A watery sun dawned on our last day in the Cook Islands. Dad dropped Shoshanah and I off at Takitumu Conservation Area, a carefully trapped and monitored site where we had the chance to nail a few endemic species. Ian, our guide, led us up through a few orchards where some feral Eastern Rosellas called on either side and a pair of Pacific Golden-Plovers kept a close eye on us. As we entered the treeline, the constant cacophony of mynas was gradually replaced with a merciful silence, followed by the harsh scratchy calls of the Rarotonga Monarch! Once down to as few as 25 birds, numbers are up to almost 500 individuals and we saw one or two from a distance, and got closer views later on. A loud, grating, strangely familiar sound met our ears after that - the scream of the Long-Tailed Cuckoo! We were certainly not expecting this bird - to the best of my knowledge, the time of year is wrong! But we heard at least 3, and even saw one fly over. Interspersed with the screams came a deeper, more ominous "ooo" which could only belong to the Cook Islands Fruit-Dove! Another tick! We also heard the melodic calls of Rarotonga Starlings in the canopy - our last bird of the trip.
Spending the afternoon on uber-touristy activities, the total trip list remained on 19 species. While a walk up my road might yield more in terms of numbers, this trip gave us an incredible opportunity to see some really special tropical birds and make some amazing memories. Full species list is below.
Reef Heron (Eastern Reef-Egret)
Cook Islands Fruit-Dove
|A Pacific Golden-Plover in the orchard|
|A female Rarotonga Monarch|
|Finally! A photo of a White Tern|
|The view from the top of the hill at Takitumu|
|A blurry male Monarch|