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THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

Thursday 6th July - Tuesday 1st August 2017

Mark Van Beirs

Solomon Islands Frogmouth (Josh Bergmark)

Solomon Islands Frogmouth (Josh Bergmark)

Magnificent, but often skulking birds. Mud, sweat, slippery trails, steep mountains, shaky logistics, and an airline with a dubious reputation. This is what the Solomon Islands tour is all about, but these forgotten islands in the southwest Pacific hold some glorious, very rarely observed birds that very few birders will ever have the privilege to add to their lifelist. Our tour total this year included a great selection and a large percentage of the endemic birds and specialities. The Solomon Islands comprise Endemic Bird Areas 198 and 199, and although the total area of this archipelago is smaller than Belgium (less than 50,000 km2), these rich islands have more restricted range species than any other Endemic Bird Area in the world! Of the Solomons EBA endemics, we recorded 64 of the 68 possible species on this route, plus an additional clean sweep of the 13 available Melanesian endemics. We had good looks at three genera that are endemic to the Solomon Islands: Rigidipenna (Solomons Frogmouth), Meliarchus (Makira Honeyeater) and Woodfordia (Bare-eyed White-eye). This tour is definitely one of our toughest trips through a combination of intense physical effort, unpredictable weather and capricious logistics. The treacherous paths of the Makira hills, the tough hike and overnight high on Kolombangara volcano and the sometimes brutally steep, slippery trails of Santa Isabel will long be remembered by all participants. We birded the islands of Guadalcanal, Rennell, Gizo and Malaita by road, cruised into Ranongga and Vella Lavella by boat, and trekked up into the mountains of Makira, Kolombangara and Santa Isabel. The bird of the tour was the incredible and truly bizarre Solomons Frogmouth that posed so very, very well for us. The eye-ball to eye-ball views of a sleeping North Solomons Dwarf Kingfisher were also very much appreciated. The fantastic series of endemics ranged from Sanford’s Sea Eagles, through the many pigeons and doves and parrots, from cockatoos to pygmy parrots, to a biogeographer’s dream array of myzomelas, monarchs and white-eyes. We also enjoyed a close insight into the lifestyle and culture of this traditional, very religious Pacific country, and into the complex geography of its beautiful forests and islet-studded reefs.

Sanford’s Sea Eagle (Mark Van Beirs)

Sanford’s Sea Eagle (Mark Van Beirs)