Does anyone know much about shorebirds in Tonga?

Birds of the islands and waters of the South Pacific.
andrewcrossland
Posts: 1937
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 2:29 pm
Location: Christchurch

Does anyone know much about shorebirds in Tonga?

Postby andrewcrossland » Tue Aug 31, 2021 11:01 pm

Hi folks,
Just looking for places to explore in the early stages of NZ's quarantine free post-covid transport bubble and studying a map of the main island in Tonga. There looks like some pretty good potential for some interesting waders, even if it is just flocks of Turnstone, Pacific Golden Plover and a scattering of Godwits and Whimbrels. Just wondering if anyone knows if there have been past reports or surveys of waders in Tonga and whether there's an active birding scene over there (maybe just a handful of people)?
cheers

I've arrowed some habitats that anywhere else in the tropics would be potentially good spots for shorebirds.....

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gmckinlay
Posts: 96
Joined: Wed Dec 01, 2010 12:42 pm

Re: Does anyone know much about shorebirds in Tonga?

Postby gmckinlay » Wed Sep 01, 2021 9:23 pm

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Remembering back to my two years living on Tongatapu, 20 years ago now and well before I knew anything about shorebirds. I did get to most of these areas by kayak, and if I had seen a big high tide roost I think I would have remembered that.
In terms of habitat.
1) These islands have coral sand/rubble coasts, with very clean low tide reef flats at low tide. Potentially useable by Golden plovers/Turnstones/Tattlers. Worth a check but not prime habitat. Stunning islands.
2) Some exposed sediment/reef flat along this coast. Again potentially usable habitat, but limited.
3) These inner lagoon areas did not seem to have much low tide sediment exposure. Mangrove lined, except where mangroves have been removed by humans, so most sediment probably not great for shorebirds. Tattler/whimbrel roosts perhaps.
4) This area has potential. A sort of mixed reef/sediment zone. On a very low tide it is possiblw to walk out around all of the islets. I do remember disturbing a few birds towards the lagoon entrance by kayak (I was in that area often).
5) The outer half of this reef flat was dense branching coral. Not so good for shorebirds. I once cut myself up really good walking out to a shipwreck on the reef edge.
6) This mangrove area being the sandbar is the one spot you marked that I never got to. I suspect the bare areas without mangroves may not be inundated except on the high spring tides. Could hold a high tide roost perhaps as it would be a low disturbance location.
7) This is the best bet. Several kilometres exposed at low tide, and sheltered from most wave action, so sediment covered. I would often see women well far out gleaning at low tide – a good sign. Some mangroves along the south coast, but the west side is more sandy (but not overly so).
andrewcrossland
Posts: 1937
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 2:29 pm
Location: Christchurch

Re: Does anyone know much about shorebirds in Tonga?

Postby andrewcrossland » Wed Sep 01, 2021 9:32 pm

Awesome post!!! Many thanks - I’m thinking there’ll not be a lot there but worth a survey. Does one need to pay multi thousands of dollars for a research visa if you go looking for waders in Tonga (like in Kiribati for example) or are they ok with birders having an explore? And are the locals relaxed about you passing by or do they prefer no-one trespass along the beaches/mudflats like in some places (I’ve heard Samoa is a place where that happens a bit, and also Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomons - fair enough ofcourse but always good to know in advance so one can contact the right people and ask in the most appropriate way)
Cheers
gmckinlay
Posts: 96
Joined: Wed Dec 01, 2010 12:42 pm

Re: Does anyone know much about shorebirds in Tonga?

Postby gmckinlay » Wed Sep 01, 2021 9:45 pm

A bit hard to say nowadays, but no one seemed to mind me kayaking all over (except on Sunday which all good shorebirds spend in church). I spoke enough Tongan to have a friendly chat with anyone I met, and made a point of greeting everyone appropriately. Samoa always seemed more protective of their local patch than Tonga.

Mark O' Brien at Birdlife in Fiji would be a good person to ask about both permits, older papers/surveys, and any local contacts. There was a country summary in Notornis 1976. Suggests Plovers, turnstones, w. tattlers and occasional godwit all present in season.
andrewcrossland
Posts: 1937
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 2:29 pm
Location: Christchurch

Re: Does anyone know much about shorebirds in Tonga?

Postby andrewcrossland » Fri Sep 03, 2021 7:15 pm

Another question on the topic of waders in Tonga: Vava'u Island - wow!! looks like a great place to explore for waders from the images on Google earth - any first hand knowledge?

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