January 1999 - Norfolk Island

In January 1999 (early afternoon 24th to early morning 28th) I participated in a tour of Norfolk Island (and Lord Howe Island - see separate trip report) with Australian Ornithological Services led by Phil & Tricia Maher and 5 other participants.  The following is a brief trip report highlighting the main birding sites that we visited and the species that we recorded during the trip.  I recommend reading the trip report by Chris Lester published in Australian Birding in Autumn 1998 (Vol. 4 No. 1).

We flew from the Brisbane International Airport (Norfolk Island is duty free) to Norfolk Island on the Ansett subsidiary Flight West Airlines (flight time about 2:15 hours), and departed on a small 10 seater plane to Lord Howe Island on Tasman Airlines (flight time about 2 hours).  We stayed at The Colonial of Norfolk (0011 6723 22177) which is reasonable accommodation although the bathroom is small.  We ate at The Colonial for breakfast (breakfast starts at 8:30 so we usually had an early morning walk) and various restaurants for lunch and dinner.  Phil hired an 8 seater minivan.  The Norfolk Island Visitor Information Centre presents you with an information pack when you arrive at the airport which includes a good map.  Note that the supplies of film (especially slides) is limited so stock up duty free before the trip.

We were plagued with windy days for the whole trip.  This made birding more difficult but we managed to see all the important species very well except the White-chested White-eye which the National Parks believe is now extinct although one is very occasionally reported, and the Southern Boobook (Norfolk Island / New Zealand races) which did not respond to tapes on two windy nights.  We did not get to Phillip Island to look for White-necked Petrel, but the National Parks say that you have little chance of seeing them except at dusk, or by staying overnight which they sensibly no longer permit.

Birding Sites
(Norfolk Island Post Office S29 01 59" E167 56 56")

Botanic Gardens (Mission Road near Mt Pitt Road) (S29 01 36" E167 56 25") - Visit at any time of the day, but try very early morning at least once if you can.  Spend some time near the Red-crowned Parakeet aviary, then walk down the path to the bottom and then back up to Mt Pitt Road.  You should see Norfolk Island Gerygone, Grey Fantail, Emerald Dove, Silvereye and probably Crimson Rosella and Slender-billed White-eye with chances of Red-crowned Parakeet, Scarlet Robin, and Golden Whistler.  We saw our first California Quail at the start of Mt Pitt Road.  Beware of the ferocious mosquitoes.  Allow 1 to 1.5 hours. This is a good place to visit several times.

National Parks Office - This is on the corner of Mt Pitt Road and Mission Road near the Botanic Gardens.  They are very helpful so ask them where the best place is to currently find Red-crowned Parakeet and Southern Boobook.  They have a copy of the book by Hermes and also a book with the results of surveys that you can look at.  They also have a pamphlet with a mud map of the National Park.  If you intend going to Phillip Island then you must obtain a permit from the office.

National Park (Mt Pitt Road) (S29 01 00" E167 56 19") - Park at the grid and walk up the hill with the option of walking along the Mt Bates Track.  You should see Norfolk Island Gerygone, Silvereye, Slender-billed White-eye, Golden Whistler, Grey Fantail, and probably Crimson Rosella, Scarlet Robin with chances of European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, California Quail and possibly Red-crowned Parakeet.  We also tried Mt Pitt Road at night for the Southern Boobook without success.  Allow 2 to 2.5 hours, plus an extra 1 to 1.5 hours if you walk to Mt Bates.

National Park (Red Road Track) (S29 00 50" E167 57 03") - Park at the junction of Red Road and McLachlan's Lane.  Walk up the hill to the junction of Bird Rock Track (you can follow this track to Bird Rock if you wish), then return along the Red Road Track to the junction of the Palm Glen Track, then return to the car and walk along McLachlan's Lane.  This is the recommended area to look for the Red-crowned Parakeet.  This area looked a good chance for the Southern Boobook at night but we had no success.  However, the luminescent fungi at night was a highlight worth seeing.  Allow 2 to 3 hours.

