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POLYNESIA

Wednesday 6th September - Thursday 28th September 2006

Pete Morris

Our third tour to Polynesia (The Cook Islands and French Polynesia) was another great success. We visited four islands in the Cook Islands and four islands and five atolls (including several islands within the atolls) in French Polynesia. This required no fewer than 15 flights from London as well as a return boat trip in the Marquesas, and a wonderful nine days of sailing on sleek catamarans in the Tuamotus of French Polynesia. Here we sailed amongst atolls and islands that have been immortalized by people like Captain Bligh, Robert Louis Stevenson, Herman Melville, Marlon Brando and Jacques Brel. This is not a tour for quantity. We recorded only 67 species of birds, 11 of which were introduced species. However, among the 56 native species recorded were an array of spectacular, rare and endangered species! We visited four areas which are defined by BirdLife International as Endemic Bird Areas: the Southern Cook islands (EBA 210), the Marquesas (EBA 212), the Society Islands (EBA 213) and the Tuamotu archipelago (EBA 214), and saw 22 species that are classified as species of conservation concern by BirdLife International – that’s nearly 40% of the native species recorded! Seven of these species are classified as endangered, three of them critically so! The rats (and ultimately humans!) have a lot to answer for! Our bird of the trip, perhaps surprisingly, was the critically endangered and superb Polynesian Ground-Dove, though the amazingly confiding and delightful Tuamotu Sandpiper, which gave us such a marvellous time on its remote motu, came a close second. Other memorable birds included Tahiti Petrel, Polynesian Storm-Petrel, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Common and Lesser White Terns, Blue Noddy, several colourful fruit-doves, Polynesian and Nuku Hiva Pigeons, Blue and Ultramarine Lorikeets, Mangaia and Tuamotu Kingfishers, Rarotonga, Tahiti and Iphis Monarchs and Rarotonga Starling.

(NOTE: This itinerary, which includes the Cook Islands and the western Tuamotus, only overlaps with our French Polynesia, Pitcairn & Henderson tour in Tahiti and the Marquesas, although some of the birds and experiences in the Tuamotus are common to both tours.)