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Fiji Nov/Dec 2006

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Old Tuesday 14th October 2008, 19:25   #1
birdboybowley
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Fiji Nov/Dec 2006

Part 1 :-

After 11 months of travelling we arrived at our penultimate destination of Nadi (pronounced ‘Nandi’) on Viti Levu by 2105 local time (and straight into 28oC heat!) after an uneventful Air NZ flight from Auckland. We had phoned ahead from there to book a room at the Traveller’s Beach Resort (www.travellersbeachresort.com.fj), an affordable hostel option that we found in the Lonely Planet. They offered a courtesy pick-up and their man Vincent was, as promised, waiting for us by ‘pillar 8’ and drove us the 20mins to the resort in Newtown on the shores of Wailoaloa Bay. The resort has a pool, bar, entertainment and various activities on offer and has bunkhouse and private lodgings. We opted for a double ensuite room for F$35 which was basic but comfortable and had a fridge!!
The following morning was gloriously sunny and warm with a pleasant breeze coming in off the sea. Gorgeous Fiji Parrotfinches were pretty much the first birds seen as they fed in the grass alongside the fence. Ubiquitous Common and Jungle Mynas were also raucously present, along with Red-vented Bulbuls and Spotted Doves – it was almost like being back in India....! We wandered along the beach towards a more vegetated area and found Vanikoro Broadbills, Wattled Honeyeaters, Polynesian Trillers, Fiji Woodswallows, Silvereyes and Pacific Golden Plovers and Red Avadavats near the seaplane place. Along the beach we found a Barwit, Greater Crested Terns and Eastern Reef-Egrets.
We visited the town itself and got dragged into a shop ‘just to look around’...oh dear, here we go! We went through the kava initiation (the stuff is disgusting!) and left tactfully without having to buy any crap! Everyone seems friendly enough, all smiles and “Bula!” whenever you make eye-contact. It’s weird using buses again – definitely miss the freedom your own transport affords you. We had a touristy evening at the resort watching native dance and an impressive fire display but luckily sat the conga-line out!! We had pre-booked an Air Fiji island-hopper flight package (£205 each) when we were in Auckland as you can only buy it before entering the country for some bizarre reason. It entitles you to 4 sectors which are just enough to see the three main birding islands. We booked a taxi for 0600 the following morning for our flight to the island of Taveuni and as we planned to spend the last night of our stay back here, dumped one of our big bags full of our unnecessary gear in the secure storage offered at the resort which would save any weight issues on the small inter-island aircraft (and my back of course!)
We checked in with no problems and boarded the Twin-Otter aircraft which was weird for me as the last time I was on one of these it was to jump out of it so it would be a first for me to actually land in one!! There were only 4 of us aboard and we took a short but scenic 45min flight to the nearby island of Vanua Levu and landed at Savusavu where the other 2 pax got off and 5 others got on. Another 20mins later and we were landing at Matei airport on Taveuni. As we came in I could see 2ad2imm Red-footed Boobies flying across the waves below us – result! We eventually found a taxi and got dropped off at Chottu’s Motel in nearby Naqara where we booked into a double room. Not a bad place at all and the Indian owners were very helpful – best of all they had satellite TV in the shared kitchen/dining area! Also they were opposite the village shop so we went off and bought....yep, pasta and sauce – the same brands as Oz/NZ even!! Oh well...at least it’s cheap! A quick look in their back garden produced an Orange-breasted Myzomela and a great Fiji Goshawk perched in a tree alongside the ever-present mynas. In the skies above, Pacific Swallows and White-rumped Swiftlets wheeled around over the forested hills opposite. The owner arranged for a taxi to take us up to Des Voeux Peak tomorrow for a quite expensive F$60 but what can ya do?!
