New Caledonia Trip Report
Day 1 Tuesday 1 November 2020 Sydney – Tontouta Airport – Farino, New Caledonia
What a wonderful airport Tontouta is, a real pleasure to wait in while the pace winds down to South Pacific Islander space with all the beautiful French design to keep you happy while relaxing. Upon departure we travelled up to Farino, making record time and checking in, noticing along the way a few known bird culprits eg White-faced Heron, Swamp Harrier, Common Myna and House Sparrow but then just when you were starting to wonder why you’d ventured on this overseas extravaganza a Ringed Pheasant popped out along the expressway. We were unable to stop but after a bit of questioning of the group to see who saw which bit of the bird we pieced together this most likely escapee’s ID. Dinner at Hotel Banu proved so good we booked for the following evening.
Day 2 Wed 2 November Farino
Up early in the morning for a short walk towards the bridge but we only just made that as the birdlife was humming and we got onto Fan-tailed Cuckoo, a brief view of flying Cloven-feathered Dove and the same brief view of flying New Caledonian Imperial-Pigeon (or Goliath Imperial Pigeon). There was chat of a Barn Owl heard during the night and White-rumped Swiftlets flitted in large numbers along our roadside walk.
After an alfresco baguette with home-made jam, coffee to-die-for, fruit and juice we walked a little more, getting our bearings with a few more treats; treats that would not stay still! More flying Horned Parakeet, Barred and Dark-brown Honeyeaters, New Caledonian Friarbirds whizzed past to land high in the tree tops and these are big old trees a good 20 metres up. We had more luck with Long-tailed Triller, New Caledonian Cuckooshrike, Melanesian Flycatcher and eventually the fabulous Yellow-bellied Robin was hunted down beside the gorgeous Farino Creek.
Goliath Imperial Pigeon
After a long 3-course lunch at Chez Mamie we met Isabelle our local guide and re-walked the Farino road striving to find that Thicketbird but to no avail. Becoming passe were the New Caledonian Crows with their distinctive calls and hook-shaped beaks. The identifying features of the New Caledonian Whistler and Rufous Whistler were noted as were the Green-backed White-eye and Silvereye. The New Caledonian Myzomela flew from treetop to treetop eluding good views but the diminutive Red-throated Parrot Finches were seen well by most beside the creek. Another night in the quaint cottages on the hillside at Refuge Farino surrounded by fabulous unique birdlife. What a great spot!!!
Day 3 Thur 3 November Farino to Noumea
Waiting for the Crow Honeyeater…
Eliane and I took a short walk up the hill before our wonderful breakfast, this time with orange coated chocolate and fantastically sweet local pineapple. We were still hearing Shining Bronze-cuckoo and Eliane and I actually chased and saw the rascally devil but then, as is often the case, of course had great views with everyone after brekkie on the flat section outside the cabins, always the way, together with both whistlers and Fan-tailed Gerygone. We walked further along past the bridge with a concerted effort to get much better views of the friarbirds. Striated Starlings, New Caledonian Lorikeet, Metallic Pigeons and New Caledonian Imperial-Pigeons flew back and forwards around the bridge, keeping us spinning to ID them in flight. Sacred Kingfishers darted along the creek and Common Waxbills and Chestnut-breasted Munias started to become welcome companions.
We checked into Hotel Du Centre, early to enjoy lunch in Elaine’s kitchen (thank you!) and ate the next three nights in their elegant rooftop restaurant French style, oo lala!
Famed Tjinaou Cultural Centre with its spectacular buildings and plants added a new species, Red-vented Bulbul, and we spent the afternoon sauntering through the marvellous exhibitions.
Day 4 & 5 Fri 4 & Sat 5 November Parc La Riviere Bleue
Two early starts up to the amazing Parc La Riviere Bleue with its fantastic nickel-red soil, wild flora and the much awaited Kagu. We were quiet as mice with our first Kagu but later they became abundant when we sat at the picnic table leisurely viewing these extraordinary primeval birds, shaking our heads with our good fortune. Streaked Fantails also delighted as they fed below the picnic table and Lemon-bellied Robins posed for photos. What a table that was!
We walked back and forth along the roads viewing New Caledonian Parakeet, Horned Parakeet and New Caledonian Lorikeet. Guided by Isabelle we tried long and hard for the Crow Honeyeater but missed the little blighter, although the vine that it favours with bright orange trumpet flowers wowed us every time we spotted it hanging aloft the exquisite rainforest (this rainforest is like no other I have encountered).
Day 6 Sunday 6 November 2020 Flights out
After our last rooftop breakfast on Sunday morning we strolled the neighborhood before heading for the airport, sad to be leaving such a wonderful place. We’ll be back though, without doubt. It is too good to leave to those lucky New Caledonians.
Thank you Bernice Wilcock, Eliane Grange and Terrance Ibbott for your undaunted support for a fine tour.
By Janene Luff leading for FTB