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'EASY' SOLOMON ISLANDS

Friday 16th August - Sunday 1st September 2013

Mark Van Beirs

This was Birdquest’s first ever “Easy Solomon Islands” tour and although the idea seemed a bit contradictory at first - after all, how can one organize an “Easy” tour when the regular Solomon Islands tour is one of our most demanding trips... – but, it had not been too difficult to come up with an itinerary that gave us a good chance for c65% of the possible endemics and that is exactly what we did on our recent tour. These forgotten dots in the Pacific had their brief moment of glory in the Second World War, and are now a sleepy, little visited chain of islands stretching out beyond Papua New Guinea into the deeper Pacific. The Solomon Islands comprise Endemic Bird Areas 198 and 199 and the total area of this archipelago is barely larger than Belgium. It has more restricted range species (confined to an area less than 50,000 km²) than any other Endemic Bird Area in the World! The weathergods behaved quite well during our visit as we only experienced heavy rain on Makira and Malaita. We visited the lowland forests of eight different islands, took eight different internal flights (Solomon Airlines only let us down once...), sailed to some distant islands and saw an excellent selection of Solomon Island specialities. Highlights included Pied Goshawk, Sanford’s Sea Eagle, Roviana Rail, Red-backed Buttonquail, White-headed Fruit Dove, Solomons Cockatoo, Finsch’s Pygmy Parrot, Yellow-bibbed Lory, Buff-headed Coucal, Ultramarine Kingfisher, Black-headed, Sooty and Crimson-rumped Myzomelas, Rennell Whistler, Rennell Shrikebill, Bare-eyed White-Eye and a splendid selection of white-eyes from different islands. We also found the first White-headed Stilt for the islands and observed the second ever Little Curlew for the Solomons. We recorded 113 birds and just three mammals.