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FRENCH POLYNESIA & THE COOK ISLANDS

Tuesday 17th October - Wednesday 8th November 2017

Pete Morris

Marquesan Ground Dove - a Birdquest lifer and our bird-of-the-trip (Pete Morris)

Marquesan Ground Dove - a Birdquest lifer and our bird-of-the-trip (Pete Morris)

After a three year absence, Birdquest returned to Polynesia this year with a bang! We modified our approach a little to give us an even more comprehensive coverage of the region, and this necessitated splitting the tour into two: this tour and the complementary Pitcairn, Henderson and the Tuamotus which preceded this tour. It has to be said, the two combined produced an unrivalled selection of Polynesian species, with every single target endemic being seen well!

It has to be said, this was not a tour for those that are after a long bird list, with just 80 species recorded, including those seen on the extension. However, the quality was high, with no fewer than 50 diamond birds being recorded – an amazingly high percentage of special birds! The first part of this tour focused on various island groups in French Polynesia. Beginning on Tahiti and Moorea (where we easily found our target endemics), we then flew far to the northeast to way off Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. Having explored this island, complete with its amazing Marquesan Imperial Pigeons, we then reunited with the R. V. Braveheart and set sail. For nearly a week we explored a number of remote islands in the Northern and Southern Marquesas, bagging all of the available endemics which included two Birdquest lifers – Marquesan Ground Dove and Marquesan Monarch, and some great rarities such as the critically endangered Marquesan Kingfisher and Fatu Hiva Monarch. Numerous Bulwer’s and Tahiti Petrels and Polynesian Storm Petrels were also appreciated. The next leg of our tour saw us making the long passage to Rangiroa, where we found the critically endangered Polynesian Ground Dove and the gorgeous Blue Lorikeet. We then visited Niau, for the critically endangered Niau Kingfisher, and Makatea for two effectively endemic pigeons, before returning to Moorea where the very successful main tour ended. Thanks to the skill and determination of Matt and his conscietious crew, we were once again able to make landings on all of the hoped-for islands, despite some challenging conditions! Most of us then flew to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands for one final week of Pacific endemics. Visiting three islands, we easily found all of the endemics as well as the beautiful Kuhl’s Lorikeet, rounding off the adventure.

The stunning Kuhl's Lorikeet was our bird of the Cook Islands (Pete Morris)

The stunning Kuhl's Lorikeet was our bird of the Cook Islands (Pete Morris)