Saturday 3 August 2013

Six endemics from one spot, Long Is., Palau

Much of the land near Koror town is private. One of the exceptions is the recreation area on Long Island. This thin strip of land is just over the bridge on the left hand side. It is walkable from Koror town. Indeed I walked to it three times having visited it with a hire car the first time. 

A couple of the previous trip reports suggest it is a good place to go and up to five endemics have been reported there.

I actually managed six some excellent and effortless birding!

Much of the recreational area is well used by locals (including for parties) and is noisy and quite disturbed. However if you follow the coast round another 100 metres away from the crowds, it's a different world. You'll need walking shoes to get there though. There is small section of path which is waterlogged or you have to walk on sharp coral beach to get round. I suspect it is this small section which prevents most people continuing on the path. 

Palau fruit dove

On your left is the sea and across to Koror island. On your right are some steep cliffs but its the narrow coastal patch of trees and bushes below the cliffs which provided the action.

I stood still there on one occasion for nearly 2 hours and that's when the endemics appeared one by one. 

The first to be seen was Palau swiftlet but as I have already said this one is everywhere on Palau.

A small number of fruiting trees attracted endemic number two: Palau fruit dove.  

The cliffs on Long Island

Two types of white eye (Dusky and Caroline Islands) would arrive and depart regularly and noisily. I usually heard them coming before I saw them. Incidentally I didn't them mix as others have done.

Caroline Islands white eye

While the endemic dusky white eye has been reported as being on one of the connected islands, as far as I know giant white eye has not. Although I was pleased to see Caroline Islands white eye, I too failed to see giant white eye on the main connected Islands.

Dusky white eye

Dusky white eye was particularly difficult to photograph. It is slightly smaller than the other white eye, less colourful and  seemingly more mobile. For a long time the picture below was the best I could manage.

First photo of dusky white eye

Palau fantail also made regular appearances often in pairs. I have a photographic record from this spot but I will post photos of it in my next blog since I first saw it elsewhere.

Palau flycatcher

Several Palau flycatcher were also observed and they were quite tame compared with the other endemics. The pictures here are of a female on one of the trees under the cliffs.

second view of Palau flycatcher

The seventh endemic, morningbird, was the only one I failed to photograph. It is reportedly a skulker and I had been looking for it in undergrowth. To my surprise it popped up on the top of bushes. My immediate thought was that it was just another Micronesian starling. I spent 30 seconds or so identifying it and then it was gone into the bush.  Its brown body, dark head and slightly curved beak was distinctive. 

In retrospect the bushes it was on climb up the cliff and it had been clambering up them. It was really high off the ground at all.

Morningbird seen here 

Incidentally I saw a couple more elsewhere the next day. When it does break cover, it flies fast and low like a wheatear but straight into new cover.

Black headed munia

It was here that I realised there are two types of munia on Palau. The flocks I had seen previously were classic chestnut munia which my guide says is present.

However the flock here and elsewhere were the Taiwanese sub species of Black headed munia which is not reported. These birds have an almost black front as opposed to a chestnut front. 

My guide "Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand and the Central and West Pacific" says they are separate species (although Birds of East Asia  says chestnut munia is only a candidate for separation). Either way both munia are present while the Pacific guide only reports one.

perched black noddy

Although the lower trees were getting most of my attention, the trees on and at the top of the cliffs were showing activity too. The Palau fruit dove would often go high. Black noddy were continually travelling to and fro.

My recommendation to any visiting birder is to start their birding at the recreation area, be patient and wait.  Then plan any other birding for the rest of your time around what you didn't see there. 

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