10 Nov 2014

10 Nov 14 - Sadly Too Rough To Get Ashore At Oeno

Today saw us cruising around Oeno Island: a low lying coral atoll which is one of the four islands in the Pitcairn group. Whilst there are no Landbirds on the island, it is still a great place for breeding Seabirds: especially after it was cleared of Polynesian Rats in 1997.
Elliot joins Matt in the jet boat
Off to find a gap in the reef to allow us to land on Oeno
Looking tricky
Oeno Island: It is a small island with a 3 mile long coastline surrounded by an outer coral reef
Unfortunately, Matt & Elliot returned with the news that it was too rough today to be able to get the jet boat safely through the reef, even with the jet boat 's 1/3 inch aluminium reinforced hull.
Billy waiting for Elliot to bring the jet boat back
All I could do was watch the jet boat being winched back on board
A real shame as Oeno would have allowed a lot of Seabird photographic opportunities & as we were ahead of schedule, there was time to dedicate a day to the island. As we started sailing away from Oeno, there was time for Charlie & Neil to do a bit of fishing. Another opportunity to catch some decent sized Fish. These Fish were useful as they provided fresh food for everybody else (I'm a vegie): even the guts were kept as they were great for future chumming sessions.
Charlie & Neil fishing
Another decent sized Fish landed
There were a few Seabirds flying around off the reef. They were mainly Murphy's Petrels, Masked Boodies, Red-footed Boobies, Great Frigatebirds & White Terns. There were more Boobies flying around Oeno today. So it seems an appropriate point to focus on the Boobies in the rest of this Post: which I have largely overlooked from the earlier Posts given the numbers of Petrels photographed,
Masked Booby: Subadult. Juvenile & subadult Masked Boobies have a dark head and white belly which superficially resembles a Brown Booby. However, the dark colour does not extend onto the upper belly as it does on Brown Booby. Additionally, the brown is mottled white (with a white collar developing on subadults). Additionally, they do not have the clean cut markings of Brown Boobies
Masked Booby: Subadult. This is the personata subspecies of Masked Booby which occurs from islands off the Australian coast across the West & Central Pacific
Masked Booby: Subadult. Note, the different underwing pattern compared to the Brown Booby below
Masked Booby: Adult Masked Boobies have a clean cut black & white appearance with the distinctive black mask. Photographed on the Henderson seamount (8 Nov 14)
Red-footed Booby: White-tailed Brown morph. Red-footed Boobies have four colour morphs: White morph (white with black flight feathers), Brown morph (all brown), White-tailed Brown morph (as photographed above) & White-tailed White-headed morph (a white headed version of the White-tailed Brown morph). The different morphs all happily interbreed across the Red-footed Booby range
Red-footed Booby: Immature. The dark bill & brown colouration indicates this is an immature individual. This is the rubripes subspecies which occurs in the tropical Indian & Pacific Oceans
Brown Booby: Adult. Subadults still have the clean cut brown & white markings with the brown extending well onto the breast, albeit the white underwing & underparts are mottled with brown. This is the plotus subspecies which occurs in the Red Sea, tropical Indian Ocean & tropical Central & West Pacific. Photographed on the Henderson seamount (9 Nov 14)
With no chance of getting ashore, Chris & Matt took the decision to leave for the Tuamotu Islands, with another stop at Shearwater colony at Mangareva. This plan should give us more time to allow for landing on some of the Tuamotu Islands later in the trip. Given the problems we had experienced with the weather, then being ahead of the schedule wasn't a bad option. It was also better than spending an extra day around Oeno hoping the weather would improve to allow a landing the next day. Whilst that would have been fun from a photography viewpoint, there was little chance of bonus Seabirds & no endemic Landbirds. The rest of the day was spent seawatching as we were travelling towards Mangareva. But it was proved to be a quiet day with a only few more Murphy's Petrels & a couple of fly-past Juan Fernandez Petrels.