23 May 2013

Western Pacific Odyssey 2013 Part 2 - Norfolk Island and New Caledonia

Red-tailed Tropicbird

Black Noddy

Seabird numbers increased again as we approached Norfolk Island.  A number of interesting species breed there, including Red-tailed Tropicbird, Black Noddy and White Tern.  The night before we arrived, Chris Collins briefed us on the endemics and near-endemics we would be looking out for.

Norfolk Island must have been a tough place for Norfolk pine-felling convicts in the 1830s.  The historical prison buildings near the dock at Kingston and elsewhere are among Australia's oldest.  The human population includes the descendants of "Bounty" mutineers transferred from Pitcairn Island when it could no longer support them.  

Blessed with sunny weather, we landed in early afternoon.  Some of the group opted for a more history-oriented afternoon but the dedicated birders headed for Palm Glen, at the edge of Norfolk Island National Park.

The pier, Kingston

Norfolk Island... lots of Norfolk Pines

Kingston Beach

According to "The World's Rarest Birds" recovery efforts for the Critically Endangered Norfolk Island Parakeet brought the population up to about 200, but since the end of the programme it is feared numbers may have slid again.  The Parakeet loses out in competition for nest sites to Crimson Rosellas, European Starlings and even feral honey bees.   

Norfolk Island Parakeet

This individual (above) could not have been more obliging for a bunch of day visitors like us !

Grey Fantail

Pacific Robin

Norfolk Island Gerygone

In late afternoon we went to Rocky Point, where in the trees (Norfolk Pines, what else ?) Black Noddies and White Terns were feeding young, while fearless Red-tailed Tropicbirds nested on the grassy banks below.

Black Noddy nest

Black Noddies

White Tern

White Tern with downy chick

White Tern chick

Slender-billed White-eye

part of Rocky Point

Red-tailed Tropicbird, Rocky Point

Kingston Beach

Norfolk Island was one of those places where we wished we'd had a bit longer.

After two more days of sailing north we noticed a few more Gould's Petrels, which heralded our approach to New Caledonia, where they breed in the mountains of Grand Terre, the biggest island.

Gould's Petrel

The waters south of New Caledonia are home to the as-yet-scientifically undescribed "New Caledonia Storm Petrel".  Could they be New Zealand Storm Petrels, or could they be something else entirely ? Prior to the 2013 WPO,  Chris Collins and a small group had been on a catamaran trip to these waters.  Although NCSP was seen and photographed well, they narrowly failed to catch one !

(It seems as though other people have been out there trying to do the same thing, here is a link to a Zegrahm Expeditions account of Peter Harrison - among others - also narrowly failing to catch a NCSP.)


We got to the right area, and fish oil slicks were put out.  But, despite the stage being set, the NCSP gave only the briefest of views to some.  It was not seen well enough to go onto the official trip list.... a "Dip" !  But not for lack of trying.  Wilson's Storm Petrels and a few Flesh-footed Shearwaters didn't really compensate, but that's seabirding !

Noumea Dockside

We docked at Noumea in the wee small hours of April 2nd, and found ourselves waiting for the coach on a lit-but-locked section of wharf.  Once we got going, it was a ninety-minute drive to Parc Riviere Bleue to "cherchez le Cagou".

Barred Honeyeater

At the Reserve entrance, we were greeted by a Barred Honeyeater and this sign....

As can be seen, we made up quite a throng for what was basically woodland birding. 



But there was no need to worry. The Kagus were not shy. Once the Kagus had been seen, we spread out along the trails.

Other species seen included Melanesian Whistler, New Caledonian Parakeet and Cloven-feathered Pigeon.

Melanesian Whistler

Melanesian Whistler

New Caledonian Myzomela

Green-backed White-eye

New Caledonian Parakeet

As far as "Green" Pigeons go, to my mind they don't get more exotic than "Cloven-feathered…." We had a decent 'scope views, but the photo here doesn't do it justice..

Cloven feathered Dove

As we ate our picnic lunch, confiding Yellow-bellied Robins watched us from the nearby bushes....

Yellow-bellied Robin

Yellow-bellied Robin (juvenile)
The coach sped through the suburbs of glitzy downtown Noumea, and we got our last bird for New Caledonia, a Dark-brown Honeyeater, within yards of the ship in a dockside park.

We sailed away toward the mouth of the reefs that surround Noumea Harbour as dusk approached.

Then it was "Merci Beaucoup" to the New Caledonian pilot, and "Au Revoir" to Nouvelle Caledonie.

The pilot departs


  1. This post is just awesome! I'd really love to see the tropicbird and the White Tern chick looks super cool.

    1. Thanks, Ayuwat : - The White Tern chick looks as though it has long eyelashes.... very handsome !

  2. White Tern is one of the birds on my bucket list.

    Why does EVERY species of White-eye look exactly the same?!?!

  3. Stu,
    I'd been looking forward to seeing it for a long time, too. Confusingly, one of my older bird books calls it "Fairy Tern".... but these days Fairy Tern is something else entirely.

    In the Solomons the "White-eyes look different, I promise !