Peregrine Bird Tours
Bird Tours
Peregrine Bird Tours

Micronesia

Peregrine Bird Tours tour to the forgotten islands of Micronesia was a great success, observing almost all of the endemic bird species of the islands. A good number of its endemic birds are pleasingly common and obviously doing well, on the other hand, sadly, approximately 40% of Micronesia's endemic birds are considered under threat, due to the continuing destruction of native forest. Highlights of our island hopping journey were many and varied and included such remote and difficult to find endemics as Micronesian Scrubfowl, Palau Ground-Dove, Mariana Crow, Nightingale Reed-Warbler and Truk, Olive and Long-billed White eyes.

Vagrants always add spice to any tour, and Micronesia was no exception. The most notable amongst them was a Laughing Gull, a bird from the Americas, other vagrants included Great Egret, two adult male Eurasian Wigeons in full breeding plumage, a Black-tailed Godwit in full breeding plumage, a Long-toed Stint in full breeding plumage and a Ruff in non breeding plumage.

Following a long and tiring overnight flight from Australia we arrived at mid-day at the tiny island of Pohnpei, the least developed of all the major islands of Micronesia. We saw our first bird of the tour in the car park of the airport, it was a Pacific Golden-Plover, which was rapidly attaining breeding plumage. In grassland just outside the airport we observed a small flock of the recently introduced Eurasian Tree Sparrows. In the afternoon we visited the Upper Nanpil River Valley. The first birds we saw where a pair of introduced Hunsteins Munias, which are endemic to the island of New Ireland and have been introduced to Pohnpei. In the forest we quickly found Cicadabird, Pohnpei Flycatcher, Pohnpei Fantail, Micronesian Starling and Micronesian Honeyeater. Birds observed flying over the forest included White-tailed Tropicbird, Brown Noddy, White Tern and Caroline Islands Swiftlet. After hearing lots of Crimson-crowned Fruit-Doves, we finally found a perched one that we could have a good look at and the same applied to the very attractive Pohnpei Lorikeet, we had observed a few fly-bys, before we enjoyed a perched pair in a nearby tree. We rounded off the afternoons birding with a great look at a perched Micronesian Kingfisher and the diminutive Grey White-eye. We also enjoyed good looks at a couple of critically endangered Caroline Flying Foxes.

One or two of Pohnpei's endemic birds only occur in native forest in the island's rugged interior. So the following day was dedicated to searching for them. We drove along one of the few roads leading into the interior of the island. We then followed a track deep into the forest, where after an hour or so we arrived at an excellent are of fern forest. Here we added all three birds we were looking for; a Micronesian Imperial-Pigeon flew close-by, this is now unfortunately a rare bird on Pohnpei, we found a singing Caroline Islands Reed-Warbler, up in the top of a tree and eventually we found a few Long-billed White-eyes, a very uncommon species which only occurs on Pohnpei Island. We also enjoyed watching several Polynesian Sheath-tailed Bats, roosting on the underside of tree fern leaves.

The following day we spent the morning visiting the ancient ruins of Nan Madol. The ruins consist of 82 artificial islands built of huge basalt `logs` are all that remains of a a lost Pacific civilisation, which is believed to have flourished in the 11th century AD. It was a fine sunny day and the ruins were both impressive and awe-inspiring we even added a couple of new birds, a pair of dark morph Pacific Reef-Egrets and a few Grey-tailed Tattlers, one of the tattlers was only a few metres away from us and was in full breeding plumage.

In the afternoon we visited a nearby patch of forest at Sokhs Ridge, a headland which had tremendous views overlooking Kolonia, the main town on the island. We saw most of the common Pohnpei birds here, plus one new bird, the Caroline Islands White-eye. We also saw a new species of mammal here, we saw up to four Polynesian Rats.

The following day we flew from Pohnpei to Chuuk, as we were taxiing on the runway at Pohnpei Airport, three Ruddy Turnstones took off from the side of the airstrip. On our arrival at Chuuk, we did a little biding at Nefo Cave, where there is a huge Japanese Gun, a relict of the Second World War. A little birding in this area soon produced our main target bird here, the endemic Oceanic Flycatcher, which proved very obliging. Below the gun emplacement, we could see a large swamp. From the top floor of a nearby school we could see into the swamp and enjoyed great looks at up to a dozen Yellow Bitterns, several Rufous Night-Herons half a dozen or so Pacific Black Ducks, a Eurasian Moorhen, a solitary Whiskered Tern and a solitary White-winged Black Tern, both species of terns are very uncommon visitors to Micronesia and we also saw a solitary Barn Swallow.