Sepo dutifully picked us up at 0515 the following morning and took an unbelievable hour to do 6km and reach the gates at the telecom post near the top of the peak and as I feared the rain was pouring down. I hate rain sooooo much! We bade goodbye to Santo and found the indistinct track into the forest which led to a slightly more open area beneath the canopy. There wasn’t really any movement until the rain abated and then the singing began. Lots of Fiji Bush-Warblers and Fiji White-eyes were seen and then a black shape creeping nuthatch-like along a branch turned into a fantastic Silktail! A pair of these beautiful birds was watched for an hour or so, climbing up and down the moss-covered trees and up the epiphytic vines, their electric blue iridescence glinting in the filtered sunlight, their brilliant white uppertail coverts flashing in the shadowy understorey. Fantastic! Also here were at least 5 of the impressive Fiji Shrikebills, Golden Whistlers, Streaked Fantails, a Slaty Monarch, a gorgeous male and 2 female Blue-crested Broadbills and at least 7 Island Thrushes. As we headed back to the road, a strange call – a bit like a tongue clucking – made me look up and there was a vision in unbelievable dayglo orange in the form of a male Orange Dove!! What a fantastic-looking bird – no illustration does it justice whatsoever! He soon flew off and we emerged from the forest where a blur of orange announced the arrival of another one. I quickly got the scope onto him and his unreal orange plumage splodged with green aged him as a sub-adult bird. A movement right by the gates proved to be another excellent Silktail feeding out in the open – completely contradicting all that I’d read about them! We set off for the long walk down and had great views of 8 awesome Red Shining-Parrots, 2 more male (1ad and 1sub) and 3 female Orange Doves flying over and at least 8 of the aptly-named musical Giant Forest Honeyeaters with their bright yellowish legs. Also seen were Wattled Honeyeaters, Common Lories, 2 Polynesian Starlings, Peale’s Imperial-Pigeons, 6 Collared Kingfishers, a perched Fiji Goshawk, Vanikoro Broadbills, Polynesian Trillers, Orange-breasted Myzomelas, Fiji Parrotfinches and a pair of soaring Lesser Frigatebirds. Annoyingly, Dawn had a crake sp. run across the road between us but it totally disappeared by the time I’d turned round...bugger! A number of large flying-foxes (Samoan?) were seen gliding across the sky also.
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The rain decreased as we descended but the temperature increased and the slippery road was quite treacherous in sandals! Lots of beautiful orchids adorned the edges and we also noted the native flower of Fiji – the delicate red and white ‘tagimauau’ which is epiphytic and grows high in the treetops. We also saw quite a few huge yellow orb- spiders that had strung their webs between the trees themselves....eek! It was great to hear the richness of the native birdsong near the top but as we got lower, the forest gave way to cultivation and the birdlife practically stopped. We finally reached the bottom and got a couple of lollies from a little shop and then wimped out and flagged down a cab in Waiyevo and drove back the last few kms!
Back at the motel, the owner bought us in a fan for the TV room as it was seriously hot and we cooked up some pasta and bacon for a change. This is almost civilized!

