Fiji Travel Diary
10 June 2002
Just before dawn Charlotte and I arrive at Nadi
international airport, Republic of Fiji, after flying overnight from Los Angeles.
Fiji lies across the Pacific, about 600 mi east of Australia. It's part of the
British Commonwealth, so everyone drives on the wrong side of the road, and an exit is
Soon we are on an island-hopping flight to the small island of Taveuni,
where we'll spend a week at Garden Island Resort. Most of the guests are American
scuba divers, drawn to the rich coral reefs that surround the Fijian islands. After
settling in we make our first birding foray, noting Lesser Frigatebird, Black-naped Tern,
and Brown Booby over the water. Roadside birds near the resort include Fiji
Woodswallow, Polynesian Triller, Orange-breasted Honeyeater, and a stunning parrot, the
Collared Lory. Day's end finds us back at the resort, a cold Fiji Bitter in hand,
enjoying the sunset over Vanualevu island across the Savusavu strait.
11 June 2002
This morning Charlotte heads out to the reef with the
other divers for the first of her daily dives. In the meantime I focus on the birds
in Garden Island Resort's well-kept gardens. Among the commonest are Sacred
Kingfishers, who have an easy life. They spend most of the time loafing in the trees
near the beach. Twice a day the tide goes out, exposing a rich feast of crustaceans,
easy pickings for this keen-eyed bird.
From the second floor balcony I photograph garden birds, including a nice male Vanikoro
Flycatcher. Although it looks and behaves like a flycatcher, Vanikoro is totally
unrelated to our familiar northern hemisphere tyrant flycatchers. All native Fijian
land birds, including Vanikoro, arrived here from some part of Australasia: New
Zealand, Australia, and Papua New Guinea. Vanikoro is in the monarch family of
Australasian flycatchers. Wherever birds evolve, it seems, there's a niche for
birds that sally forth from a perch to catch insects. In the northern hemisphere
that niche is mostly filled by tyrant flycatchers, here it is filled by monarchs such as
Vanikoro. Biologists call this convergent evolution - the tyrants and monarchs have
evolved to look and behave alike.