Streaked Fantail

We couldn't to find a guide to take us to Aneityum’s waterfall, but our friend Kenneth was willing to point us to the trail and send us off to explore on our own. The first part of the trail was a road that extended through a sparse field of pine trees still smoking from the fire that burned the night before. I had asked Kenneth if the fire had been to clear the underbrush or if a garbage fire got out of control, but he didn’t seem to know.

Then the road turned grassy and meandered through a well manicured village. There are primary and secondary schools on the shore, but there seemed to be a preschool in action in this smaller town. Beyond the homes, the road turned into a single lane path. We hiked for about a mile until we found a stream perfect for picnicking, passing a rusted through tractor and a scattering of violet orchids.

This single mile of jungle path had a more exciting array of birds than we’ve seen in some time. Our favorite was the streaked fantail, a cousin of the fantails who kept us company on so many pleasant walks in New Zealand. When we left, I was sure we would never see another fantail again. But here are their streaked Pacific cousins, just as gregarious and playful as ever. A trio of them joined us as we walked, flitting along the path and tumbling with each other in the air.

The scarlet robin was also a frequent visitor, as was the cardinal honeyeater, both small birds with big, flamboyant coloring. I had a brief glimpse of a whistler in the canopy, and a few other birds we can only tentatively identify. We realized, with horror, when we got back to Helios that we are outside of the geographical range of our go-to bird book.

An excellent excuse to start searching for a bookstore! No luck on Aneityum, and unlikely on Tanna, the island 50 miles northwest of Aneityum, where we are currently pitching in the swell in the shadows of Mt. Yasur. The next island on our itinerary is Efate, home to Vanuatu’s capital, Port Villa; hopefully we’ll have some literary luck.