9 Dec 2018

15 Nov 14 - Unable To Land Again On Morane

We had spent the previous night offshore of the uninhabited French Polynesian Morane Island, after our excellent day ashore with the Tuamotu Sandpipers & other Seabirds. It had been a wetter exit from Morane in the late afternoon of the previous day. We had been used to wet landings & departures from the coral edge, with water up to our knees at least & sometimes closer to our waists. Fortunately, this wasn't living coral reef so we weren't damaging it. The wave action had turned the old coral into a solid rock beach, albeit one with a lot of sharp edges. When you are standing in the water waiting for the boat to find the right wave to come in on, then it was just luck that determined how wet you got. There was always a couple of the crew with us to ensure we got in & out of the boat & they were likely to be wetter than us, given they were on the coral edge for much longer than any of the passengers. With reef shoes & shorts it wasn't too bad & we dried out quickly in the warm weather or had a shower if back on the Braveheart. All the camera gear had been placed in dry bags that the crew moved separately, so the cameras were protected. The plan for the day was we would have a second landing on Morane. However, the swell had got up overnight & the Kiwi crew who were really confident of being able to get in under challenging circumstances, decided that it was too difficult for us to land. It was a pity, but we had enjoyed an excellent day ashore the previous day & seen all we had expected to see. With the landing off the plan, we were given the chance for a snorkel close to the island. Around half the passengers & some of the crew took the opportunity to get in the water just offshore from the reef. Unlike the Tenararo snorkel, there weren't any Green Turtles on this occasion, but I did see another Black-tipped Reef Shark. Black-tipped Reef Sharks are shorter than me & generally placid in open waters on reef edges, so it was good to see another one.
Back in seawatching mode: There were some homemade seats on the side & back of the top deck
Seating on the front deck was more ad-hoc: Kim, Allan, Tim & Martin (left to right)
After the snorkelling was over, the boat was recovered while we were getting showers, changing into dry clothes & reapplying sun tan lotion. The plan for the rest of the was head off to a sea mount about 20 nautical miles from Morane & try some chumming. Despite several hours of chumming, it was fairly quiet. However, I did see my first Black-winged Petrel & my second Polynesian Storm-petrel. Unfortunately, I stepped back to try & photograph the Polynesian Storm-petrel & found there was a gap in the home-made deck which my foot went through. I gashed my knee, but fortunately, it was only a bad graze. We had made our last landing of the trip & therefore, there would be no chance of it getting infected in a wet landing. There is a higher chance of infections in tropical waters, compared to the UK seas. The worst thing in the long term, was the lack of photos of the Polynesian Storm-petrel.
Steve Holloway, Richard Lowe & Geoff Jones on the back deck: My legs slipped through the narrow gap by the railing
There were around ten of the bulky Murphy's Petrels around Morane Island & the sea mount, as well as singles of Black-winged Petrel, Tahiti Petrel & Polynesian Storm-petrel.
Murphy's Petrel: They are a bulky Pterodroma Petrel with a steep forehead & pale throat
Murphy's Petrel
Murphy's Petrel: This individual has spotted a fish scrap from the chum
Black-winged Petrel: It looks like a fairly typical Pterodroma from above
Black-winged Petrel: Showing the distinctive underwing pattern. It is a pity it isn't in focus, but it's the only one I saw
Tahiti Petrel: This long-winged Petrel with its distinctive two-tone underbody pattern was easy to identify, but they never seemed to perform for the cameras
Tahiti Petrel
Before dusk, we checked out if the seas had moderated around Morane, but they hadn't. We spent the night off Morane, but the seas were as bad in the morning, so the crew decided it was time to start heading back towards the island of Mangareva. The motion from the seas were pretty bad for most of the day & I spent most of the day in my bunk. When I got on deck all I saw were a few Sooty Terns & White Terns.

