19 Nov 2014

19 Nov 14 - An Audience With Tahiti Royalty

We had one final day on Tahiti & we still had two Tahiti endemics to see: Tahiti Monarch & Tahiti Swift. On the first afternoon of the trip, we saw three of the Five Tahiti endemics: Grey-green Fruit-dove, Tahiti Kingfisher & Tahiti Reed Warbler. So, this morning we were off to the Papahue Valley reserve. This is the main site for the Critically Endangered Tahiti Monarch which has a world population of around fifty individuals. The Tahiti Monarchs are well protected. There is active work to help trap introduced Rats within the reserve. Additionally, while we were there, we saw one of the warden's looking for introduced Red-vented Bulbuls in the forest to shoot, as they are known to predate & out-compete Tahiti Monarchs. It was good to see this proactive protection for the Tahiti Monarchs.
The forest in the valley looked good
It wasn't an early arrival as there is one slow coastal road around the island & we had to travelling for about an hour to meet our reserve guide. The guide wasn't there when we arrived at the meeting point & we had another half hour wait, until he finally turned up. Then we turned around & drove back to reached the Papahue Valley. It would have been a lot easier to get the guide to meet us at the reserve entrance. He works at the reserve on most days studying the Tahiti Monarchs. We had a fifty seater coach for fourteen of us & it was no surprise that the coach couldn't get all the way up the road. So, we ended up walking the last half mile to the reserve entrance. But our guide told us not to worry. There were two active nests by the main trail within the reserve & we would be allowed to visit one of them, as the Tahiti Monarchs were not disturbed by quiet visiting Birders.
Swamp Harrier: An introduced species from Australia & the South West Pacific
Tahiti Swiftlet: We saw our first & only Tahiti Swiftlets flying over the valley
The entrance to the reserve

The forest was dense once we got onto the small trail through it
We followed our guide into the forest for about a half mile. After crossing a stream & a further walk, he pointed out a nest above the path. We could see the tail sticking out, but not much more. After a while, there was a change of parents at the nest. The freshly relieved individual started to feed by the track & allowed a few photographs to be taken. Once it moved on, I didn't want to follow it, as I didn't want to disturb it. I had got some record photos & I would rather not disturb a really rare Bird to try to get better photos.
Tahiti Monarch: Adult sitting on the nest
Tahiti Monarch: Many are colour-ringed to allow them to be easily identified & monitored
Tahiti Monarch: One of the rarest Birds in the world
The light had been grim & it finally started to rain lightly as we were leaving the park. But the rain wasn't too bad & we had seen our final two Tahiti endemics, so we were happy.
Pacific Swallow: This is the nominate tahitica which occurs in Tahiti & Moorea
We saw a number of the introduced species as we walked past the houses & their well vegetated gardens on the way back to the bus.
Silver-eye: A commonly introduced Australian species
Waxbill introduced from Africa: With Silver-eye & Chestnut-breasted Mannikin
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin: Another common introduced Australian species
Crimson-backed Tanager: Another introduced species, but from Panama, Colombia or Venezuela this time
It was back to the hotel to chill out for the final few hours of the trip to chill out.
The skies put on a superb sunset to end the trip
We had kept a shared room to hold all the bags & so we could have a final shower etc before heading off to the airport mid-evening for the night flight to the US. The other Brits were heading for the UK, whereas I had a couple of days stopover in California.