The Complete WESTERN PACIFIC ODYSSEY - Returns including Bonin Islands!!
Known in birding circles, simply as the ‘WPO', this expedition incorporates many of the key birding areas in the South West Pacific. First offered in 2007, it is now considered one of the ‘must do' expeditions for any birder because of opportunities to see some of the rarest pelagic seabirds in the world plus many island endemics. But it is not only for ‘birders'. The cetacean list can only be described as outstanding and if you ever tire of birding or cetacean watching then there are numerous snorkelling/swimming/relaxing opportunities.
After departing the Port of Tauranga, in New Zealand we sail for the rich waters of the Hauraki Gulf where there are numerous endemic species, including the recently discovered New Zealand Storm-Petrel. From there it's northward to Norfolk Island for a day. Next stop is New Caledonia where we search for the amazing Kagu and other endemics in the Rivière Bleue National Park.
We then spend five exciting days in the Solomon Islands birding on Rennell, Makira, Guadalcanal (Mt Austin), Santa Isabel and Kolombangara, before cruising across the New Britain Trench, an area known to be extremely rich in cetaceans. As we sail along the coasts of Bougainville and New Ireland, we will look for two extremely poorly known seabirds, Heinroth's Shearwater and the recently rediscovered Beck's Petrel, both of which we have seen on almost all our previous expeditions in this region.
Next stop is Truk Island (Federated States of Micronesia) for some more intensive birding before we set a course for the Bonin Islands south of Japan. Our route will take us to Chichi-jima, Haha-jima and Torishima Islands (and hopefully the Short-tailed Albatross) before we visit Miyake-jima, where we will look for the last specialities of the expedition. Our voyage will then conclude at the Port of Yokohama in Japan.
This expedition is accompanied by some of the best pelagic birding guides in the world who have extensive experience of the seabirds of the West Pacific and have visited the islands we will be landing on multiple times before. Birding starts at dawn and finishes at sundown. Our guides are there throughout the day to assist you and the ‘reading of the bird list' each evening is legendary for its detail and discussion. This is one expedition you can't afford to miss.
A message for the keen birders and cetacean watchers reading this. Space doesn't allow us to list all species on a day-by-day basis in this itinerary. Please ask for an expedition dossier or a bird and mammal list from previous expeditions.
Pre cruise transfers, all on board ship accommodation with meals and all expedition shore excursions, transfer from ship to Yokohama railway station.
All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance.
Our ship - The Spirit of Enderby:
The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition Travel.
She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in March 2013 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space.
On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs.
The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.
The name Spirit of Enderby honours the work and the vision of the Enderby Brothers of London. The Enderby Captains were at the forefront of Antarctic exploration for almost 40 years in the early 1800s. It also celebrates Enderby Island, arguably the greatest Subantarctic Island in the world.
Christchurch City to Lyttelton Harbour
Passengers gathered at the Heritage Expeditions office in Christchurch city during the early afternoon to await the arrival of the coach which would transport the group to Lyttelton Harbour. The bus drove out onto the docks to the Spirit of Enderby where passengers boarded and were shown to their cabins. Everybody then gathered in the bar as Customs and Immigration Officers boarded the ship to carry out departure formalities.
Following this everyone gathered in the lecture room where Expedition Leader Aaron Russ and Cruise Director Sarah Russ welcomed us all on board and provided an over view of the ships workings, travel arrangements and a safety briefing. Aaron introduced the Heritage Expeditions staff. Guides/zodiac drivers were Chris Collins, Matt Bradley-Swan, Morten Joergensen and Mike Bell. The Ship’s Doctor was Kate Goldberg, the chefs Joss Wilson and her son Rocket. Leanne Dunhill from the Heritage Expeditions office staff, Sarah Russ and little Anneliese were travelling on the expedition with us also.
This briefing was followed by a life boat drill. Passengers were required to go to their cabins to get their life jackets and report to their appointed life boat. With life jackets fitted we all then climbed into the life boats as we would in a real emergency. Following dinner the passengers relaxed in their cabins and studied birding guides to familiarise themselves with the seabirds likely to be encountered tomorrow.
At sea, Lyttelton Harbour running up the east coast of the South Island.
The ship departed Lyttelton Harbour at 06:00 and headed out of the heads into Pegasus Bay. When the Chief Engineer was working on the ship's engine, a small group of Hector’s Dolphins was seen off the stern, including a mother with a small calf. Hector’s is a rare dolphin which is endemic to New Zealand and these animals came in close providing excellent views. Once we were underway again the birding through Pegasus Bay was somewhat slower than expected. A highlight being small flocks of Hutton’s Shearwater. These birds only breed in the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains so the north Canterbury/Kaikoura coast is the best place to see them. After lunch as we headed north we got closer to the Kaikoura Trench and the number, and diversity of seabirds increased.