7 Dec 2018

14 Nov 14 - I'm Not Going To Apologies For More Tuamotu Sandpiper Photos

Back in Nov 14, I had the opportunity to visit the British Overseas Territory of Pitcairn & Henderson Islands on a small expedition ship, the Braveheart. This was followed by visits to the uninhabited islands of Tenararo & Morane in French Polynesia. I never finished sorting the photos from that trip & will do that over the next few Blog Posts.
Braveheart: Off Henderson Island (7 Nov 14)
This was our first landing on Morane, although I have already published a Blog featuring some of the many Red-tailed Tropicbirds that were breeding on Morane. Morane is a typical coral atoll. It was just over two miles across in diameter, with a large central lagoon. It was a very hot day with the low bushes providing very little shade & a lot of reflected sunlight from the coral beach. We had previously landed on the neighbouring Tenararo Island. Tenararo had been inhabited in the past & some tall Coconut plantations had provided a bit of shade. Morane didn't have any Coconut plantations as it had never been inhabited.
Morane: Some parts of the island were an open, raised coral beach
Morane: Other parts of the island were more vegetated
Morane: On the inside of the island & maybe a hundred metres from the outer beach I can see the three fishing buoys, a plastic bottle & another piece of rubbish that had been washed up on the beach. The nearest inhabited island is several days sailing from Morane
Morane: Chris Collins was leading the trip
Morane: The remains of a Sea Urchin on the beach
Morane: My cabin mate Kim trying to find some shade in the heat of the early afternoon
Morane: The inner lagoon looked very inviting for a swim. However, the Braveheart crew told us to keep out of the water. The tide occasionally broke over the beach at the far side of the lagoon & on these high tides, Black-tipped Reef Sharks & other large predators got into the lagoon. As they couldn't easily escape, the crew thought they would be more likely to attack anything they took as food. I've snorkelled & dived in open water with Black-tipped Reef Sharks & not had problems with them, but I wasn't going into water on the inner lagoon to see if they really were calm when hungry
Black-tipped Reef Shark: There were a number swimming up & down inside the lagoon
Sea Cucumber sp: A popular Chinese delicacy
We had already enjoyed some excellent views of Tuamotu Sandpipers on Tenararo. The visit to Morane gave us a final opportunity for some more Tuamotu Sandpiper photos. We found good numbers of this great Wader on the atoll. Some of the group were lucky to find a nest: unfortunately, I wasn't with them at the time.
Tuamotu Sandpiper: They are easily my most favourite Wader
Tuamotu Sandpiper
Tuamotu Sandpiper
Tuamotu Sandpiper: The final two photos are been uncropped (except to tweek it to my normal ratio of 1.2 x 1)
Tuamotu Sandpiper: They did not respect the fact that my 400mm lens had a minimum focus of 3.5 metres & were keen to come closer at times
There were also a few of the larger Bristle-thighed Curlews on the beach. Another superb Wader which was fairly approachable, although they didn't walk right up to you like the Tuamotu Sandpipers preferred to do.
Bristle-thighed Curlew: The bristles are very obvious on this individual
Bristle-thighed Curlew: They have a central crown stripe like a Whimbrel, but are long-billed, longer-bodied & clearly paler than Whimbrels
There were good numbers of breeding Seabirds on the island.
Murphy's Petrel: There were small numbers flying just off the beach
Great Frigatebird: Juvenile
Great Frigatebird: Juvenile. Some of the individuals were quite well developed
Great Frigatebird: Juvenile. Whereas, some were still quite young
Great Frigatebird: Juvenile
Masked Booby: Adult
Masked Booby: Adult with egg
Masked Booby: Juvenile
Masked Booby: Juvenile
Red-footed Booby: Adult
Red-footed Booby: Adult with a fairly young chick
Common Noddy: Adult: It's interesting how the forehead colour changes with the head angle
Common Noddy: Adult: The same individual
Common Noddy: Juvenile
Common Noddy: Adult
There were good numbers of Strawberry Hermit Crabs on the beach & under the bushes. They must be one of the most photogenic Hermit Crabs.
Strawberry Hermit Crab
There was also a small Gecko under the bushes where a few of us stopped for some lunch. There are only a handful of Geckos found across French Polynesia & the only one that fits is Mourning Gecko.
Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris): They have an extensive range including the Seychelles, the Chagos islands, the Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Borneo, Indonesia, New Guinea, the Bismark & Solomons Islands, Australia & many of the Pacific islands from Fiji, Vanuatu & New Caledonia to Micronesia, the Cook Islands & French Polynesia
Mourning Gecko: (Lepidodactylus lugubris): They are perfectly camouflaged for the bushes on the island
Finally, in the late afternoon we had to catch one of the jet boat runs back to the Braveheart. A chance for a hot drink & some proper shade.
Ozzy Geoff Jones in the Braveheart lounge: It was just large enough to squeeze Chris & the twelve punters on the trip around the tables at meal times

6 Dec 2018

6 Dec 18 - Sea Turtle Index

This Blog Post is an Index to all the Blog Posts covering my Sea Turtle sightings. There are links to the Posts against each entry below. A Sea Turtle Index is also shown on the Pages bar underneath the Blog Header photo. Alternatively, you can click on a particular species in the Keywords section on the right side of the Blog to show all Posts for the selected species. Finally, selecting the Sea Turtles Keyword to show all Sea Turtle Posts. I will continue to add to the photos and links as I write new Sea Turtle Blogs.
Green Turtle: Ascension Island (24 Apr 18)
Leatherback Turtle: At sea between St Helena and Ascension Island (22 Apr 18)
Olive Ridley's Turtle: At sea between Ascension Island and Cape Verde (28 Apr 18)
Loggerhead Turtle: At sea between Ascension Island and Cape Verde (28 Apr 18)
Loggerhead Turtle: At sea between Ascension Island and Cape Verde (29 Apr 18)
Loggerhead Turtle: At sea between Madeira and Portugal (6 May 18)