Last edited by birdboybowley : Wednesday 15th October 2008 at 16:55.
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Old Thursday 16th October 2008, 17:43   #2
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Part 2 :-

The following morning (December already...where has this year gone??!!) we caught a bus for the 1h15 trip round the northern tip of the island to Bouma on the eastern coast along the ever-degrading road. Everyone on the bus was very talkative and full of smiles. A Wandering Tattler was seen on rocks along a stretch of coast. We reached the visitor centre in the village and stored our gear inside and then walked up the trail to view the Tavoro Waterfalls. The lowest one was by far the best and you can swim in the pools too. The second, higher one wasn’t as impressive and we were running out of time so didn’t reach the highest one. The walk was fairly steep and hot work in the heat and feisty purple forest crabs waved their claws menacingly as we approached them. Lots of lizards were seen along the path also.
Back at the centre we fed the cute little piggies that were nosing around and had a swim in the river too. The bus finally arrived at 1830 and we headed off down the bumpy road to Lavena. The village was pretty basically but had a certain charm and the rustic lodge was very basic indeed and a bit overpriced for what it was in my opinion, so we opted to stay just the one night and with no mozzie nets or anything to hang ours upon we hit the sack and hoped for the best! The next morning after having to wait for the ‘shop’ to open so we could buy some water, we set off along the Coastal Walk which is roughly a 4hr return trip out to the Lower Wainibau Waterfalls. It’s easy going and passes through the coastal forest, past the impressive ‘mushroom rocks’ which have been eroded from the bottom, over a couple of bridges and up to the waterfalls where there’s swimming and a natural waterslide – allegedly as we didn’t get that far as the last part of the walk involves walking over boulders in the river and given Dawn’s predisposition for falling off of them and into rivers that was that.....!! The rain began to fall at this point so by the time we got back it looked as if we’d both fallen in the river anyhow! A couple of showy Collared Kingfishers were nice as was another Wandering Tattler feeding on the beach which was made up of coral fragments. Lots of varying-sized lizards were seen: smaller blue-tailed ones and some larger black ones. Also a lot of toads seen today and some truly beautiful white flowers. Nearer the end of the track Lesser Shrikebill, Island Thrush, Red Shining-Parrot and Fiji Goshawk were had, with Vanikoro Broadbill, Red Avadavat and Wattled Honeyeater also seen during the walk. Plenty of Lesser Frigatebirds were offshore with numbers of Greater Crested Terns. As we left the village on the bus an Australian Magpie was seen by the roadside and we returned to Chottu’s Motel for our final night on Taveuni. Everyone on the bus seemed to know everyone else, everyone we passed on the road and where everyone else lived! A great community spirit abounds here – so far removed from the ‘civilized’ world and it’s something we’re definitely worse off for.
The helpful owner gave us a lift to the airport the next morning and it took off on time at 0900. Now this is where the Island Hopper package was a bit annoying. We wanted to fly to Kadavu ( pronounced ‘Kandavu’) but Air Fiji doesn’t fly directly there from Taveuni so we had go via Suva which was ok, but it meant that we had to use 2 sectors to get to one destination, leaving us with one flight left. We had to wait 1.5h in Suva for the 30min trip over to Kadavu which was on the same plane....! Oh well, the visuals were very nice as we landed and also saw 58 Pacific Golden Plovers and interestingly a pair of Masked Lapwings on the grass here – a species which looks as if it’s slowly colonizing. We walked literally just across the road to the bayside Airport Inn that we’d read about in a trip report with a lovely cool breeze blowing in off the sea...hope that stays! Quite a few Brown Boobies were watched hunting over the bay’s turquoise waters. A lot of birders seem to stay away from here but it’s right on the doorstep and all the birds are easily found (or so I thought...!) It was a little steep at F$20 each for a dorm but it was clean enough and Sabe (the owner’s wayward son) was nice enough. In fact Sabe’s dad came over to greet us and delicately asked if we were married, much to Sabe’s embarrassment, and when we said no, he made up bunks at opposite ends to each other! How sweet!! Thankfully there were no other guests so it made little difference to us. Even the aircraft on final approach practically overhead didn’t detract from its charm either and it has a kitchen or can supply meals if asked. A pair of Vanikoro Broadbills was nesting in the gardens giving good views.
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There’s a nice shop in the town of Vunisea, about a 5min walk from our digs where we bought some lovely fresh bread, beans and cheese for dinner later and saw the endemic Kadavu Honeyeater, Collared Lory and Collared Kingfisher and more broadbills on the way – cool! We then wandered up out of the town along the road that goes into the hills and walked for a good 4km, seeing the beautiful Kadavu Shining-Parrot and Kadavu Fantail, a family party of Polynesian Trillers, Fiji Bush-Warblers and White-eyes, Peale’s Imperial-Pigeons, a single fly-over White-throated Pigeon, Island Thrush, Slaty Monarch and Polynesian Starling. Lots of large flying foxes flew overhead with a couple swooping in low to crash into the trees and land hanging upside-down.
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We spent three days on the island and finally caught up with the gorgeous Velvet Dove on the last day – realizing that I’d actually been hearing it for the last couple of days anyway!! All three ‘chrysoenas’ doves have the most un-dove-like calls imaginable but it was worth the wait for he was a truly stunning columbid! We also saw a fine female Black-faced Shrikebill too which was very nice, the local race of stunning Golden Whistlers, Lesser Shrikebills and Australasian Harrier. The walks along the road that cuts through the forest were very pleasant and on one occasion we picked a couple of friends in the form of a pair of local dogs that took it upon themselves to be our guides for the morning! In fact the younger one followed us back to the inn and spent the afternoon with us as we got through far too many beers with Sabe and his friend Ron...the 4 of us drank 18 750ml bottles of Fiji Bitter – it’s amazing how much you can drink when it’s poured into a small cup, downed, and then passed to the next person and so on!! Dawn brought hers back up in a bag at bedtime, apparently I dozed off for a couple of hours sometime during the afternoon (don’t recall that...) and I vaguely remember Dawn ‘decorating’ the flowerbeds in the wee hours too...!! Ha ha ha! So that was the friendly island of Kadavu, great birds, great people and great visuals. What more could you ask??

