Welcome to Birdquest
Thursday 21st November - Tuesday 10th December 2013
Mark Van Beirs
On our fourth tour to the little known islands of Micronesia we obtained great looks at all the possible surviving endemics. We visited the Endemic Bird Area 189 (Mariana Islands), EBA 190 (Palau), EBA 191 (Yap) and EBA 192 (the East Caroline Islands of Pohnpei and Truk). On Saipan the highlights included the smashing White-throated Ground Dove, White-headed Kingfisher, the ridiculously long-billed Nightingale Reed Warbler and the gorgeous Golden White-eye. The tiny island of Tinian produced mega views of its only endemic, the lovely Tinian Monarch, while the island of Rota gave us great looks at Guam Rail and the ultra rare Mariana Crow. The Palau archipelago yielded cooperative Palau Megapodes and attractive Palau Ground Doves, a hard to get Palau Owl, Rusty-capped Kingfisher and Giant White-eye. The tastefully-plumaged Yap Monarch was the main attraction on the tranquil island of Yap, while mountainous Pohnpei added Pohnpei Lorikeet, Pohnpei Cicadabird and Carolinian Reed Warbler to the tally. On the islands of the Truk (or Chuuk) lagoon we saw the delightful Chuuk Monarch and, after a stiff climb, the remarkable Teardrop White-eye. The much-wanted Nicobar Pigeon showed very well and a vagrant Grey-streaked Flycatcher on Palau is most probably a first for Micronesia. The non-avian climax of the tour was our fabulous snorkelling (or diving) encounter with several mightily impressive Manta Rays in the waters off Yap. Mammals were obviously thin on the ground, but all five endemic Flying Foxes showed well. Over half of the 49 endemic species (which include some still rather controversial splits) that we observed are still quite common and doing well, but sadly many of the others are under threat from the continuing destruction of their native vegetation and introduction of exotic species. No fewer than 22 (45%) of the Micronesian endemics are of conservation concern and listed by BirdLife International in the categories Extinct in the Wild (1), Critically Endangered (3), Endangered (6), Vulnerable (2) and Near Threatened (10).