Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cairns, and then Thala Beach Lodge

The flight to Cairns (in coach no less) was easy. We even checked luggage.  The rental car was easy and Chris did a remarkable job of driving on the left side of the road particularly on 9 roundabouts.  The view was breathtaking.


Thala is quite nice with a good open air restaurant.  Many metallic starlings were around and a few rainbow lorikeets.

After lunch we went to our room and recalled that Chris picked out this one due to the view.

The amenities aren't bad either.  Although we enjoyed Fiji, there is something to be said for the paved roads, telephones, air conditioning, indoor showers, and laundry service of a nice resort in Australia.


I've never seen anyone so excited by Stepsils before...

Being in Australia is bringing back all sorts of memories. We are at Brisbane airport waiting for a plane to Cairns.  Of course, there are meat pies and long black coffees.  I'm in serious need of a pavlova.  While looking for sunblock, we found Strepsils, a sore throat lozenge, we liked 25 years ago.  It has a little codeine in it and isn't sold in the US. It's incredibly effective.  Once we ordered some over the internet from a shop in New Zealand that would ship to the US.  We were going on and on about how good it was when the man behind the counter said "I've never seen anyone so excited by Strepsils before."

Happy New Year from Australia

Our plane arrived at 9:30, we cleared customs quickly and made it to the hotel by 10:30.  We booked a room that overlooks the river where Brisbane puts on a fireworks show.


Mission accomplished, on to Australia with a stop in Nadi

We did indeed finish that bottle of rum just in case anyone was wondering.  


We got up early on our last morning and did some great birding along the road even before check out. Chris finally got to see the male of the Vinakoro broadbill. 

Then we had a late breakfast, met some of the new guests, and passed along our unopened mixers and recommended the bounty rum. Coconut Grove has only three cottages so it's very intimate and you can easily meet the other guests. During breakfast a brown booby flew close in which was a nice treat. 

The lovely staff sang us our departure song and off we went to Head for our flight to Australia. 

We had time between connections in Nadi to make a visit to a botanical garden and birding hotspot, The Gardens of the Sleeping Giant.



The birding was also interesting.  Both the bulbuls and the lorries ate flowers from the trees. The bulbul fed them to its baby too. It's a wonder there are any flowers left.

The mynas were snacking on papaya.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Last Full Day in Fiji

First, a mystery solved.  One of the attractions for us in picking Coconut Grove Beachfront Cottages was their marketing of kulas in the trees morning and evenings right in front of our Bure.  What birder doesn't like easy birding with coffee in the morning and wine in the evening; right?  So for the first four days we saw no "kulas" in the trees.  The staff told us they haven't seen them in a long time, and even our wonderful driver who took us out for our two day trips birding seemed a little clueless when we mentioned the lack of kulas.  On our second to last morning here, Chris joined Mike in the early morning caffeine intake and solved the mystery of the kulas.  We were in the gardens birding when two collared lorries flew into a coconut tree.  At first we got very excited that the kulas had finally arrived.  Then Chris suggested they look an awful lot like the kulas on the Fijian five dollar bill and was it possible these collared Lorrie's we had already seen were one and the same?  With the help of Wikipedia and a little caffeine we had our much anticipated kula arrival.


We had worked up an appetite from morning birding and all that thinking, so we popped in for breakfast.  Not a day went by that we hadn't seen some wonderful kingfishers, but on this morning they were posing perfectly atop the entrance sign to the beach so of course we needed the camera again.  Cameras and binoculars are allowed on the restaurant veranda but no cell phones or laptops permitted thankfully.


Next, kayaking to the reef.  We have been married for 36 years and over that span we have tried kayaking together several times.  We eventually determined it just wasn't for us and have always referred to the sport as divorce kayaking.  For some reason we decided to give it a go again with the clever idea of a two person kayak with only one paddle.  The staff set us up and tied the paddle on and knotted our mesh bag of gear on "in case we tip" with Mike professing how this was all so unnecessary.  Well, we had TWO great flip overs, didn't lose a paddle or any gear, and are happy to report it was our BEST ever and LAST ever kayaking adventure and we plan on staying married.  



Finally, we needed to finish the rum. A dark and stormy was one of our favorite drinks from Bermuda.
With a little Australian ginger beer and the remaining spiced Fijian Rum, we forgot about flipping the kayak.


Birding at the waterfall

We were in search of the orange dove so we arranged a half day with our birding driver to a natural preserve.  Within the preserve are several villages, and each village has the responsibility of a specific feature that visitors come for, either waterfalls, marine life, or birding.  We never did find the orange dove, but our day was a delight still.  The banded rail was spotted by our driver on our way.  We met up with our birding guide, Simone from Lavena Village, who was more than happy to help Mike play with his toys - so he managed one camera and got the boat shot of us on the way to where we began the hike.  We should know better by now about boats - we jinx them.  In Brazil our boat broke down in the black river.  Here, we almost didn't have a return ride until the spark plugs were cleaned!  A little extra info - Simone did the entire hike barefoot!!  He has what he called "Fiji feet."  

On every trip, we run into goats, our favorite farm animal. IMG_4500  
Once out hiking we did find the wattled honey eater.  Nice bird, no wattle.  We saw the silktail for a second but got no clear photos.  It stays deep in the bush low and dark.
The kingfishers were cooperative, beautiful, and never hard to find.
And a great reward at the end of a long hike is a swim in the waterfall.
On the return hike we saw several of the collared Lorries - before we knew they were the kulas!

On the drive back we saw more red-breasted musk parrots.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A quick boat ride

We've been looking at these small islands off the coast for a few days now. Sunrise from Taveuni Island

It was a pretty hot day and getting out on the ocean seemed fun. A boat dropped some snorkelers off at the villa next to our cottage so we hired them to take us out for a view of the little islands we can see from our beach. Private Island off coast of Taveuni House on Private Island off coast of Taveuni

We can't decide whether to buy the first island with the house or to build a new one on the next island over :-)

Another small island off coast of Taveuni

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

More birds

Here are a few more bird photos. The multi-colored fruit dove was from Bobby's about an hour away. The Fiji goshawk was on the way back. The Fiji white-eye was on a morning walk and the frigate just flew by our cottage.

Fiji white-eye

Fiji White-eye

Fiji Goshawk

Fiji Goshawk

Many-colored fruit dove

Many-colored Fruit Dove



Reef Heron

Reef Heron

Monday, December 26, 2016


Mike needs a few days to unwind.

Chris finds it easier

After birding Mike crossed the street and brought two coconuts from the fruit stand and had them cut them open.  After drinking some of the coconut water, we added rum, mango juice, lime juice, passion fruit and spent a few hours watching the tide come in.


Birding in Taveuni


Fruit Bats


Sunday, December 25, 2016


We decided upon Taveuni because of the birds. The airport is also easier to navigate than LAX. Untitled Untitled

Birding the parking lot at Nadi international airport

We have a four hour wait to get the flight to Taveuni which is supposed to be the best island for birding in Fiji. The parking lot and Nandi airport isn't bad.

  Common Myna 
Common Myna

  Red-vented Bulbul 
Red-vented bulbul
Avadavat (Red Munia, Strawberry Finch)

Red Avadavat