Rocky Point Reserve (S29 03 04" E167 55 15") - Park at the stile and walk to the point.  This is recommended in the late afternoon to see the Grey Ternlet coming to roost in a Norfolk Island Pine at the point.  You should also see White Tern and Black Noddy nesting in the Norfolk Island Pines, Norfolk Island Gerygone, Silvereye, Grey Fantail, Emerald Dove, Crimson Rosella and probably Golden Whistler and possibly Slender-billed White-eye. We saw California Quail near the very start of the track.  Take a spotting scope as there are big numbers of birds feeding offshore.  We were fortunate to see a Wandering Tattler on the rocks below and a Great Frigatebird soaring overhead.  Allow 1.5 to 2 hours.

Kingston Common (S29 03 29" E167 57 15") - This is the common and a swampy area between Quality Row and the old gaol building at Slaughter Bay.  You should see Mallard, Pacific Golden Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Purple Swamphen, White-faced Heron and probably Whimbrel and Nankeen Kestrel.  Check the Mallards for full blood Pacific Black Ducks.  Allow 1 hour.

Slaughter Bay - Check the beach for waders such as Ruddy Turnstone, Wandering Tattler, Whimbrel and Pacific Golden Plover.  We found that the best site were some flat rocks near the eastern end of the beach.  You will see many seabirds if you look out towards Phillip Island but there are much better places to view them from.  Allow 0.5 hours.

Point Hunter (Lone Tree Point) - This is the closest point to Nepean Island and Phillip Island and it is a very good seawatching location.  There are Masked Boobies feeding on Nepean Island and we saw Grey Ternlets flying into the caves.  There are some waders on the grass as you approach the point.  Allow 0.5 to 2 hours.

Captain Cook Monument (S29 00 19" E167 56 40") - This is an excellent seawatching site with birds wheeling low over your head as they pass the point.  This is a very good place to view Black-winged Petrels.  Allow at least 1 hour.

North East Lookouts - Flat Rock (S29 01 19" E167 55 20"), Anson Point and Point Howe are worth short visits.  Anson Point has some Wedge-tailed Shearwater burrows, so it would be worth a visit after dark to see and especially hear them return.  Allow 0.25 to 0.5 hours.

Cascade Bay (S29 01 18" E167 58 15") - This is worth a short visit to see the Red-tailed Tropicbirds and other seabirds.  Allow 0.5 hours.

Simon's Water (S29 01 34" E167 59 14") - This is well worth a visit.  Walk to the cliff and then follow it around to the corner of the paddock on the right where you can see a small island.  We saw nesting Red-tailed Tropicbird and Grey Ternlets.  Allow 1 to 1.5 hours.

Steel Point Area - This is where Masked (and possibly White-browed) Woodswallows have been reported, but we failed to find them in this area.

South East Points - We did not visit Bucks Point or Point Blackburne Reserve, Bucks Point Reserve or Ball Bay Reserve.  These would be worth visiting if you have the time.

South West Points - We visited Rocky Point, but we did not visit Point Ross or Headstone Reserve which are probably worth visiting if you have the time.

Species

Red Junglefowl - Feral chickens were very common, with a few even resembling Red Junglefowl and some with young.

California Quail - Fairly common.  Seen near the Botanic Gardens; with young on the Mt Bates Track; with young at the start of the Rocky Point track; etc.

Mallard - Common near water especially at the Kingston Common and the Watermill Dam and drain.

Pacific Black Duck - Most of the ducks are Mallard crosses but two on the Kingston Common had black legs, etc.

Black-winged Petrel - Common around the coast.  The best viewing of them wheeling in pairs was at the Captain Cook Monument.  Good views can also be had at Flat Rock.  They were almost certainly breeding.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater - Big rafts were seen out to sea towards Phillip Island; off Rocky Point and Jacobs Rock.  The easiest place to see them come ashore after dusk would be Anson Point or Jacobs Rock where there are a few burrows.

Red-tailed Tropicbird - Common offshore. the best places to see them are Cascades Bay; Anson Point; Simon's Water; etc.  Breeding at Simon's Water and probably elsewhere.

