Tetepare is a wilderness island of the Solomons group in the western Pacific. It is entirely covered in primary rainforest, and one of the few places where the biodiversity of this region can be found and heard intact. Elsewhere throughout the Solomons, timber companies have stripped the forests to the detriment of not only the ecosystems and surrounding reefs, but often the livelihood of traditional peoples. Tetepare is sadly the last, truly wild island.
We begin listening as surf breaks on the barrier reef that surrounds the island. Then, in the darkenss before dawn, we move into the primary rainforest itself. Kingfishers, megapodes, cuckoos, owls, insects and horned frogs call in dark. The ethereal piping of monarchs signals the coming dawn, and with it are heard the soft songs of the island's endemic white-eyes.
Later, the forest presents a diversity of tropical birdsong; metallic starlings feed nearby, lorikeets screech as they wing overhead, mynas whistle richly, singing parrots and ducorp's cockatoos utter melodious cries, fruit pigeons boom deeply, while cicadas chorus in gentle waves. The sounds of two species are especially remarkable; the un-bird-like growls of buff-breasted coucals, and the calls of magnificent blythe's hornbills as they move around the forest on heavy wingbeats.
"Sarah and I spent ten days on the island making this recording, accompanied by our local guide, Twomey. It was a wonderful visit to a very special place.
"In many ways, this recording represents only a fraction of the biodiversity of this island. If we'd recorded at different times of year, we would have heard different frog and insect species. And of course the treasure of the place is found in the marine habitat of the fringing reef systems.
"Nevertheless, there is much to hear on this recording - the island's biodiversity is represented by such wonderful species as Blyth's Hornbills, Singing Parrots and Buff-breasted Coucals.
"But for us, one of the highlights was coming across the extraordinary early dawn singing of the white-capped monarchs. You can hear their ethereal songs on a companion album; The Monarchs of Tetepare."
This recording begins at night, with the roar of waves breaking on the islands surrounding reef. (0.00- around 3.15)
The remainder of the album takes us from the dawn chorus thorugh to mid-morning in the island's primary lowland rainforest. Species audible include:
Sacred Kingfisher - "kek, kek, kek..." (from 2.58...)
Melanesian Scrubfowl - chuckles and loud, wailing cries (distantly 4.48, 5.12... closer individuals 6.38...)
Solomon Islands Eyelash Frog - loud yaps (3.34, 3.52, 4.10...5.57...)
White-capped Monarch - male, predawn calling (8.51...)
Solomons Hawk Owl - low, single notes (from 8.43... and later a little closer 10.18...)
Koel Cuckoo - rising "wid-oo, wid-oo, wid-oo...", which is the female's call (10.47...)
Elegant Sticky-toed Frog - sequence of yaps, but softer than eyelash frog, and with a ringing quality to them (13.20)
Tetepare White-eye (an endemic species) - soft, twittery burst of song (from around 14.01)
Unidentified bat or flying fox species - (15.31, 18.51)
Yellow-faced Myna - these are a common and vocal species with a range of prominent whistling and throaty calls (joining the dawn chorus around 16.30, and heard throughout recording)
Finsch's Pygmy Parrot (unconfirmed but likely) - zitting calls while flying overhead (20.14, clearer 25.45)
The dawn chorus is concluded by the loud singing of cicadas (from 26.20), which continue sporadically throughout the day.
Metallic Starling - a variety of nasal vocalisations (eg; 33.37) including soft contact calls (around 37.30... )
Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon - deep booming calls (35.05)
Mackinlay's Cuckoo-dove - mellow "whoo-hoo", rising then falling (softly 35.26)
Rainbow Lorikeet (possibly, they are common throughout the islands, and it sounds like them) - brittle screeches (37.37...38.40...)
Ducorp's Cockatoo - quite pleasant (for a cockatoo) 2-note calls (53.15)
Buff-headed Coucal - loud and un-bird-like series of throaty growls, tailing off into 'gulps' (61.18... and 62.27... closer 70.02 and 71.30) interspersed with low booming (61.43..., closer 70.32)
Singing Parrot - metallic, musical notes with yodeling quality (64.02..., 64.38)
Blyth's Hornbill - loud, grunts and honking notes (69.03..., 72.24...) plus very loud wing flapping, created by unusually stiff flight feathers (71.55, 73.01)
Steel-blue Flycatcher - quick series of upslurred whistles (77.13, 77.20)
Tetepare is known as 'the last wild island', as other islands in the Solomons have been decimated by widespread and often predatory logging practices.
Tetepare is now a protected area, and a hard-won conservation success story. To support this endeavour, the local community have established a very low impact eco-tourism development. We stayed in a traditional grass hut made without any nails, and ate food caught locally. It is a very special place, and if you have the opportunity, we recommend a visit.
That Tetepare has been preserved as a sanctuary is the result of vision and hard work on the part of the islanders themselves. A visiting Australian couple, both ecologists, supported them in this enterprise, and Dr. John Read has written the story of their combined efforts to save the island. John describes the ecology of the island with warmth and passion, and we recommend his book as an introduction to why Tetepare is so important, and an appropriate read whilst listening to this recording. Links for the book, and for the island's Eco Lodge:
Our thanks to the Tetepare Descendants Association, formed by the local community to protect the island against what are often predatory and unsustainable logging practices. For more information on visiting Tetepare: www.tetepare.org
We'd also like to acknowledge the friendship of Mary and Twomey, the latter for his gentle companionship as our local guide while on the island.