Saturday, 21 July 2012

Around the hotel on Tongatapu

After a midday arrival on Tongatapu, the largest island in Tonga, and with unpacking and other formalities I only had a couple of hours birding on my first day.

This meant birding straight out of the hotel. Incidentally my hotel, Lagoon Lodge had some of the friendliest and most helpful staff I have come across while travelling the world. I was very happy with my accommodation too.

The Lagoon Lodge is situated just south east of the capital Nuku'alofa.

The first impressions of common land birds I saw was that they were similar to Upolu, Samoa but there are major differences.

polynesian triller

Although such birds as polynesian triller (seen above on the hotel lawn) and wattled honeyeater (on a hotel sign!) are common to both nations, some obvious birds were missing here.

wattled honeyeater

There are no common myna or jungle myna which are the two most troublesome invasive species in Samoa.

red-vented bulbul

The bad news is that the third of Samoa's invasive species, the red-vented bulbul is present and if anything is more numerous!

European starling

Perhaps a strange find is the abundance of European starling. This is a consequence of their introduction to New Zealand by British settlers. The originals here probably came from migrating birds trying to escape the south island, New Zealand winter. Tonga is much closer to New Zealand than Samoa and more directly north hence  its a more obvious place for them to fly too. Once on Tonga I doubt any go back! The green wet grass patches suit them all year round.

Polynesian starling

The polynesian starling is more common than in Samoa presumably because it isn't crowded out by mynas and Samoan starling

Here it has brown rather than yellow eyes. This makes it in common with eastern Fijian birds which is a fact missing from my guide book. The book reads as if yellow eyed birds should be found on Tonga.

buff banded rail

As in Samoa, buff banded rail are everywhere and quite tame. I didn't see any chicks here though. Samoa is nearer the equator than Tongatapu and the seasons hardly vary in terms of temperature. On Tongatapu there is the vaguest hint of a winter (20C only on some days). I wonder if that effects the rail's breeding habits.

white collared kingfisher

On that afternoon I got a glimpse of the local kingfisher. It supposed to be the same sub species of white collared kingfisher as found on American Samoa. its even elevated to full species status  as chattering kingfisher in my guide though I understand not every one is in agreement with full status.

second view of white collared kingfisher

I'll blog about the comparison with between this bird and the apparent vagrant seen on Upolu in a later blog.

However the next blog looks at the extensive mud flats both west and east of Nuku'alofa where I saw two lifers (and so by definition not seen in Samoa) among plenty of other birds. 

1 comment:

  1. First shot looks like a Pied Wagtail, i should get the record submitted as a 'first' for Polynesia!

    Laurie -