 40 on the boat trip.
Feral Pigeon Columba livia (I)
A few in Nadi and Savusavu, much to Dugald’s delight….
White-throated (Metallic) Pigeon Columba vitiensis
Great views of up to a dozen near Tukavesi, one at Waisele and then 10 on a tree near Jerusalemi village near Savusavu.
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis (I)
A few around Daku and Savusavu.
Orange Dove Chrysoenas victor
A male at Natovotovo Silktail site gave fantastic views, and we saw another up on the Waisele Trail in the rain, with one heard at Savudrodo and another near Savusavu. The birds were singing well, depressing the tail slightly with each call so the bird gave a quiver, and making the bizarre “click” call.
Peale’s Imperial-Pigeon (Barking Pigeon) Ducula latrans
Common and very vocal in the forests of Vanua Levu.
Collared Lory Phigys solitarius
Great views of them feeding in a bottlebrush at Daku Resort, and small numbers were around in the coconuts at various sites.
Maroon (Red) Shining Parrot Prosopeia tabuensis
Distant and rather frustrating views of singles and twos near Tukavesi and up near Waisele, they were both uncommon and secretive on this island even though we had 5 day records. It’s a striking large parrot with a very strange flight, with deep slow wing-flaps, the wings raised very high over the back.
White-rumped Swiftlet Aerodramus spodiopygius
Quite common, we saw 10+ per day.
Collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris vitiensis
A very distinct form, and the whole complex of 49 taxa is way overdue for radical splitting. We saw the pale and rather Sacred Kingfisher-like vitiensis on Vanua Levu, which looks to be sexually dimorphic with one sex being whitish beneath, the other a rich warm buff, and both very unlike Collared Kingfisher.
Orange-breasted Myzomela Myzomela jugularis
Small numbers daily on Vanua Levu, where we had up to 6 per day. it’s a very striking species with red on the rump.
Wattled Honeyeater Foulehaio carunculata
Common at Daku where they were coming in and chasing around the bottlebrush, this is the race taviunensis with a well-developed orange wattle.
Fiji Wood-swallow Artamus mentalis
Quite common on Vanua Levu with up to a dozen per day.
Polynesian Triller Lalage maculosa
Quite common out in the wooded areas, this is the race woodi which has quite dark blackish upperparts in some birds, more brown in others, presumably a sexual dimorphism.
Fiji Whistler Pachycephala (pectoralis) aurantiiventris
We saw two rather distinctive taxa on Vanua Levu which were new for my collection of “Golden Whistler” taxa: The nominate aurantiiventris was quite common in tall forest and is entirely orange-yellow below, with dark blackish upperparts and no yellow collar; the female is drab brown with a pale throat and buffy underparts.
The Natewa Peninsula race ambigua has a narrow black breast band and yellow underparts, and a richer coloured female. I wish I’d been able to tape the calls, but at least I got a good series for aurantiiventris, which is very vocal at dawn at Daku.
The whole complex of 64 “Golden Whistler’ taxa is way overdue for a massive split-up, which the IOC have now begun with Fiji and White-throated Whistler (Kadavu) here in Fiji.
Streaked Fantail Rhipidura spilodera
This was fairly common on Vanua Levu but only in good tall forest. The race here is erythronata, and Fiji birds seem pretty different to the New Caledonian birds too in both calls and morphology.
Fiji Bush Warbler Cettia ruficapilla
Common by voice but hard to see, with the race castaneoptera on Vanua Levu. We saw one quite well up at the Silktail site. Sorry John!
Slaty Monarch Mayrornis lessoni
First seen up at the Devo Silktail site, the harsh scolding call is diagnostic, then again at Oneva.
Fiji (Lesser) Shrikebill Clytorhynchus vitiensis
Good views up at the Silktail site at Natotovo seeing a couple of birds, then a nice look at one at Oneva in regrowth forest. This is the race buensis with 8 taxa recognized here in Fiji, differing in minor colour and size characters.
Vanikoro Flycatcher Myiagra vanikorensis
Quite common on all 3 islands, we saw rufiventris on Vanua Levu. It is virtually a Fiji endemic, as the nominate is only on remote Vanikoro in the Santa Cruz Islands, Solomons.
Silktail Lamprolia victoriae
Probably the highlight of the stay was the finding of the rare kleinschmidti taxon of Silktail in the forest at Natovotovo, at the site of the former Silktail Lodge. Eddie the landowner took us right to the spot after a fairly easy walk crossing one shallow creek, and we had nice views of at least two birds. I was surprised at how small they seemed, and the way they were foraging high in branches and creepers, picking about like a creeper. The head had a dull bluish iridescence, and the tail was silky satin white with a narrow black border and tip. No vocalizations were heard. It occurs only on the eastern part of the Natewa Peninsula and must be pretty darn rare as the forest is pretty disturbed and not too extensive, though they have 2500 acres here, which they are currently preserving. It’s also amazing how Blue-crested Flycatcher does not overlap with it.
Pacific (Scarlet) Robin Petroica (multicolor) boodang
Good views of a male at Oneva and another at Savudrodo next day, this is the race kleinschmidti. It was heard up behind Daku Resort as well but was very skulking.
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
A few around Savusavu.
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (I)
Small numbers on Vanua Levu; it’s actually quite an attractive species!
Layard’s White-eye Zosterops explorator
Common in the wooded habitats.
Silvereye Z. lateralis
Not as common as the endemic white-eye, but still seen most days with one or two birds.
Jungle Myna Acridotheres fuscus (I)
A few around Daku and Savusavu, much less common than the abundant Common Myna.
Common Myna A. tristis (I)
Common around the coast on Vanua Levu.
Red Avadavat Amandava amandava (I)
Small flocks abound Savusavu and at Tukavesi, quite an attractive small finch and probably harmless here.
Fiji Parrot-Finch Erythrura peali
A group of about 4 feeding by the roadside en route to Waisele was a good find and gave nice looks.