Last edited by birdboybowley : Thursday 16th October 2008 at 17:47.
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Old Thursday 16th October 2008, 17:46   #3
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Old Monday 20th October 2008, 18:24   #4
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Final part :-

The following morning we wandered across the road to the airport and caught the last of our short flights at 1250 back to the Suva on the main island, Viti Levu. Now, since our arrival in Fiji there had been a bloodless coup by the military, the prime minister had been arrested and Western news agencies were apparently advising against travel and for non-natives to leave asap. We heard all this when we finally managed to text our relieved relatives - more sensationalism from the media! Life was plodding on as usual and we got into a taxi to take us to our lodge via a supermarket stop. As we left the city the armed soldiers at the roadblocks were all smiling and waving at us – hardly a dangerous atmosphere! The only downside to the coup was that the army had closed the access roads into the central mountains and the Monasavu Dam so that put pay to going up there for the Pink-billed Parrotfinch and the Long-legged Warbler....oh well, next time!!
Our taxi arrived at the Raintree Lodge ([email protected]) which was surprisingly very posh (by our standards!) and Dawn managed to get us a double room for the same price as a dorm as there were hardly any guests! Result! There’s a kitchen with a toaster and a microwave so self-catering isn’t a problem and the grounds are very lush, the main feature being a huge lily-covered pond. Talking to the owner it seems that they might be getting rid of the economy accommodations which would be a real shame as it truly was a great place to stay – and only a 5min walk to the excellent Colo-i-Suva National Park (pronounced ‘Tholo’). The gardens held the duller ssp of Giant Forest Honeyeater, many Fiji Parrotfinches, Red-vented Bulbuls, Wattled Honeyeater, Orange-breasted Myzomelas, Polynesian Triller, Vanikoro Broadbills and Fiji White-eyes. We went for a wander around the back of the gardens and managed to find the track past the water pumping station that had been mentioned in a trip report. We had excellent views of the stunning Masked Shining-Parrot, Streaked Fantail, lots of Collared Lories and Lesser Shrikebill. We watched more flying-foxes fill the sky from our balcony as dusk fell until the mozzies forced us inside.
The following morning I left at an ungodly 0500 an walked the pumping track again seeing 2 brief fly-over Many-coloured Fruit-Doves and a nice Blue-crested Broadbill being the only additions. Later, after breakfast and watching the marauding bulbuls flying in through the window to steal the bread, we went to the park’s HQ and paid our fees and wandered in through the Falls Trail. Not a lot about at all really but the Waisila Falls were very pretty as they toppled over a tiered rock-face surrounded by lush ferns and foliage. As we followed the clear forest stream we bumped into Vido (pronounced, yep you guessed, ‘Vindo’ – they definitely don’t like ‘n’s’ over here!), a forest ranger whom the HQ had radioed ahead to say we were on the track and that I was a birder. Vido is the bird man and has helped my friend Guy Dutson mistnet in the mountains and was in on the rediscovery of the Long-legged Warbler with him and Vili. We wandered amiably along, him pointing out a smart Blue-crested Broadbill nest complete with chick and then a call like a yapping puppy had us both look immediately upwards and there it was – a superb male Golden Dove! What a bird, absolutely gorgeous and surprisingly ventriloquial. Another movement proved to be an excellent male Golden Whistler, the ssp here having an all-yellow throat.
We ended up at the Lower Falls, where a lot of the local youth seem to hang out due to the presence of a well-placed rope-swing. Standing up on the high path above the pools, it surely was exhilarating to swing out and let go to plummet into the muddy waters! The local guys were amazing to watch and the height they gained before letting go was unbelievable – much higher than I dared! They were all very friendly and a local Christian youth group were there and made us welcome, giving us food and drink. After another plunge I surfaced and was horrified to see that my bloody watch had come off.....bugger, poxy velcro! The depth of the pool was anywhere from 4-12m depending on who you asked and, due to the swimming, was the only body of water I saw in Fiji that wasn’t bloody transparent....aaarrrggghhh!! Now, totally gutted and disconsolate, Vido piped up and said that we could go back to his house to get a mask and give it go...ok. I said, not really believing it. We wandered back to the gate where he jumped into a car and soon returned with a mask. Off we trotted to the pool and down Vido went. He was down for ages, came up...nothing. Down he went again and amazingly he surfaced with my watch in his hand!!! What a f*****g dude!! I had one more celebratory huge swing (without the watch!) and then we wandered back up the path and saw a fine Pacific Robin, Fiji Bush-Warblers, a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Slaty Monarch, Island Thrush and another Lesser Shrikebill. Although he didn’t ask for it, I gave Vido a healthy tip and if anyone is visiting this area then he’s the man you should try and get hold of, he’s an absolute gem! He said usually he would’ve been able to arrange a trip up to the dam for the two biggies but was sorry the coup prevented that – so next time then!!
