Norfolk Island - a long weekend 26th - 29th January 2013

January 26, 2013

What a great little place! Beautiful scenery, lovely weather (though it was a bit windy), helpful and friendlylocals, comfortable accommodation and   a network of well maintained  walking tracks and some great birds made this an extremely pleasant trip.

We explored Norfolk Island starting with the Norfolk Island National Park with Mt Pitt and Mt Bates. We seawatched from cliffs with the area around Cascade jetty being the most sheltered and the Captain Cook memorial the most strikingly scenic. We enjoyed the Botanic Gardens which were full of interesting information about the local plants, including the native Auracaria as well as having some good birds. We looked for waders along the shore at Kingston, where we even made time for some historical delving. The island is full of beautiful gardens and the network of trails is a real pleasure. We made the most of the 3 days we had there and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Phil recorded 46 species seeing 45 of them and hearing 1 (the Boobook) plus a large unidentified raptor which would have made it 47.

Locations visited

Norfolk Island


Land Birds 33 species
Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana) 1 1 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27 and Jan 28
Rock Dove (Columba livia) 1 About 30 on Jan 27, many quite dark coloured and all seemingly descended from 2 birds from Brazil and South Africa which arrived in 1790 on the Sirius, which was wrecked here at Slaughter Bay.
Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae) 1 We tried along the Mt Bates track at dusk on Jan 28 but the wind was so strong it was hopeless. Next day we tried around 2030 at Red Road NP car park, where it was again way too windy, then once more up Mt Bates but only near the main road area, both unsuccessfully. I then made a final try from the Display platform at the Botanic Gardens where there was broad vista across a valley and potentially good soundlines in a more sheltered spot, and this got a quick response from at least one bird, way down across the valley. It sounded much like Southern Boobook and was interested in both that tape and the Tasmanian taxon, calling for several minutes. I did not brave the trails and steps in the dark and was content to just hear it, maybe 0.5 of an Oz tick?
Masked Woodswallow (Artamus personatus) 1 2 males and a female along New Farm Road near the airport Jan 29, one of the more surprising colonists here and in very low numbers as yet.
Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) 1 1 at Mission Pond Jan 26-27
Grey-tailed Tattler (Tringa brevipes) 1 1 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27, distant, then flew closer and called. Again on Jan 28 with 2 tattler sp.
Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) 1 5 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27, 27 there Jan 28.
Pacific Robin (Petroica multicolor) 1 Seems very scarce, but likes dense gully forest and thickets so you need to be in or near deep cover. A F at Mt Bates Jan 26 had a red breast, small black stripe behind eye and a very quiet high-pitched drawn out call, also looked quite large for a Petroica. A pair at the Botanic gardens in Ferny Gully Jan 28, male singing well, and 2 F in the Rainforest Gully, then a fine male just past “Lindisfarne” in the forest on the bend on Capt. Cook Road en route to Capt. Cook Lookout, with 2 others singing close by. Legs browny, bill blackish. One call is a distinctive harsh scolding series not unlike the parakeet call, and the song is a quiet dry rattly sequence. An Oz tick anyway and an interesting taxon, be good to know what others in the assemblage sound like, these seem big to me with longish tails, and I don’t recall the Fiji birds singing or calling like this one.
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 1 Common, saw c. 100 Jan 27 and good numbers in the more open country to the south on Jan 28 and 29.
Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) 1 Common around the north, even seen on the airstrip and very well-established, we saw about 40 on Jan 26 and 90 on Jan 27 including some males in very fine wild type plumage, though most seem to be grey-backed or very dark derivatives. An Oz tick no less.
Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) 1 One on Jan 26 and 5 on Jan 27 and Jan 28 with few heard, seems quite widespread. Most were very whitish below with buff loral spot and bluish rump, also quite well angled lower mandible on a fairly big bill. Call much as Sacred Kingfisher.
Australian Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis) 1 Two at Mt Bates Jan 26 and one near Capt. Cook Lookout Jan 27, hen plumaged and very distinctive, has dull whitish chin and throat and a diffuse buffy breast band with brown upperparts and tail. Voice typical Pachycephala but short phrases were all I heard. 2 in Botanic gardens Jan 28, with a pale mark at bend of wing and pale yellowish vent and belly. One at Mt Bates Jan 29 but I was unable to get any calling birds close enough to tape and they were very quiet, just giving short song phrases. Must be a good candidate for a split as very distinctive, if Rennell Whistler is a split then so is this one.
Slender-billed White-eye (Zosterops tenuirostris) 1 Uncommon, saw 2 Jan 26 at Mt Pitt, 3 or 4 Jan 27 in the NP there and a couple on Jan 28 at the Botanic Gardens, the bill looked very long and slightly decurved when seen close but not so obvious at distance. Upperparts greenish tinged grey-green on mantle chin, throat and upper breast yellow. A presumed hybrid at the Botanic gardens had greyish-green mantle, quite extensive yellow chin and throat, dirty greyish underparts and yellow undertail coverts, with a Silvereye-type stout bill. I was unable to distinguish any obviously distinctive calls amongst the general Zosterops notes, but it was hard to see what was actually calling
White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) 1 1 at Mission pond Jan 26, and 3 at Kingston Jan 27 and Jan 28.
Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa) 1 Small numbers on Mt Bates and near Cook’s Lookout, surprisingly distinctive with pale grey upperparts, buff wing bars (juvs and subadults), not much white in tail and very buffy underparts, reminded me of Mangrove Fantail. Vocally some notes like Grey Fantail, but also a tinkling silvery trill quite like Mangrove Fantail, which sadly I failed to record.
European Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) 1 Rare, just 2 by the airstrip Jan 28.
California Quail (Callipepla californica) 1 5 up the Mt Bates Track and 5 near Puppies Point on Jan 26, covey of 15 near Point Howe and 7 near Capt. Cook Lookout turn-off Jan 27, 5 at Rocky Point Jan 28 and 6 along Capt. Cook Road Jan 29. Also an Oz tick.
Pacific Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps longirostris) 1 1 juv. Jan 25 near Point Howe, and 2 at Mt Bates Jan 27, much more golden-bronze above than mainland birds and pinker less rich below, with grey and blackish rump bands and yellow bill. Heard at Rocky Point Jan 28 and one over Mission Road Jan 29.
Greylag Goose (Anser anser) 1 21 at Mission pond and 25 at Kingston pond, clearly long-established and should be on the Australian list as such, a puzzling omission.
Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa) 1 6 on Mission Pool and 7 at Kingston pond, 10 there next day, though some hybridization with Mallard looks likely.
Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) 1 5 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27, 1 Jan 28 and 1 at airport.
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) 1 1 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27
Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena) 1 About 30 on wires near Burnt Pine both days, small numbers at Kingston and 2 at Capt. Cook’s Lookout.
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) 1 Fairly common, far more so than in the UK these days!
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 1 Quite common in the towns.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 1 A few around Kingston were of the farmyard duck persuasion
Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) 1 Two along Mission Road and 1 at Kingston Jan 27, 1 Kingston Jan 28.
Norfolk Parakeet (Cyanoramphus cookii) 1 One flying over and one heard Mt Bates Jan 26, a brief view but the short harsh call gives it away, sort of quadrisyllabic quite harsh flat “kek” notes. Another fly-over calling en route to Capt. Cook’s Lookout Jan 27, and then had a terrific flyby near eye level, seeing the red crown. This one landed and began calling, so I was able to get some recordings of it. Also heard twice at the Mt Bates track late pm. Seems pretty darn rare, this 200 birds population estimate may be a tad optimistic, but they are easily overlooked. Available habitat does not seem all that large to me either, and no doubt the rosellas compete for nest holes. I think Norfolk Island Parakeet is more precise than the horribly generic Tasman Parakeet, with the name Tasman being used for species on both Lord Howe and here, whereas the parakeet was not on Lord Howe. The IOC’s Norfolk Parakeet is even more misleading and really requires the Island modifier.
Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) 1 Quite common
Norfolk Gerygone (Gerygone modesta) 1 Quite common at Mt Bates, it was the first endemic we heard with its short sweet typical Gerygone-type song. Lacks an eyestripe, very brown above, dull below with whitish chin and belly, pale tail tips and a broad diffuse dark bar when it fans its tail. Bill black, legs dark brownish, diffuse pale area just above eye and thin broken white eye ring. A presumed juv. had pale yellow chin and throat and seemed paler below with a faint eye-ring. Also heard in the gardens in Burnt Pine at the Golden Orb Café and Cumberland Resort.
Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) 1 Common, one of the most frequently seen or heard birds, but hard to see well, looked big billed with a pale flesh-pinkish lower mandible.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata) 1 1 Slaughter Bay, Kingston Beach Jan 27
Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) 1 5 on Jan 26 and 10 on Jan 27, inc. one subadult with green feathering on wings. Small nos. Jan 28-29. Seems like a good plan to cull them even on the chance of competition with the native Parakeet.
Seabirds 12 species
Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) 1 Quite common with 30-50 each day off the north, most without red tail streamers. One in the bushes at Rocky Point Jan 28 was amazingly tame and just sat there.
Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus) 1 Dozens offshore from Point Howe Jan 26-27. 70+ W off Cascade Jetty Jan 28.
Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) 1 30-50 offshore from Point Howe and Cook’s Lookout, with a small colony on Green Pool stack, next to the delightfully named Moo-oo (a kind of Cyperus sedge or grass) stack. 18 there on Jan 29.
Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) 1 1 flying past Rocky Point Jan 28.
White Tern (Gygis alba) 1 Quite common in the N with over 100 both days, evidently nesting in the Norfolk Pines, and a colony at Rocky Point in the pine forest there with the Black Noddies.
Grey Noddy (Procelsterna albivitta) 1 Two distant singles off Point Howe Jan 26, 4 off Capt. Cook’s Lookout Jan 27 and one off Point Howe same day. 1 W past Cascade Jetty Jan 28 and 1 on the stack E of at Cook’s Lookout Jan 29.
Black-winged Petrel (Pterodroma nigripennis) 1 About 20 on Jan 26 around the Point Howe area where they are clearly nesting, with burrows visible in the long clifftop grass, and then dozens next day heading S past Point Howe and off the Capt. Cook lookout. 100+ W off Cascade Jetty Jan 28 1530-1600. Very vocal and often heard, the call a shrill “whik whik whik whik” but sadly too windy to be able to tape it.
Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) 1 One past Point Howe Jan 26 and 2 off Capt. Cook Lookout Jan 27, no doubt the remnants of Cyclone Oswald have caused the very strong winds these two days which favour frigatebirds.
Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus) 1 Very scarce, just a couple off Cook’s Lookout Jan 27
Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos) 1 1 flying over Kingston Beach Jan 27.
Sooty Tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) 1 A few in the north around Cook’s Lookout where they were on the little stack to the E in the original landing bay, where you could hear them calling the nasal “wideawake’, and small number <10 seen at Point Howe and Cascade Jetty
Black Noddy (Anous minutus) 1 Quite common, with several hundred both days. A nesting colony in the pines at Rocky Point Jan 28 had around 80 birds.



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