An early start the following morning as we boarded our boat and headed for the island of Tol South at the other end of Truk Lagoon. As we were nearing Udot Island we observed a Black Noddy fly past our boat. We noticed some birds roosting along the edge of the island, so motored in for a closer look, there was a solitary Whimbrel and three Black-naped Terns. On our arrival at Tol South we met our local guides and in high spirits we set off towards the summit of Mount Winipot. Almost immediately we found a female Blue-faced Parrotfinch. The hike up the mountain was very tough, with steep slippery barely perceptible trails, with the occasional very slippery rock outcrops, which we crossed very slowly and with a great deal of caution. Towards the summit, the native forest looked very good, but we still had not found our two main target birds. However, we did see a solitary Chuuk Flying Fox, which is critically endangered and one or two Black Rats, which unfortunately, are far from endangered. On reaching the summit we were very tired and in not so high sprits. Suddenly, a young boy of about 12 years of age heard a bird call and motioned to us to follow him, 30 seconds later we were enjoying super close looks at what must surely be one of the world's most beautiful birds, an adult male Truk Monarch. It was pure glistening white, apart from a coal black face, throat and tips of the primaries. The forest here was criss-crossed with trenches dug by Japanese troops during World War Two and we birded all around them until we found the second target bird of the day, the highly endangered Great Truk White-eye. The decent was no less treacherous than the accent and on our return to our boat, we were somewhat bloodied and bruised, but still in one piece and we headed back across a somewhat turbulent Truk Lagoon adding even more bruises to our already battered bodies. As we neared Weno Island we observed a solitary Crested Tern and at the landing site, a single Common Tern was patrolling backwards and forwards along the coast.

The following morning we birded close to our hotel and managed to enjoy good looks at the very attractive Caroline Islands Ground-Dove. A little later we were checking out a group of terns along the coast and we discovered a Cattle Egret, a Lesser Sandplover and an adult Laughing Gull in winter plumage. This species is a rare vagrant to Micronesia. Following lunch we attempted to check in for the flight to Guam, but the flight was overbooked and we did not make the flight.

We spent the following day birding around the edge of Truk Lagoon. We failed to add any new birds to the trip list, but the two vagrants Laughing Gull and Common Tern, were both seen well and both had moved further north along the coast and into the main harbour.

In the early hours of the following morning we boarded our flight to Guam, where we connected with a flight to Saipan, we arrived here at 7.30 in the morning and picked up our hire car at the airport. After checking in at our down town hotel, we spent the morning in the north of the island, where most of the remaining forest is to be found. New birds came thick and fast and many where endemic to Micronesia. We enjoyed good looks at the introduced Island Collared-Dove, found a good number of Mariana Swiftlets hawking over the forest and we enjoyed watching a White-throated Ground-Dove feeding on a paw-paw in one of the gardens. The Mariana Fruit-Dove, Collared Kingfisher and Saipan Bridled White-eye proved to be common. We also saw a pair of beautiful Rufous Fantails a flock of recently introduced Orange-cheeked Waxbills and best of all, super looks at the absolutely stunning Golden White-eye. In the afternoon we flew to the nearby tiny island of Tinian and in no time at all we were watching the very beautiful Tinian Monarch, which occurs nowhere else on the planet and we saw our first of many Red Junglefowls. We also reflected with great sadness, that it was from this tiny island that the Enola Gay took off with its lethal cargo, bound for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, during World War Two.

On our final day on Saipan a visit in the morning to Lake Susupe yielded no less than 19 Tufted Ducks, a very uncommon winter visitor to the Pacific. In the late afternoon, we succeeded in observing two Nightingale Reed-Warblers in flight, this species is a critically endangered single island endemic.

An unscheduled day on Guam, forced upon us due to a flight cancellation, produced our only Feral Pigeon of the tour.

We then enjoyed a full days birding on Babelthaup Island in Palau, the most western group of islands in Micronesia. We spent the early hours of the morning birding in the Ngermeskang Bird Sanctuary. Which produced a succession of new birds for the tour, many of them endemic to Palau. We saw a very close Intermediate Egret along the roadside, along with several fairly tame Buff-banded Rails and Chris saw a solitary Swinhoe's Snipe in flight. We saw our first of many Palau Fruit-Doves and large numbers of Palua Swiftlets. We enjoyed good close looks at a Morningbird, several Palau Flycatchers, a couple of Palau Fantails, large flocks of Dusky White-eyes and a few small flocks of the introduced Chestnut Munia.