The next day I wandered back along the Kalabu Road – the weather was horribly hot’n’sticky and prone to vicious squalls so got a bit wet. Again, not a lot was moving but a fortuitous pee-stop had me finding a female Golden Dove attending her nest. Excellent! I made a makeshift marker so that I could get Vido to locate it again. A female Pacific Robin feeding a recently-fledged youngster was nice too, especially when the gaudy male popped back. Another 2 fine male and female Golden Doves were seen in the taller trees and a superbly showy Slaty Monarch was watched near the shelter.
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As I left via the gate, an unfriendly guard began to have a go saying I shouldn’t be in there until 0800 – too late and too hot by then I retorted. He then began ranting about how dangerous it is to walk in there alone....then quite obnoxiously began demanding my entry money which I would’ve been happy to pay if he’d had an ounce of good manners within him. So I pulled out my entry receipt from yesterday where we’d paid the full amount (only F$10...!) and then showed him my fake student id (well he’d pissed me off by now!) which meant I should’ve only paid F$1...so in fact he owed me money!! That shut him up! Leaving him gabbing on, I wandered back to the HQ and tracked Vido down and told him about the Golden Dove nest which he was quite excited about.
I asked him where a good place to see Many-coloured Fruit-Dove was and he said they’re really quite nomadic at this time of year so they were hard to pin down. He’s not wrong there! Most trip reports record them in the gardens of Raintree Lodge but no success for us whilst we were there, so I had to make do with the flight views previously. They should be re-named Fruit-coloured Not-So-Many Doves...!
After trying the lodge’s non-existent internet connection we decided to catch the bus into Suva. Upon arrival, we got dragged into another ‘tat’ shop – why am I so nice??!! Scams everywhere – one begging Indian woman looked very affronted when we said ‘no’ to giving her money for her mother’s life-saving operation. She looked even more shocked when we later saw her eating in KFC...cheeky bitch! Found an internet café where we brought the flights to the USA forward and booked a car too upon finding out the exchange rate was $2 to the £!! Excellent! On the bus back remembered that we’d forgotten the bread....bugger! So, leaving Dawn talking with the only guest in the ‘cheap’ section, John, I caught another bus and finally managed to make the driver understand I needed some bread and he dropped me off in Tamabua village where there was a big supermarket and than caught another bus back....took bloody ages!!
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The final morning at the lodge I spent birding the gardens getting absolutely brilliant views of an immature male and 2 female Golden Doves and Polynesian Starling feeding in the fruiting trees opposite and watching the approachable Giant Forest Honeyeaters and Masked Shining-Parrots. We had a quick bite to eat, bade farewell to John, missed our bus (!) so hailed a cab instead into Suva and climbed aboard the packed Sunbeam Bus to take us back to Nadi on the opposite end of the island – which was due to leave at 1110 but left at 1040, thankfully we were early for a change!! It took us 4hrs to do the 188kms with one much-needed pit-stop where a lot of people got off which gave us a lot more room. Must admit that the scenery wasn’t that much to gawp at, even the Coral Coast didn’t impress us that much. Saw a White-faced Heron and few Fiji Woodswallows, Australasian Harriers and Collared Kingfishers on the way. We reached Nadi and got a cab back to the Traveller’s Beach resort where I was thankfully reunited with my bag and we spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool and wandering along the beach until we left for the airport at 1900. Today was going to be a long day as we’d pass the international dateline later and therefore see the sun set twice!!
So, Fiji was done. It was a very enjoyable 10 days, the country full of smiling faces and great places. I never felt uneasy anywhere we went and indeed, felt welcomed pretty much everywhere. The birding was obviously limited in scope, but all the target birds were seen with the exception of the unreachable ones – timing, huh?! I’ve never been a ‘beach person’ so Fiji would probably appeal a lot more to another type of person, as the relatively low number of birds to find aren’t that difficult and the rest of the time could easily be spent on the sand. It was definitely a great idea to do the island-hopper flights as it not only got us the birds but also each island had its own feel to it. I saw 54 species in total, but these islands are about quality not quantity – those Chrysoenas doves were simply divine and seeing Silktail was a long-time ambition. It was easy and straightforward to get to the places needed and the public transport was more than adequate to do this. I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit these islands and the memories will stay with me forever.

