11 Nov 2014

11 Nov 14 - Tropical Christmas

Not a tropical Christmas, but a welcome return to the Seabird island of Motu Teiko on the outer edge of the Gambier Islands or Mangareva group: also known as home to Tropical Shearwaters & Christmas Island Shearwaters. We are now about halfway through the trip & have left British Pitcairn waters & returned into French Polynesian waters. Ironically, we had to change the clocks as we moved country, but this time it was the French waters which were an hour behind the British waters.
The Gambier Islands appear on the horizon
Motu Teiko: There are two islands
Motu Teiko: We mainly stayed close to this island
Geoff pointing out a Seabird to Kim
As we found on the first visit, the Christmas Island Shearwaters are happy to come in earlier in the afternoon, whereas the Tropical Shearwaters are quite late in arriving.
 Christmas Island Shearwater: This species is widespread throughout the tropical Central Pacific
Christmas Island Shearwater: They are much longer & thinner billed than the Petrodroma Petrels we had been seeing
Christmas Island Shearwater
Christmas Island Shearwater
Christmas Island Shearwater
Christmas Island Shearwater: They are great up close
There were good numbers of Common Noddies (Brown Noddy) & White-capped Noddies (Black Noddy) around the island.
Common Noddy: This is the pileatus subspecies
Common Noddy
I was pleased to see a couple of Blue Noddies flying around. We had seen Grey Noddies at Pitcairn & Henderson Island, but the French Polynesian islands are back in the range of Blue Noddy.
Blue Noddy: This is the murphyi subspecies which is restricted to the Gambier Islands. The teretirostris subspecies occurs in the nearby Tuamotu Islands as well as the Austral Islands, Society Islands (which includes Tahiti) & the Cook Islands. There are another three subspecies elsewhere in the Pacific
Blue Noddy: Not brilliant photos, but they are the best I took
Another bonus species was this party of three Sooty Terns which flew past the boat.
Sooty Tern: This is the oahuensis subspecies which as its name indicates occurs from Hawaii to the Southern Pacific Islands. There are another seven subspecies of this wide ranging species
Sooty Tern: One of the main features to separate this species from the smaller Bridled Terns is the white on the forehead does not extend behind they eye, whereas it does on Bridled Tern. Another useful tip is Bridled Terns do not occur regularly in the Pacific
Also keeping an eye on us was this Brown Booby.
Brown Booby: Adult. I think this was the only one I saw perched on the trip
Brown Booby: This one has a smudgy edge to the breast band so perhaps just turning to an adult
Finally, the Tropical Shearwaters started to arrive.
Tropical Shearwater: This is the dichrous subspecies which breeds from Samoa to the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia
Tropical Shearwater
Tropical Shearwater
All too quickly it was getting dark & time for us to sail to our next island of Tenararo, where there was a treat lined up assuming we could get ashore. Here is a hint.
Tomato Sandpiper