My Birding Blogs

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tahiti Trip 2007 - Day 3 - Sat 04 Aug 2007 Papeete, Tahiti

Meet up with Jean at 730am and we were at the SE side of Tahiti where a few narrow forested valleys in the areas are the last piece of land where the critically endangered Tahiti Monarch (Pomarea nigra) survives. These less accessible valleys are the few last remnant natural habitats which are least affected by all sorts of invasive species. Currently there are only about 40 individuals that have been accounted for. Furthermore half of them are non breeding single birds. Hope its situation will improve after intensive rat poisoning, habitat management and population monitoring. There are some initial signs that the birds are increasing slowly and a possible small population may be found in another inaccessible valley.

Tahiti Monarch (Pomarea nigra) - Adult

See BirdLife’s link for more information on the Tahiti Monarch.
We hiked from the foothill for about 3 kms further into the steep and narrow valley. We crossed many shallow streams and Jean had to chop off many entangled twigs and fallen branches along the way. In the beginning of the journey, the floor of the track was filled with wilted flowers of the beautiful African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata), indicating that this part of forest is nothing but a land dominated by introduced species. No wonder the Monarch has been pushed to the further up in the valley. It took us 45 minutes before coming to the first territory according to Jean. Probably due to overcast in the morning, there was no bird call, no bird activity for nearly an hour before we finally spotted the first Tahiti Monarch near the canopy of the forest. By noon, we saw all the 3 flycatchers (A pair and a single, all adults in black) in the territory. Jean also showed me a clump of debris which was formerly a nest a year ago. This flycatcher can be surveyed relatively easier from the perspective of monitoring forest dwelling bird. This is because the bird is highly territorial and amazingly that there is no other passerine living in the territory, at least from my observation.

African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata). Beautiful plant but detrimental to native ecology

The only other birds observed at this site was a Gray-green Fruit-dove (Ptilinopus purpuratus purpuratus) on a highest canopy as well as a few Tahiti Swiftlets (Aerodramus leucophaeus) flying above the canopies. We then hiked for 20 minutes further up to look for the second territory. Unfortunately no flycatchers turned up at that territory and the only other bird recorded was the crows of the feral Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus). We then went into a canyon where another Tahitian endemic - the Tahiti Swiftlet (Aerodramus leucophaeus) is found nesting. I only had a fleeting view of an all brown swiftlet and there were about 20 nests cluttering on an overhanging wall. The area was very dim the stream that flows through the canyon was rather rapid.

Precipitous canyon in the interior of Tahiti island

We returned to our car at 2pm and next to the car we heard of the introduced Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) in the thick scrubs. Very well known among the locals, this white-eye's local name 'Vini' has been adopted as the name of the national mobile phone network service provider ( Back to Radisson Resort for a shower and nap. At night the hotel hosted yet another Polynesian dance show, this time it is the Marquesas dance which is different from the Tahitian dance the night before.


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