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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Reunion and Mauritius, October 31-November 5, 2001 ,
My wife and I had an opportunity to visit and bird these two islands recently. Reunion was fairly easy to bird and find the endemics, but Mauritiuswas much more difficult in terms of finding the endemics. I'll write about each island separately, including the species we found on each island. Some comments will be added at the end. I use Clements' Checklist of the Birds of the World, 5th Edition for the species' names.
We arrived on Reunion in mid-afternoon on October 30th. First off was that there is no place in the airport to change money!?! The banks readily change money, but are only open until about 5 p.m. We were not able to rent a car, because I had lost my wallet, including my driver's license, before we got there. What we did instead was talk through a lady at the information desk who spoke good English and arranged for a cab and driver the next morning. She then told us about the Hotel de Lancastel in St. Denis. It suited our needs perfectly! It was about $50 per night, and the room was clean, safe, had good showers, and was centrally located where you need to be to go for the endemics. In addition, the hotel was basically on the beach. There is a 6-lane highway between the hotel and the beach, but there is a walkway that goes under it right in front of the hotel. We discovered later, that the door at the end of our hallway, led out onto a small but safe balcony. We were on the 8th floor, and it's a great place to scope the ocean. We also picked up White-tailed Tropicbirds flying over St. Denis from here.
October 31- Our cab driver picked us up about 0520. It took almost an hour to get to the trailhead at La Brule. This location is mentioned in Wheatley's "Where to watch Birds in Africa". The basic map from the information counter at the airport even had La Brule on it. We basically hiked up the main trail that is obviously marked. There were several other people jogging or hiking, so you'll know easily which trail to follow. Just slowly walking up the trail and spishing occasionally, we managed to find Reunion Cuckoo-shrike, Reunion Stonechat, Mascarene Paradise-Flycatcher, Mascarene White-eye, Reunion White-eye, and Madagascar Red Fody. The Reunion Bulbuls were harder. We eventually came across them, but it was almost at top of the hill the trail is on, probably 5Km in. Mascarene Swiftlet is common and easy to see. We did not have tapes for the birds. We went back to the hotel about 3 p.m. We decided to try scoping for seabirds from the beachhead across the street. We set up the scope about 5 p.m., and within 30 minutes had gotten good looks at Mascarene Black Petrel, Barau's Petrel, and Mascarene Shearwater! Great way to end the day.
Nov.1- Now we had all day to kill, because we had seen all our target birds yesterday. Our hotel was near the central St. Denis bus station, so we walked over there and figured out which bus to take to go to the southwest part of the island to try to see a White-tailed Tropicbird. The schedules were not hard to figure out. We wound up taking the "regular" bus, which stops at every bus stop on the entire route. It took forever (2+ hours) to get to St. Pierre, only about 50 miles away! We just enjoyed the beach scene there, saw about 4 tropicbirds along the way, and had some great ice cream! Coming home we figured out to take the express bus. It was much quicker.
Nov. 2 - The only thing we saw the morning of Nov. 2, were the White-tailed Tropicbirds from our hotel.
The numbers after the birds are the dates that species was seen. We had just seen Reunion Harrier in Madagascar, so we didn't count that species as a miss. We did NOT encounter it on Reunion.
Mascarene Petrel - Pterodroma aterrima. 31. Only
seen once, but got fairly good looks at them. Obviously blackish.
Barau's Petrel - Pterodroma baraui. 31, 1. Actually somewhat common, We saw them from the beach in front of our hotel both days. On the bus ride back from St Pierre, we saw a few flying inland to their night roost.
Mascarene Shearwater - Puffinus atrodorsalis. 31. Decent looks from the beach across from our hotel.
White-tailed Tropicbird - Phaethon lepturus. 1, 2. Seen from the highway to St. Pierre and flying over the city of St. Denis from our hotel balcony.
Rock Dove - Columba livia. 30-1.
Zebra Dove - Geopelia striata. 1.
Mascarene Swiftlet - Aerodramus francicus. 30-1. Easy to see.
