14 Nov 2014

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