Fiji Travel Diary - p 2
12 June 2002
This morning I and my birding guide, Amborosio (Boro
for short), who is a bartender at the resort, journey up the mountain to Des Vouex peak.
The upper half of the mountain is national park, preserving the only large tract of
native forest left on the island.
It is a different world here. Unlike the warm tranquil coast, the
wind blows fiercely. Clouds boiling over the ridge produce a constant fine mist
against which I must protect the camera. Most birds here can only live in native
forest. This is the last stronghold of such beauties as Golden Whistler, Giant
Honeyeater, Blue-crested Flycatcher, Island Thrush, the remarkable Orange Dove, but best
of all the Silktail. The Silktail is the bird that I, like most birders, have come
to Fiji to see. Boro produces it almost immediately. At first light we veer
off the trail to a spot where erosion from a stream has created a small delta of dirt and
silt, about 30 feet across, on the forest floor. Here we watch 3-4 Silktails
gleaning insects from leaves recently fallen onto the delta. Once thought to be
related to birds-of-paradise, the Silktail is now considered a flycatcher. It is
satiny black with a gleaming white rump and tail, blue spangles around the head and
breast. Except for a small population on a nearby island that is expected to go
extinct soon, Taveuni is the only place in the world where this rare beautiful bird lives.
17 June 2002
I've spent several days trying without success
to photograph Silktails. They appear briefly before dawn, and in the dim light seem
more ghost than bird. They're barely visible in binoculars, not at all in the
camera. I've waited throughout mornings and afternoons, but they never reappear.
More cooperative is a pair of Scarlet Robins. Although mostly wary,
they have the startling habit of occasionally flying up to perch within 5 feet of me,
giving me the once-over before darting away. Recent arrivals from Australia, Scarlet
Robins are completely unrelated to robins and thrushes of the northern hemisphere.
More convergent evolution.
18 June 2002
Tonight at the resort, in lawn chairs beneath
the stars, we enjoy music and dance presented by local Fijians. Their first song has
a familiar melody - they are singing "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" in Fijian.
Not surprising, considering the intense missionary activity that has gone on here
to convert cannibals to Christians.
20 June 2002
My last morning on Taveuni. I'll be
leaving without photographing the Silktail, a great disappointment. The garden birds
are still obliging, and I finally get the Silvereye as a sort of consolation prize.
Small groups of these chickadee-sized birds glean insects and even takes nectar from the
flowers. They're nice, but I would rather have a photo of the Silktail.