Apart from a very successful trip to the Andaman Islands, which took place in January 2020, all our plans for various birding trips this year have had to be put on hold due to COVID 19. As and when regulations permitted, we travelled to various places on the Australian mainland to mop up a few missing species. Our next effort was to Norfolk Island, which has now opened to visitors once more. This proved to be an excellent choice with its four endemic land birds and a variety of seabirds. In the event, we managed 8 lifers and 12 new species for the Australian list. Due to the vagaries of flights from Brisbane (just over two hours) we opted for a 10 day stay rather than a shorter period. This gave us the opportunity to thoroughly explore the island and its birds. We saw all our target species with the exception of Kermadec Petrel.
Most visits to Norfolk Island come as a package that includes flights, accommodation and car hire. Our’s was no exception, and we spent a comfortable 10 days at the Crest Apartments. We chose a self-catering option, which was fortunate as few restaurants on the island were open, having closed during the six months without visitors. Most shops were open at various times so obtaining supplies was not difficult. We found people to be very friendly and the Australian National Parks staff were particularly helpful. The road network is extensive and most roads are sealed. We divided our days into forest birding and seabird watching and spent a lot of time at all the key localities. The walking trails in the Botanic Gardens and in the National Park are excellent and well maintained and signposted. The best localities for seabirds were Point Hunter, Captain Cook Lookout, Point Howe and Rocky Point. The extensive tracts of pastureland were inhabited mainly by introduced species, such as Starlings, Blackbirds and House Sparrows, as well as California Quail and feral chickens. In common with many other small islands, Norfolk suffers from a number of pest species – among the worst are cats, rats and chickens. Information about the control programmes are available on ANPWS and Norfolk Island Regional Council websites.
Trip reports that proved very useful were Phil Gregory’s of 2013 and Bruce Wedderburn’s of 2011. We also consulted records on eBird. “The Birds of Norfolk Island” by Margaret Christian is apparently out of print, but we did purchase a copy of the excellent book on the flora by Peter Coyne. The weather was generally good, with only a few showers and one thunderstorm. Fresh water is an ongoing concern for the island and the inhabitants are hoping for a good La Niña season.
SPECIES SEEN (IOC 10.2)
California Quail Callipepla californica
Common and widespread in all habitats, including forests and cliff tops.
Feral chicken Gallus gallus
Common and widespread in all habitats. A major pest species with an ongoing culling programme.
Feral Goose Anser anser (domesticus)
Group of 13 seen in stream valley just north of St Barnabas Chapel.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Several birds on Kingston Common.
Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa
Up to 20 seen regularly on Kingston Common. Most other water bodies usually had one or two.
Shining Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus
Heard calling once in the National Park near the Red Road carpark
Pacific Emerald Dove Chalcophaps longirostris
Commonly seen on the Mt Bates track and the lower portions of the Botanic Gardens
Feral Pigeon Columba livia
Seen throughout the island, but sparsely distributed. Seems most common in the Kingston area. Flocks of 3-4 birds seen at Point Hunter flying towards Nepean Island.
Australasian Swamphen Porphyrio melanotus
Only four birds seen – all in the stream valley north of St Barnabas Chapel. The previously large numbers in the Kingston area have been culled due to their depredations on the Sooty Tern colonies.
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Up to 10 birds seen daily on Kingston Common and sports field. Also on rocky shorelines of Point Hunter and Slaughter Bay.
Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Only three seen – along rocky shorelines of Point Hunter and Slaughter Bay.
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Two seen on Kingston Common and singles over several days on exposed rocky platform in Slaughter Bay
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Common on rocky shorelines of Slaughter Bay and Point Hunter. Also on Kingston Common.
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus
Scarce – only a few birds noted from Captain Cook Lookout.
Black Noddy Anous minutus
Common along all shorelines and coastal waters. Nesting at 100 Acres Reserve.
Grey Noddy Anous albivitta
Small nesting colony on Moo-oo easily viewed from Captain Cook Lookout. Also seen off the eastern end of Nepean Island.
White Tern Gygis alba
Abundant throughout the island and along the coasts. Most stands of Norfolk Pines, both inside and outside the reserve had nesting terns with chicks.
Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus
Nesting colonies on islets off Captain Cook lookout and on Nepean Island. Generally common flying along all shorelines and coastal waters.
Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda
Pairs seen on all days around Captain Cook Lookout and occasionally in the south, particularly in the vicinity of Bloody Bridge.
White-necked Petrel Pterodroma cervicalis
Only a single bird seen in the channel between the mainland and Nepean Island.
Black-winged Petrel Pterodroma nigripennis
Common in the channel between the mainland and Nepean Island. Also seen coming in to nesting burrows near Captain Cook Lookout
Wedge-tailed Shearwater Ardenna pacifica
Only two birds seen, both towards southern end of Nepean Island.
Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
Two birds flying in the channel between the mainland and Nepean Island.
Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel
Singles seen in the vicinity of Captain Cook Lookout and Point Howe
Greater Frigatebird Fregata minor
Small colony on Moo-oo Islet off Captain Cook Lookout. Flying birds noted from most shorelines.
Masked Booby Sula dactylatra
Commonly seen in all coastal waters. Nesting birds with young on most offshore islets and along the mainland cliffs between Point Howe and Captain Cook Lookout.
White-faced Heron Ardea novaehollandiae
Singles seen on most freshwater bodies, as well as grassy areas such as the golf course, sports fields and Kingston Common. Also seen fishing at low tide around Point Hunter.
Morepork Ninox novaeseelandiae
Looked for on three consecutive nights from about 8 pm. The first attempt from the viewing platform in the Botanic Gardens yielded nothing. The second night at the Red Road carpark, two birds were heard calling. We moved from there to Mill Road, where there was an eBird record from two weeks ago. Again, a distant bird calling, but no response. On the third night four birds were located in the vicinity of Bates Track and good views had down the summit road about 500 m from the Bates Track turn-off.
Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus
Common throughout the island. Very vocal.
Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides
Two birds seen at the summit of Mt Pitt – around the radio towers.
Crimson Rosella Platycercus elegans
Abundant throughout the island including the National Park and Botanic Gardens. A major pest species with an ongoing culling programme.
Norfolk Island Parakeet Cyanoramphus cookie
Singles or pairs seen most days in the National Park and Botanic Gardens. Fairly cryptic, but easily located by characteristic call.
Norfolk Island Gerygone Gerygone modesta
Common in Botanic Gardens and National Park, but not seen outside these areas.
Australian Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis
Abundant in Botanic Gardens and National Park where very vocal. Not sure why this subsp. is not split from Australian Golden Whistler? Not seen outside these areas.
Grey Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa
Common throughout the island where there are bushes and trees.
Norfolk Island Robin Petroica multicolour
Seen in Botanic Gardens and in the National Park. Seems most common along Bates and Red Road Tracks. Usually in pairs.
Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena
Common throughout the island.
Silvereye Zosterops lateralis
Common throughout the island.
Slender-billed White-eye Zosterops tenuirostris
Only seen in the forests of Botanic Gardens and National Park where relatively common.
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Common in most areas of the island.
Common Blackbird Turdus merula
Abundant in all habitats including native forest.
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Common in urban and agricultural areas, but not seen in forests of Botanic Gardens and National Park.
European Greenfinch Chloris chloris
A single bird seen adjacent to the Botanic Gardens – seemingly uncommon?
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Abundant in all habitats, including cliff top vegetation along the coasts. Not noted in forests of National Park.