Masked Booby - Common offshore.  Many seen nesting on Nepean and Phillip Islands in the distance.  A few can be seen from Captain Cook Monument; Simon's Water; Bird Rock; etc.

Great Frigatebird - One male seen at dusk over Rocky Point.

White-faced Heron - Fairly common especially at Kingston Common.

Nankeen Kestrel - One seen at Kingston Common over the old gaol. One at Point Howe.

Purple Swamphen - Seen at a few places especially at the eastern end of Kingston Common near the reeds.

Bar-tailed Godwit - Two seen at the eastern end of Slaughter Bay.

Whimbrel - Two seen on Kingston Common and the eastern end of Slaughter Bay.  Two seen at the eastern end of Slaughter Bay.

Wandering Tattler - Five to six seen at the eastern end of Slaughter Bay.  One seen at Rocky Point.

Ruddy Turnstone - About 80 seen at Kingston Common and the eastern end of Slaughter Bay.

Pacific Golden Plover - Very common at the airport (150 to 200). Common at Kingston Common (~50).  A few elsewhere in paddocks.

Sooty Tern - Small numbers seen at a variety of places.

Black Noddy - Very common and nesting in Norfolk Island Pines at Rocky Point Reserve.

Grey Ternlet - Seen very close at Rocky Point in the late afternoon.  Possibly nesting at Simon's Water.  Seen in the distance entering caves on Nepean Island.  A few seen elsewhere.

White Tern - Seen nesting all over the island mostly in the Norfolk Island Pines.

Rock Dove - Common in small numbers in many places.

Emerald Dove - A few at the Botanic Gardens.  One at the end of the Rocky Point track.  Heard on the Mt Pitt Road.

Crimson Rosella - Fairly common in ones and twos in quite a variety of places.

Red-crowned Parakeet - Two seen along McLachlan's Lane in the National Park.  One seen in the Botanic Gardens near the bottom. It is recommended to see them near the aviaries in the Botanic Gardens, or in the National Park along the Red Road Track.  We tried these places unsuccessfully but it might have been because of the wind, or maybe too late in the morning.  They have been reported to feed in peach trees.

Southern (Norfolk Island race) Boobook - We tried unsuccessfully at the Botanic Gardens, Mt Pitt Road and near the junction of the Red Road Track and McLachlan's Lane.  We did not spend much time and it was quite windy.

Sacred Kingfisher - Singles fairly common in many places.

Norfolk Island Gerygone - Very common especially in any of the forest.  We saw a number of immatures with lemon underparts, yellowish eye ring, etc.  This confused us with the white-eye for a couple of days.

Scarlet Robin - A pair and an immature at the bottom of the Botanic Gardens.  At least two males and a female at the junction of Mt Pitt Road and Mt Bates Track.

Golden Whistler - Common in the National Park.  Also seen on the Rocky Point walk and once in the Botanic Gardens.

Grey Fantail - Common in all areas of forest.

Masked Woodswallow - Two seen by one person early in the morning over our accommodation at The Colonial of Norfolk.  They have been reported on the eastern side of the island in the Steels Point area.

House Sparrow - Very common.

European Greenfinch - A few seen along Mt Pitt Road.

European Goldfinch - Two seen along Mt Pitt Road and one seen at the back of our accommodation at The Colonial of Norfolk.

Silvereye - Very common.  All had brown / chestnut flanks, dark bill and green head, etc.

Slender-billed White-eye - Once we knew what to look for, we found that they were fairly common in ones and twos along Mt Pitt Road and the start of Mt Bates Track.  Also seen in the Botanic Gardens.  They have a pale bill, yellow head, pale underneath, no brown flanks, etc.  Their call is similar to Silvereye but distinct enough that only they respond to a tape of their call.

Common Blackbird - Very common mostly in the settled areas.

Song Thrush - Fairly common beside roads.  Three seen at our accommodation at The Colonial of Norfolk.

Common Starling - Not seen as often as expected but about 2,000 seen on one day.

Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2002 Visits Last Modified 31st January 2002