Reunion Cuckoo-shrike - Coracina newtoni. 31. The birds were calling some, but also responded to my noisemaking. We saw 4-5 birds.
Red-whiskered Bulbul - Pycnonotus jocosus. 30, 31. Very common.
Reunion Bulbul - Hypsipetes borbonicus. We eventually saw 4 of these lovelies. We had to hike pretty far up the trail, but it was a pleasant walk; cool and moist.
Reunion Stonechat - Saxicola tectes. 31. 3-4 times along the trail. Pair at parking lot at La Brule.
Mascarene Paradise-Flycatcher - Terpsiphone bourbonnensis. 31. Gorgeous! Along the trail.
Mascarene White-eye - Zosterops borbonicus. 31. Common and very cute! Along the trail.
Reunion White-eye - Zosterops olivaceus. 31. Fairly common along the trail also.
Common Myna - Acridotheres tristis. 30-1. Common.
Village Weaver - Ploceus cucullatus. 31, 1. City.
Red Fody - Foudia madagascariensis. 30-1. Common.
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus. 30-1.
1- Reunion is a French colony, so little English is spoken there outside the hotels. We only knew a few words of French, and were able to get by reasonably well with a small phrase book.
2- There's NO place to change money in the airport. If you change it in a hotel, they want to clip 20% off the rate. We got the cab to take us to a bank on the way down from the trailhead. I was able to use my Visa card at the ATM. There's a button for English and I had whatever money I needed in 60 seconds.
3- Our cab and driver for the trip was about $90 US. He picked us up at the hotel early and dropped us off at the trailhead. We asked him to come back at 2 p.m. to pick us up and stop by the bank. He did so and we had no problems.
4- Reunion is expensive, but our hotel was reasonable and clean. We recommend it. Seeing the pelagic birds from the beach in front of the hotel was great fun. We even got glimpses of some whales spouting off.
Mauritius was very different. There is a large population here along with a lot of sugarcane farming. The official language is English, so most people spoke some English, even though the largest percentage of the people were Hindu. That part was easier. When we came through customs, they wouldn't let us into the country unless we had a confirmed hotel reservation, which we didn't. We had to leave our passports upstairs while we went downstairs to try to arrange a hotel. The first hotel someone tried to get us into was $300/night. I eventually found a young guy at an information counter and he told me about a place on the west side of the island called "Easy World". He said they had rooms for $20 that included a kitchenette and they would also rent me a car. It sounded too good to be true, but we agreed. We took a taxi to Flic-and-Flac. Easy World was a 3-story apartment building near the beach. Although the walls are not insulated well for sound (it was pretty noisy), we found the room to be clean, the shower was good, and there was a refrigerator to keep things cool. The ceiling fan kept us cool at nights. Nobody bothered our things or cleaned up the room. The car rental was cheap ($30/day for a tiny car that ran well).
Nov. 2- The only species we saw today was driving in the taxi to our hotel in Flic-and-Flac.
Nov. 3- We weren't able to get our rental car until about 9 a.m. The place to find the endemics is Black River Gorge. We found all of our birds on top of the central plateau, in the Black River Gorge Park boundaries. We primarily went to the Petrin Forest Station, using Wheatley's book for directions. There's a picnic area and visitor center on the main road. We parked in the parking lot and walked up the chained-off dirt road at the end of the lot. This road actually goes to the research station. There's a large fenced off area along the right side going in. It seem like we hiked a couple of miles before we got into the better birding habitat. We got lucky and ran across a researcher that helped us out with some information about better locations for seeing some of the endemics. It was a big help.
Nov. 4- Returned to same are and worked it again. Finally added Pink Pigeons. Still missing were Mauritius Fody and Mauritius Olive White-eye. Found the breeding pair of Mauritius Kestrels outside the Black River captive breeding facility in the village of Black River. To find the center, drive slowly along the main street until you find the police station. Turn towards the ocean and drive a short way. The center is basically unmarked, but is a large doored place on the right. If you go past it you will be going into a private yacht club. We saw the kestrels perched on the large tree outside the center.
