9 Nov 2014

9 Nov 14 - Return To Henderson Island

It was a quick breakfast this morning when news broke that Matt reckoned he could get us back ashore on Henderson Island, & better still, onto the main North beach. We had managed to land on the West beach a couple of days earlier, but We had been unable to find the Henderson Island Crake. After changing from another wet to the waist landing, We quickly unsuccessfully tried to find a Henderson Island Crake in the Coconut fringed edge behind the beach.
This shy Henderson Island Fruit-dove did put in a brief appearance
With no joy on the flat ground, it was time to switch to Plan B: this was to try the island plateau. There is a narrow, steep, rough track which leads up onto the plateau. Fortunately, everybody managed to get up the track without any problems. It wasn't until late in the afternoon on the first Henderson Island landing that We had discovered the other end of the track. That didn't look as straight-forward getting up & I'm not convinced all of the group would have made it up that track, so it was good that the main beach track was better.
The track crosses the island to the West beach through dense vegetation
We found a point on the track where it got slightly wider & stood around Chris as He played the tape of the Henderson Island Crake. After a few minutes, Chris spotted a movement. Fortunately, it was on my side of the track & I quickly saw this stunning small black flightless Crake, with bright orange-red legs & eye ring, as it stood a few metres into the vegetation looking for the intruder into its territory. I had a clear view of it through a gap & would have loved to raise the camera up for a photo. But there were still several of group behind who hadn't seen it & therefore, I stayed still as I didn't want to risk flushing it. A real shame as after that, while it remained on view for several minutes, I never had another chance of an unobscured photo. One of the Birds of the trip.
Henderson Island Crake: I will have to fall back on my photo of a painting in the Pitcairn museum
Henderson Island Reed Warbler: This put in an appearance to see how we were getting on with the more views of the Henderson Island Crake
Chris had radioed back to the Braveheart to say We had seen our last Henderson Island endemic. Unfortunately, the response from Matt was as the wind had been getting up from its initally fairly still conditions, then Matt was keen for us to head back to the beach, so we could be taken off before the sea state deteriorated further. This allowed about 30 minutes while Matt was bringing the Braveheart back in & relaunching the jet boat. I decided to carry on looking for the Henderson Island Crake, while some of the others headed back to the edge of the cliff in the hope of better views of Stephen's Lorikeet. We saw no more Crakes, but I did see this Lizard. I had seen similar looking Lizards on Pitcairn as well as on the first landing on Henderson Island, but failed to get any photos earlier in the trip.
White-bellied Skink Emoia cyanura: This occurs from Clipperton Island (Eastern Pacific) to Hawaii, the Caroline Islands of Micronesia and South to French Polynesia & the Pitcairn group
Far too quickly, We had to return to the beach so We could be collected. Clearly, having seen all the key endemic Birds, then it was better to get off the island safely, but I think We would all have loved to spend more time on this special island.
Chris about to descend down the track back to the beach
Red-footed Booby: This Red-footed Booby flew over showing its distinctive red feet as we were waiting on the beach
The one downside of Henderson Island, is there was a plan to clear the island of the introduced Polynesian Rats. They are a major predator of both the endemic Landbirds & breeding Seabirds on the island. In 2011, the whole of island was baited with rat poison. Despite apparently initial success during the post baiting monitoring period, sadly, it didn't eliminated the Polynesian Rats on the island. But this was successful on the other Pitcairn islands of Ducie & Oeno that were also included in the Rat clearance program. Birdlife International are currently fund raising for a return visit in May 2015. So a plea from me. If you have enjoyed the Birds photos & Seabirds from recent Posts from Henderson Island & you would like to do something to help these incredible islands, then please join me & donate some money to Birdlife's Just Giving page.
There is also more information about the project on this Just Giving page. Thank you.