White-headed Fruit-Dove on Makira Island. Photo: David Fisher
The Solomons archipelago stretches from Bougainville (PNG) in a south-east arc across the Pacific. Consisting of several large islands and numerous small ones, many of which are uninhabited, it is a must-see destination for serious birders. It has a high degree of endemism amongst pigeons, monarchs, fantails, myzomelas and white-eyes. It also has a couple of near legendary flightless rails and some of the least known birds on the planet. This tour, while visiting a number of the main birding sites within the Solomons, concentrates on areas that are most easily accessed. This means that while a good selection of Solomon Island endemics will be seen, a number of high altitude specialities will not be possible. We will avoid areas with difficult terrain and steep trails. However, we will still have to use some basic accommodation with limited facilities.
We will visit the islands of Guadalcanal, Rennell, Makira, Ugi, Gizo, and Kolombangara and highlight species are likely to include Heinroth’s Shearwater, Solomons Sea-Eagle, Roviana Rail, Melanesian Megapode, White-headed Fruit-Dove, Ultramarine Kingfisher, Rennell Shrikebill, and Kolombangara Monarch.
There will also be an optional post-tour extension to Santa Isabel, primarily to search for Black-faced Pitta, one of the most difficult of the world’s pitta species and still seen very few times by birders. Conditions here will be tougher too and will require up-hill hiking and very basic accommodation, which is why we have not included it as part of the main tour. Imitator Sparrowhawk and White-eyed Starling have both been seen here and we also have a chance of seeing Solomons Frogmouth and the wonderfully named Fearful Owl.
Day 1: The tour starts in Brisbane with a mid-morning flight to Honiara, on Guadalcanal, where we will spend the night. In the late afternoon there should be time for some introductory birding near the hotel where we should see a selection of local species such as Ultramarine Kingfisher, Mackinlay’s Cuckoo-Dove, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, Chestnut-bellied Monarch and perhaps Solomons Sea Eagle and Cardinal Lory. Night in Honiara.
Day 2: We’ll take an early morning flight to Rennell Island, via Bellona. We’ll spend the rest of the day birding on Rennell. There are numerous logging trails through the forest and we will be searching for the six Rennell endemics - Rennell Fantail, Rennell Shrikebill, Rennell Starling, Rennell Whistler, and Rennell and Bare-eyed White-eyes. We also hope to see the near-endemic Silver-capped Fruit Dove here. Night on Rennell.
Day 3: We’ll spend a full day on Rennell searching for any of the endemics we are still missing. There are a number of other great birds to be seen on Rennell including three Melanesian endemics, Cardinal Myzomela, Fan-tailed Gerygone and Melanesian Flycatcher, as well as an endemic race of Song Parrot, Finsch’s Pygmy-Parrot, Pacific Kingfisher, and the local lowland form of Island Thrush. Night on Rennell.
Day 4: After a final early morning on Rennell we’ll catch a late-morning flight back to Honiara, via Bellona. After lunch we’ll visit the Betikama wetlands where we’ll hope to see a selection of more widespread waterbirds including Black-backed Swamphen and, if we are lucky, Woodford’s (Guadalcanal) Rail or Sanford’s Sea-Eagle. Night in Honiara.
Days 5-6: On day 5 we’ll take a flight to Kirakira, on Makira Island, and spend two nights here. In the lowlands around Kirakira we should see White-headed Fruit-Dove, Duchess Lorikeet, Yellow-bibbed Lory, Ochre-headed Flycatcher, Solomons Pied and Chestnut-bellied Monarchs, Sooty Myzomela, and Mottled Flowerpecker. In the hills nearby we’ll try for Chestnut-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Makira Starling, Makira Cuckooshrike and Makira Honeyeater. Nights in Kirakira.
Day 7: Today we’ll make a day trip by boat to Ugi island where there are three very distinct taxa to be seen – the Ugi black form of Chestnut-bellied Monarch, the local form of Solomons Pied Monarch and a distinctive taxon of Rufous Fantail. Though not yet ‘split’ at the time of writing they are all contenders for full species status in the future. Silver-capped Fruit-Dove is also a possibility here. Night in Kirakira.
Day 8: After a final morning around Kirakira looking for any species still missing, we’ll catch an afternoon flight back to Honiara, where we’ll visit the Botanical Gardens in search of Black-headed Myzomela. Night in Honiara.
Day 9: We’ll catch a morning flight to Gizo and spend the rest of the day looking for Melanesian Kingfisher, White-capped Monarch, Steel-blue Flycatcher and Gizo White-eye. Night on Gizo.
Day 10: Today we’ll make a day trip by boat to Kolombangara, which takes about an hour if done directly. En route if sea conditions permit, we’ll stop at the islands of Vella Lavella to look for Banded White-eye and Ranongga for Ranongga White-eye. The very local Heinroth’s Shearwater can sometimes be seen on this crossing, as well as Brown and Black Noddies. Night on Gizo.
Day 11: We’ll make a second day trip to Kolombangara exploring the Hambere area looking for Roviana Rail in the gardens. Kolombangara and White-capped Monarchs are also likely here as are Melanesian Megapode, Solomons White-eye and Long-tailed Myna. Night on Gizo.
Day 12: Today we’ll fly to Munda on New Georgia and spend the day looking for Red-knobbed Imperial-Pigeon, Claret-breasted Fruit-Dove, and Long-tailed Myna, and we have another chance for Roviana Rail here if we missed it around Hambere. Night in Munda.
Day 13: We’ll travel to Tetepare by boat, where we’ll look for Island Imperial Pigeon, Nicobar Pigeon, Solomons Nightjar and Dark-eyed White-eye. We also have a chance for Yellow-legged Pigeon here. Night on Tetepare.
Day 14: This morning we’ll cross back to Munda by boat, and then look for Beach Kingfisher, Buff-headed Coucal and Blyth’s Hornbill. Night on Munda.
Day 15: We’ll catch a morning flight back to Honiara, and spend the afternoon on Mount Austen home to many species including Pied Goshawk, Ducorp’s Cockatoo, Guadalacanal Boobook, White-billed Crow, and Brown-winged Starling. Night in Honiara.
Day 16: We’ll make a second visit to Mount Austen looking for whatever species we are still missing, perhaps including Guadalcanal Rail, Ultramarine Kingfisher, Mackinlay’s Cuckoo-Dove, Oriole Whistler, and Cockerell’s Fantail. In the afternoon we’ll return to Honiara via some of the WW11 historical sites. Night in Honiara.
Day 17: This morning those not going on the Santa Isabel extension will catch a flight back to Brisbane where the tour ends in the afternoon.
Extension to Santa Isabel:
Day 17: We’ll catch an afternoon flight to Fera Island, from where we’ll transfer to Bouala on Santa Isabel, where we’ll spend the night.
Days 18-20: We’ll hike up to Tirotonga, where we’ll spend three nights in a very basic lodge. This will give us access to the area where Black-faced Pitta can be found, but while we hope to see this much sought-after species it isn’t easy and can’t be guaranteed! Other birds that we should see while here include Yellow-throated White-eye, Grey-capped Cicadabird, White-billed Crow, and Red-capped Myzomela, and we also have a chance of Imitator Sparrowhawk, Solomons Frogmouth, Fearful Owl, and White-eyed Starling, but again, none of these is easy.
Day 21: This morning we’ll hike back down to Bouala, take the boat across to Fera and catch the afternoon flight back to Honiara. If time permits we will look for Island Monarch near the airstrip. Night in Honiara.
Day 22: Today we’ll fly back to Brisbane where the tour ends in the afternoon.
Updated: 04 October 2017