Last edited by birdboybowley : Monday 20th October 2008 at 18:31.
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Old Monday 20th October 2008, 18:31   #5
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A few pics...


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Old Monday 20th October 2008, 22:54   #6
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Another great trip report Ads (or should I say 'leg' of the world series!). Some stunning looking birds too ... esp. the Golden Dove which reminds me of something but can't think what! (an exotic fruit ...bananas ... dunno ... beautiful anyhowz)
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Old Monday 20th October 2008, 23:33   #7
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Thanks Debs - shame I couldn't get anything on the adult male...
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Old Tuesday 21st October 2008, 04:30   #8
Larry Sweetland
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Is there anywhere on this clean earth where we're hoping to go to that you aren't about to knock out a trip report for Ads....? Fantastic stuff mate.
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Old Tuesday 21st October 2008, 13:50   #9
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Cheers mate! I thought I'd jus save you the hassle of having to sort anything out yourself!!
Well your end destination is one I've longed to get to - so hopefuly I'll be able to use your notes in the not-too-distant future!! All the best guys, thanks for reading

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Old Tuesday 24th February 2009, 00:02   #10
Larry Sweetland
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What's the score with field guides for Fiji Ads? and what did you do for one?
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Old Tuesday 24th February 2009, 06:22   #11
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if I can jump in there, the only field guide for Fiji worth even thinking about is "A Guide to the Birds of Fiji and Western Polynesia" by Dick Watling. (Covers Fiji, Samoa, Niue, etc). There are a few problems with the plates (seabirds are hopelessly inadequate; not enough pictures of separate subspecies of, eg, island thrush etc; and the blue-crested broadbill has a bright orange-red bill in real life but not in the picture) but otherwise its good. All the other guides out there (not that there are many) are rather patchy in which species they include. You can get it in NZ bookshops, although you might need to hunt around, and its also available in Fiji (but you'll need to hunt a bit there too)
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Old Tuesday 24th February 2009, 13:40   #12
birdboybowley
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As Chlidonias says, that was the book I used and yep, it ain't great!! I picked up a copy at the Miranda Visitor Centre bizarrely - the only foreign fieldguide they had!!
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Old Wednesday 25th February 2009, 04:57   #13
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are you heading to Fiji next Larry? You might be interested in the triangle flights with Fiji's Air Pacific, if they still do them. There are (or maybe were...just check with Flight Centre or somewhere) two separate triangles, one goes Fiji-Samoa-Tonga-Fiji and the other one Fiji-Vanuatu-New Caledonia-Fiji. You have 30 days to complete the triangle, which basically gives you a month in either Samoa and Tonga, or Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
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Old Friday 27th February 2009, 23:09   #14
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What would I do without you two. Planning to go to Fiji for a month or so from mid May. I'll try and get the book in Auckland.

Seems to be no Pacific Island section at all in the info wanted forums
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Old Friday 27th February 2009, 23:59   #15
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Spent two weeks in Fiji a few years back - we met our daughter there on part of her year-off-round-the-world-trip - not a full-on birdy trip but did find 48 species - hard work to build a decent list - Taveuni is a must - we found a little Bure right on the northernmost tip of the island and had a huge passage of Noddies through the sound between Taveuni and Savusavu.
I drove a hired 4WD part way up the peak, and then managed to hitch a lift with the telecomms people all the way to the top! Great walk down, including Silktail, Pacific Robin and Orange Dove - real stunners.
I saw 2 Banded Rails cross the road on the east side of Taveuni.
You've got to get into the Kava - it's a laugh!!
I had Watling too, not brilliant, but at the time the only option.
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