Nov.5- After much searching and asking park people questions, we decided to try Basin Blanc. We stayed there for about 2 hours, but finally came up with Mauritius Bulbuls. Apparently, the Mauritius Olive White-eye and the Mauritius Fody and getting rare and local. Despite much looking, we never encountered either of them. See comments.
White-tailed Tropicbird - Phaethon lepturus.
2-5. Seen every day.
Striated Heron - Butorides striatus. 4, 5.
Mauritius Kestrel - Falco punctatus. 3, 4. I briefly saw one soaring over a rock outcropping near the lower Black River Gorges visitor center. Pair at captive breeding center.
Gray Francolin - Francolinus pondicerianus. Family group seen well on way to lower visitor center.
Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus. 5. Bassin Blanc.
Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola. 4. The waders listed here were mostly seen along the coastal mudflats.
Common Ringed Plover - Charadrius hiaticula. 4.
Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus. 4.
Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia. 4.
Common Tern - Sterna hirundo. 4.
Rock Dove - Columba livia. 2-5.
Pink Pigeon - Nesoenas mayeri. 4, 5. Both days these were seen in the upper plateau of the Black River Park. Some sightings were flyby's, but we also got some excellent looks.
Madagascar Turtle-Dove - Streptopelia picturata. 3-5. Fairly easy.
Spotted Dove - Streptopelia chinensis. 2-5.
Zebra Dove - Geopelia striata. 2-5.
Rose-ringed Parakeet - Psittacula krameri. 4, 5. These were seen at the lower Black River visitor center area.
Mauritius Parakeet - Psittacula echo. 3, 4. Seen pretty well near the fenced in area, about 2 miles in on the road from the parking lot. The fenced in area is where the researchers have removed a lot of the introduced plants. The understory looks cleaner.
Mascarene Swiftlet - Aerodramus francicus. 3-5. Fairly common.
Mascarene Martin - Phedina borbonica. 3, 4. Flyby sightings only.
Mauritius Cuckoo-shrike - Coracina typica. 4, 5. Males only, but they were singing.
Red-whiskered Bulbul - Pycnonotus jocosus. 2-5.
Mauritius Bulbul - Hypsipetes olivaceus. 5. Difficult. Finally found a few at Bassin Blanc at 9 a.m..
Zosterops borbonicus. 3-5. Very common and very cute.
House Crow - Corvus splendens. 2, 4. Cities.
Common Myna - Acridotheres tristis. 2-5.
Village Weaver - Ploceus cucullatus. 3, 4.
Red Fody - Foudia madagascariensis. 2-5. Common.
Common Waxbill - Estrilda astrild. 4, 5. In the tall grasses on roadsides.
Yellow-fronted Canary - Serinus mozambicus. Near a resort development on SW side of the island.
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus. 2-5.
1- Mauritius was easier to do logistically, as most people spoke some English. The roads were fine and we had no trouble with our rental car from Easy World. They even provided us a ride back to the airport area that was cheaper than the ride to Flic-and-Flac. Lots of speedbumps in the road, but we didn't have any problems driving ourselves around the island. We never felt threatened at any time. Most of the people were very nice. Mauritius is smaller than Reunion. One hour of driving will get you to almost any part of the island.
2- Mauritius was cheaper than Reunion. The money we saved by staying at Easy World was applied to a very nice hotel about 10 minutes from the airport, called the Blue Lagoon Hotel. It was about $110/night, but that included a very nice supper buffet and breakfast.
3- As we were flying out on Air Mauritius, I came across an article in a magazine that said there was another captive breeding facility on a very small island 5 minutes away from the city of Mahebourg, which is near the airport. My impression is that there are free flying Maur. Fodies and Maur. Olive White-eyes on the island and the local conservation people allow visits. I don't know how to get in touch with them.
4- We looked extensively for the M. Fodies and the M. Olive White-eyes, but no luck.
5- We were able to change money in the airport and also at ATM machines.
If you have any questions or comments, contact me. Ron Hoff, Clinton,Tennessee USA email@example.com