A Trip to the Southern Hemisphere – By Barry Chambers

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In May 2011 Carol and I flew to Christchurch New Zealand to see our daughter Sarah and Gareth, and our first Grandchildren Summer and Lucy who were just 6 months old. My previous visits to New Zealand involved a lot of birding but this trip was obviously different. Although I did manage the occasional trip out and was rewarded with 4 new New Zealand species, Cattle Egret, a rarity for N Z, Mute Swan which is uncommon, unlike the Black Swan which is a very common bird, Australasian Wood Duck and Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, the last two being lifers for me.

After our visit to New Zealand we stopped off at Rarotonga, one of the Cook Islands, for 4 nights. The Cook Islands are made up of 15 islands and are scattered over an area of about 2 million sq. km. Rarotonga has a land mass of 67.2 sq. km. The number of land birds that can be seen on the island number no more than approximately 12, with the addition of some sea birds. We stayed by the beach with stunning views, Mynas were everywhere as were Red Junglefowl. Along the beach Wandering Tattlers and Pacific Reef Herons were fairly common and along the coral reef Common Noddys could be seen flying over the waves.

New Zealand White capped Mollymawk by Barry Chambers©
New Zealand White capped Mollymawk by Barry Chambers©

On our third day we arranged a trip to a protected area where a conservation project is under way to save the Rarotonga Monarch or Kakerori which is a flycatcher. In 1989 the total population of this small flycatcher was 27 but due to this project the number has now risen to around 450. This was obviously a bird I wanted to see. We started our walk through the tropical rain forest with local guide Tom, he explained the use of the many strange fruits and berries we saw, and there were dozens of different beautiful flowers. As we continued our 2½ hour walk we heard the distant call of the flycatcher but still no views, we did see three Rarotonga Starlings, a very rare bird, along with some Pacific Imperial Pigeons. Our next surprising bird was a White Tern, this bird makes no nest but lays a single egg in the fork of a tree branch. As we stopped to have a drink and try some local fruits that our guide had collected on our walk, a small bird appeared in front of us and there it was the Rarotonga Monarch, we had good views of this bird which is one of the rarest in the world. It was a great end to a wonderful excursion. Rarotonga is a beautiful Island surrounded by a coral reef and idyllic white sandy beaches, the clear blue sea is full of wonderfully coloured tropical fish and it is a great stop off on the long journey home from New Zealand.