'In the Wake of the Bounty'

A Seabirding trip through Southeastern Polynesia
(from Tahiti to Easter Island)
Aboard the new 'World Discoverer'
23 October to 17 November 2003
The following is a précis of a report by
sent to those who came on this cruise
 The tour was organised by Ornitholidays
based in the UK
Left - White Tern
This subspecies from the Pitcairn group G. a. leucopes differed from those of the Marquesas Islands in larger size, thicker bill and  black primary shafts (visible in photo). Note the legs and feet were pale in colour whereas those, for example, in the Seychelles, Indian Ocean are startling cobalt blue.
Thursday 23 October to Sunday 26 October
Tahiti - birding - Tahiti Monarch, Tahiti Reed-Warbler, Tahiti Swiftlet, Tahiti Kingfisher, Grey-green Fruit Dove were all seen plus the introduced species. Seabirds included White-tailed Tropicbird, Great Crested Tern and White Tern.

Entry from the diary on the search for Tahiti Monarch:
….a valley, where we were to walk to hopefully find the endemic Tahiti Monarch. This is a critically endangered species. The entire population thought to number some 30 to 40 birds only. The conservation of this species, principally by trying to eradicate the rats that inhabit the forest, seems to have maintained the numbers only. The bird is found in four small valleys on Tahiti, this particular valley known as Valley B. The walk was not easy. The trail went through woodland and involved a small climb. There were many boulders, some slippery with moss, and we had to cross two fast flowing streams (wet feet for some). The group did very well and at some points it was as if we really were on an expedition. The effort needed was made harder by today’s very high humidity. On the way we passed through two Tahiti Monarch territories that were no longer occupied, the reasons not known, yet another sign of the plight of this bird. Suddenly we heard the simple four-note song of a Tahiti Monarch and we had one, staring down at us from an exposed branch. It was inquisitive and had come to see us as we entered its territory. Here was a glossy black flycatcher with a blue-grey bill and bluish legs, suddenly there were two, a pair. This pair had a very small territory, typical for the species, of maybe only a hectare. We felt privileged to see this very rare species, which we certainly would not have found without help.
….In Papeete we had our first view of the World Discoverer. She was moored alongside a huge liner, the Ocean Princess, which dwarfed her! Our ship looked first-class and we stopped to take photographs. On the quayside Conrad, the Expedition Leader, and a personal friend from previous cruises, welcomed us.
....We boarded and were welcomed at Reception where we deposited our travel documents. The staff showed everyone to their cabins, where the luggage was already waiting. In the Lido Lounge, at the stern, refreshing rum punch was served. An announcement over the p.a. system asked all passengers to go to the Discoverer Lounge for our first briefing. This was to be an important one on ship safety, a mandatory talk on the use of life jackets and emergency procedures aboard. Conrad introduced the lecturers - a team of naturalists, geologists and historians - followed by members of the expedition team and zodiac (inflatable rubber boat) drivers. The ship set sail, we were underway!
Monday 27 October
I went onto the deck early at 0600. The island of Bora Bora lay ahead. There was light rain in the air and a rainbow arced over the ocean. Red-footed Boobies flew past in small groups and flying fish, some a bright blue colour, lifted from the water at the ship’s approach. White Terns could be seen in flight over the verdant slopes of the island, obviously heading to and fro from nesting sites.
....There was interesting feedback from passengers to our day spent on Bora Bora. It was no longer the idyllic remote South Pacific island with swaying palm trees that the marketing people would have us believe. Now it has roads, cars, motorbikes and 7,000 people. Even more hotels are being built at this very moment. It has become a resort. Unfortunately this has brought concerns; garbage was along the streets and, worse still, the reef appeared to be dying. It was certainly degraded with many corals damaged. We would be sailing eastwards over the coming days to remote islands and motus, which do not have the tourist infrastructure. These will be more as imagined.
....The World Discoverer left Bora Bora as the sun was setting. Common Noddies and White Terns could be seen from the ship, but the deeper water, for more species of seabird, would be crossed during the night.
Sketches of Murphy's Petrels (Ducie Island - see 9 November)
Tuesday 28 October
I went onto the deck to start seawatching at 0600. The ship was on her way to the island of Mataiva in the Tuamotu archipelago. The sea was the deepest blue. The air temperature rose quickly. It was too hot to stand at the forward deck and we needed to find shade. The birding was slow, occasionally a bird or two to keep the enthusiasm going. With the sun getting higher in the sky there was a second problem, the shadow created on the sea. Birds became silhouettes that disappeared into the shade to be lost to view.
....Shearwaters would come across the bow, low to the water. The large Wedge-tailed and the small Audubon's. Then came Red-footed Boobies and White Terns and two small flocks of Sooty Terns. Two Pterodroma, the mysterious gad-fly petrels were not seen well - the first shooting behind the stern and the second flying uncharacteristically low to the water as there was little wind. This second bird showed the dark head of the anticipated Tahiti Petrel but it was not this species on general shape (particularly the head, neck and wings) and underwing. This was a Phoenix Petrel.
….On Mataiva we walked to the inner lagoon of the atoll. It was here in May that some aboard were very lucky to find Tuamotu Sandpiper, an endemic restricted to remote and usually uninhabited atolls. We did search the same area but with wishful thinking. There were many Pacific Golden Plovers and Wandering Tattlers.
….a naturalist lecturer aboard called our group on the handheld radio to say he had found the bird, a Tuamotu Sandpiper! We rushed over but it was not to be. It was a very good bird for this area though, a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, a juvenile somewhat lost on its migration from Siberia to Australasia.
….Another unexpected bird was a Cattle Egret. It was in breeding plumage with a buffy-orange chest and crown. This may be the first record for the region of southeastern Polynesia. These do appear in the most odd places and Nicholas reminded me of the ones we had seen on Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic, miles from anywhere. In both cases the question is, from where had these birds travelled?
….As we walked back to the landing site we could hear the melodic song of a reed-warbler. This needed to be studied. The song was not as sweet as the Tahiti birds. The bird perched on a palm frond and we had excellent views in the scope of Tuamotu Reed-Warbler.
….We returned to the ship by zodiac and were soon underway. On deck Perran had counted more than one hundred Red-footed Boobies and also there were our first Brown Boobies. A bonus was the last bird of the day, a Tahiti Petrel. A bird that we had discussed and wanted to see on this sector of the cruise, and one that might not be seen again as we begin heading southwards through the Tuamotus.
Click the shearwater for Page 2