We also visited Ngardok Lake, in Ngardok Nature Reserve, where we enjoyed great looks at a female Northern Pintail, yet another very uncommon visitor to Micronesia. While admiring the rather grandiose Capital Building at Melekeok, we found an Eastern Yellow Wagtail on the lawn and a solitary Little Pied Cormorant flew overhead. That evening at dusk as we were preparing to do a little spot-lighting, a pair of Eclectus Parrots were seen in flight. Unfortunately the spotlighting coincided with a prolonged tropical downpour and we failed to find any new birds.

The next day we explored Palou's beautiful Rock Islands, a whole series of eroded limestone islets. Unfortunately, the weather was atrocious, thundering rain poured down relentlessly throughout most of the day. We were very wet and very cold, there was nowhere to shelter on the boat and the rain storm was blowing straight under the canopy. Even so, we birded hard all morning. The first new bird for the tour, was a small scattered flock of Bridled Terns. We walked Ulong Island, one of many of Palau's Rock Islands and we were highly successful in finding the three main target species, Micronesian Scrubfowl, Palau Ground-Dove and a very co-operative Palau Bush-Warbler. A couple of walks on two further rock islands produced a Common Sandpiper, two Nicobar Pigeons in flight, a couple of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and a single White-breasted Woodswallow. Due to the appalling weather and the fact that we had been very successful, we were happy to return to Koror. Here we visited the Rubbish Dump, adding Little Egret to our ever growing list and a visit to the nearby Sewage Farm, produced a solitary Wood Sandpiper. In the evening just prior to dusk a group of half a dozen Common Greenshanks flew past our hotel heading for their roosting site.

A flight during the middle of the night took us from Palau to Yap, where we enjoyed a few hours sleep, before starting birding. Within a few minutes drive we were birding in the forested interior of the island, where we quickly found a pair of superbly plumaged endemic Yap Monarchs, followed by our fist of many endemic Plain White-eyes. In the afternoon a walk along the causeway at Colonia produced a single Greater Sandplover and a small flock of introduced Scaly-breasted Munias. We then went back to the forest, searching for our last endemic, while doing so a White-browed Crake flew across the road and perched on top of a taro plant. Were we all saw it fairly well. Species diversity is very low on Yap and for some obscure reason there are no fruit-doves, swiftlets or kingfishers, there is however, an endemic flying fox, which we saw very well flying over the forest in the late afternoon.

Our second day on the island of Yap, was very much a day for rare vagrants, which we saw mainly during the heat of the afternoon in-between morning and late afternoon vigils searching for the last Yap endemic, the Olive White-eye. We started the day off with a quick look at the Olive White-eye and ended the day with Chris getting a good look at one, which unfortunately flew off before anyone else could get on to it. In the middle of the day, we found two adult male Eurasian Wigeons in spectacular full breeding plumage. We then added a single Wandering Tattler, in full breeding plumage, a single Black-tailed Godwit also in full breeding plumage, no less than seven Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and a single Ruff, a very rare visitor to Micronesia. We saw an amazing 10 species of waders today, on the tiny island of Yap.

On our final day on Yap, at first light we drove to a nearby patch of native forest, where fortunately we all enjoyed good looks at a pair of the endemic Olive White-eye. We then had a look at the causeway in Colonia, where we found three Red-necked Stints and a solitary Long-toed Stint, which was our last new bird for the tour on Yap.

During the night we flew from Yap to Guam, where we connected with an early morning flight to Rota. At Guam Airport we saw our first Black Drongo, an introduced species, which was to prove very common and conspicuous on Rota. Our fist port of call was the Saguagahga Point Bird Sanctuary, where we enjoyed close views of both Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Red-tailed Tropicbird and an introduced Sambar, a large species of deer. We made a stop at the Alaguan Bay Lookout, to search for the endangered Mariana Crow. In no time at all a bird flew in from the coast and disappeared deep inside the forest. Following lunch we returned and played a tape of the crows call, a pair of birds responded immediately and flew very close to us, giving perfect views. This was a perfect ending to a highly successful and enjoyable tour to the forgotten islands of Micronesia.

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