Sunday, 15 July 2012

Birding inside Apia, Samoa

I took it nice and easy on my first day on Samoa. the plane didn't land until gone one in the morning and it is a long way from the airport to hotel. So Monday's birding was based on a walk round the capital town of Apia.

Pacific golden plover

I didn't even need to leave the hotel for the birding action to start. On the big lawn outside the front, three types of bird were grazing. One was Pacific golden plover

I have only seen this bird once before. A few from the north Pacific rim make down to the Arabian coast for the winter. That's where I saw one. However the Samoan birds are resident and seemingly like lawns. (This wasn't the last time I saw the bird on a lawn!).

Unfortunately the lawn had plenty of common myna which is seen once again as a pest. I didn't realise immediately but among them was a second type of myna - jungle myna. This is a lifer for me.  

Jungle myna

Another invasive species which is common in the town and was also in the hotel gardens is red-vented bulbul.

By big coincidence, I discovered after a couple of days there was a workshop going on at my hotel on controlling invasive birds species. 

I managed a small number of conversations with some of the international representatives. It seems common myna followed by jungle myna are there main targets. There seemed to be a bit of divergence of opinion though on the methods or even the need for control!

A move away from poisoning to trapping looked like the general conclusion. However, I was just a remote bystander and not privee to the internal debate!

red vented bulbul

In several gardens and on scrub land in the town, buff-banded rail was a common sight. This was another lifer for me. Indeed the big majority of all the species I saw on the island during my stay were lifers. Only 6 species of the total of 28 were not!

(buff) banded rail

Another common bird in almost all terrain is cardinal myzomela (sometimes called cardinal honeyeater). I saw 6 country endemics to Samoa on my trip but this one doesn't quite count simply because it is found on neighbouring American Samoa as well. Otherwise its not found anywhere else in the world.

cardinal myzomela

Almost as common was the black and white polynesian triller. This bird has a wider distribution as the name suggests.

polynesian triller

For the record there are feral pigeon on the island. The aren't however any house sparrow or any other sparrow for that matter. 

feral pigeon

As I headed into the centre of the town the sky turned very grey. This is was a bit unusual since July is the driest month in Samoa.

clock tower in the centre of the town

It got worse. There was a downpour while I was ironically next to the Met office. My passport remained dry but my brand new bird guide got soaked. Only remedial work by me standing next to the outside of an air con unit blowing warm air saved the book as it dried out.

young golden plover

On the lawn of the Met office were a couple more Pacific golden plover. Near-by on a tree I saw my first ever Samoan starling. I discovered later that it is much more common on different terrain.

Samoan starling

In bushes were several Samoan fantail. Their actions were similar to New Zealand fantail I had seen days before.

I only saw the light morph of the New Zealand fantail while in Auckland but it appears that the Samoan fantail is quite similar looking to the dark morph.

Samoan fantail

There are mangroves just to the west of Apia and there are easily walkable from the town.   I chose to approach them from the northern end. I was successful in the sense that  I didn't lose my boots in the mud. 

crabs in the mangroves

It was also successful in the sense I saw three more species, two of which were lifers. The first was a pacific reef heron which flew past me down the coast.

wandering tattler

The second was one of a group of obviously tringa birds. however unlike the redshank and greenshank I know well, this bird was really tame allowing me in one case up to 1.5 metres away. My guidebook showed me they were wandering tattler. They have rather dull plumage but they appear very exotic to me.

ruddy turnstone

The final bird was well known to me. A group of ruddy turnstone were found close to the wandering tattler. This was one of only 6 species on the island I had ever seen before.

The next blog recounts my first visit in Samoa to a forested area where competition from invasive birds almost disappears.

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