Tuesday 6 August 2013

Malakal and Arakabesang Islands, Palau

As well as visiting Long Island where I had great success by seeing six endemics in one place, I also ventured on to two other smaller islands linked to Koror by road bridges. 

These were Malakal and Arakabesang Islands.  The visit to Malakal Island actually preceded my visits to Long Island while the visit to Arakabesang Island came after. 

I was dropped off at the waste water treatment works at the far end of Malakal. To give you an indication of distance, I was able to walk back to my hotel from there.

Buff banded rail

It was here that I saw my first buff banded rail in the country. Indeed there were several there over a period of time and they were relatively tame.  

Seeing them there meant I have now managed to see buff banded rail in four Pacific nations: Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and Palau.

Map of Koror and surrounds (adapted from lonely planet)

The treatment works also held two egrets which by their long necks and other features were identified as Intermediate egret

Waste water treatment area

Intermediate egret is a known resident bird on Palau. I have only seen them in Japan before and not so close and with such prolonged views. 

Intermediate egret

However this was not the only member of the heron family present.

second intermediate egret

Since this was one of my earliest birding venues in the country, it was also the first place I got to see rufous night heron.

Rufous night heron

Of course, this was before I realised just how common the species is and in how many places it can be seen.

second view of rufous night heron

More importantly for me, I accidentally flushed a yellow bittern as I walked by the water's edge. This small bird was another lifer and the only time I saw one on the trip. 

poor record shot of yellow bittern 

I spent a long time chasing around the pools trying to get a good view and photograph of a lone wader. You can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a common sandpiper. The bird is presumably over-summering. Palau is one of very few Pacific Islands that gets wintering  (and obviously occasionally over-summering) sandpipers other than tattlers. This is because it is closer to the mainland than virtually all the others.

common sandpiper

On starting my walk back from the waste water treatment pools, it started to rain (which I later found out would be an extremely regular occurrence).

Palau fantail

I took shelter under a big tree. This proved to be fortunate because I got my first look at the endemic Palau fantail there. It was later seen in other places including on Long Island along with 5 other endemics (see the last blog). Nevertheless, this first contact was also my best contact. Like me it didn't want to leave the shelter in the rain.

Pacific golden plover

Three days late I visited another Island connected by road. This time it was Arakabesang. Again I had to dodge the rain while meant birding wasn't ideal. Again I walked back because I could.

The standard array of birds were present: e.g tree sparrow, Palau swiftlet, white tailed tropicbird etc  However, the area around the "National Swimming Pool" provided one more addition to my Palau list.

I had seen Pacific golden plover in Koror town and Pacific reef heron on the coast there. they were in the swimming pool area too. 

The additional bird turned out to be a second over-summering sandpiper species.

Pacific reef heron

There was at least one wood sandpiper. Actually I think there was two but I didn't track things too carefully between the two sightings.

wood sandpiper

At the first sighting, the bird only showed one leg.  At the second sighting a few minutes later the bird (or another) showed two legs.

a second wood sandpiper? 

Now I know water birds often retract a leg when stationary so I am not completely certain there were two birds but it looks very possible.

This visit to Arakabesang Island was the last time I added to my list. I had no success the next day, on the final morning, acting on a tip off that Micronesian scrubfowl could be easily seen at the Japanese ruins at Airai at the southern end of the largest Island of Bebeldaob. 

My tour of this main Island earlier in the week by rental car was a complete wash out too.

So could I have been the first to see all the endemics on the connected Islands as I had originally ambitiously aimed?

Well the Palau owl is apparently very common at the far north end of Bebeldaob and Palau bush warbler can be seen in the gardens of the Palau Pacific resort, Arakabesang. I just chose the wrong times to allocate a visit to these places. I was rained off both times.

That leaves Palau ground dove and Giant white eye. These have only been seen on the unconnected Islands. However its hard to believe that both aren't present somewhere on the sheer vastness that is Bebeldaob Island. 

It  would be dishonest to say that I regret not taking the boat trip to the German lighthouse where these two species are easily guaranteed in a hour long session! 

It's now up to someone else to find spots on the connected Islands. I feel sure one day someone will manage it intentionally or otherwise.

List of all the bird species seen on Palau

E = endemic to Palau
L= lifer

Palau fruit-dove (E,L)
Palau swiftlet  (E,L)
Palau flycatcher (E,L)
Palau fantail  (E,L)
Dusky white eye  (E,L)
Morningbird (E,L)
Caroline Islands white eye (L)
White tailed tropicbird (L)
Little pied cormorant
Pacific reef heron
Intermediate egret
Rufous night heron (L)
Yellow bittern (L)
Buff banded rail
Common sandpiper
Wood sandpiper
Pacific golden plover
Feral Indian jungle fowl
Great crested tern
Black naped tern  (L)
Brown noddy  (L)
Black noddy
Collared kingfisher
Barn swallow
Micronesian myzomela  (L)
Eurasian tree sparrow
Chestnut munia  (L)
Black headed munia (L)
Micronesian starling (L)

No comments:

Post a Comment