In the late afternoon south of Kaikoura we began chumming for seabirds off the back deck, attracting in large numbers of birds; including six species of albatross – White-capped, Salvin’s, Buller’s, Southern Royal, Northern Royal, and Wandering (Gibson’s). The back deck looked like a football stadium as people armed with cameras jostled for position. In the end to get a better view Hannah reverted to climbing the framework armed with camera to get some better shots. After dark Chris gathered everyone in the bar to start the “reading of the bird list” – this is a daily re-cap of the birds seen each day. Every passenger received a Western Pacific Odyssey Species List, in which they can record the birds seen. In order for a species to make it onto the official expedition bird list it must have been seen by three or more people.
At sea, northern part of Cook Strait running up the west coast of the North Island
Daylight brought the birders back out on deck and we found ourselves part way through Cook Strait – the narrow passage of water separating the South and North Islands. As we headed through Cook Strait we sailed close to Stephen’s Island, famous for the lighthouse keeper’s cat who exterminated a small flightless wren endemic to the island. Today Stephen’s Island is the home to over 1 million breeding pairs of Fairy Prions and a huge population of Tuatara. The birding was somewhat slow, with Fluttering Shearwater and Diving Petrel the most prevalent; however the day was fantastic on the cetacean front. Just as we were leaving Cook Strait we came across a pod of Orca (Killer Whales). There appeared to be at least ten individuals including a large male. Shortly after this a Blue Whale was seen in the distance, and the ship passed within 500m of it allowing an excellent view. Little is known about the cetaceans in the seas around this part of New Zealand, and this sighting seemed somewhat unusual. If the sighting of one Blue Whale was unusual, then the rest of the day can only be described as exceptional. Over the course of the afternoon a further three Blue Whales were sighted, again most of them relatively close to the ship. For Liz and Kate who are keen cetacean spotters the day couldn’t have been much better.
At sea, running up the west coast of the North Island
A pattern to ship board life seems to be starting to develop, with the keenest birders up at day break to start scouring the sea and sky for birds. Just before 07:30 the smell of bacon cooking drifts up over the top deck and slowly, one by one the birders give in to the temptation and head down for breakfast, hoping that whilst they are gone they won’t miss anything too exciting! After breakfast whilst approximately west of Auckland a Red-tailed Tropicbird was seen, which was unusual this far south and a good bird for a birder’s New Zealand list. There was a steady stream of birds all day and noticeably some of the southern species dropped out and were replaced by more northern New Zealand species – with the first Cook’s and Black Petrels being seen. For the second day running the big surprise was cetaceans – with another four Blue Whales seen. It would appear that the west coast of the North Island is a hot spot for the species at this time of year.
At sea, north of North Island heading to Norfolk Island
06:00 33.34S 169.58E
18:00 31.43S 169.09E
We enjoyed an extra hour of sleep this morning as we adjusted our clocks back one hour to get in line with Norfolk Island time. The day dawned bright and clear with a fresh easterly but a short squall in the late afternoon had everyone dashing inside for a time. On and off during the day there was a heavy Southeast swell, which built up a bit in the evening. The birders spent all day on deck, and were rewarded with some decent views of a number of species, but overall the number of birds seemed to be lower than expected. Highlights were White-necked Petrels, three Red-tailed Tropicbirds and one single Grey Ternlet, Herald Petrel and Providence Petrel. As the day went on people began to think ahead to tomorrow and whether the building swell would prevent us from landing on Norfolk Island. After dinner Aaron and Chris briefed us about Zodiac safety and gave an introduction to the birds of Norfolk.
40 NM south of Norfolk Island, to Norfolk Island
06:00 29.52S 168.19E
18:00 29.04S 167.57E
Time extended again with the clocks going back a further 30 minutes to line up with Norfolk Island time. Daybreak saw the birders heading to the top deck with only 40 nautical miles of sailing until we reached Norfolk Island. As yesterday, the birds were somewhat slow, although the first Wedge-tailed Shearwater and White-bellied Storm Petrel of the trip were seen. Shortly after breakfast Philip Island came into view and then Norfolk slowly crept out of the cloud. The number of White Terns, Tropicbirds and Tasman Boobies seen also suggested that we were getting closer to land. The most common topic of discussion shifted for the first time from seabirds, to our upcoming landing and the best way to get the endemic land birds. Joss and Rocket served us up an early lunch as the Australian Customs and Immigration agents came on-board. The intensity of activity on board ship increased throughout lunch as everyone got ready to go ashore.
The first Zodiacs left the Spirit of Enderby at 12:30 for the harbour. Despite a good roll coming into the beach the landing was calm and nobody ended up with wet feet. We were welcomed ashore by Margaret Christian and her family who were lined up to show us around Norfolk. After getting everyone ashore, we piled into the buses and mini vans for the drive up to the National Park. First stop was Palm Glen, in the foot hills of the National Park and perfect for endemic land bird hunting. Somewhat surprisingly the Norfolk Island Parakeet was quickly seen by everyone, but the Slender-billed White-eye took a bit more work, requiring us to extend our time at Palm Glen by 30 minutes to ensure everyone got it. During this time good views were also had of the robin, whistle and greygone.
Afterwards the party split into two. The diehard birders headed off to Hundred Acres Reserve (Rocky Point) to look for breeding seabirds, and were well rewarded with great views of breeding Noddys, White Tern and Tropicbirds. On the drive back following the sighting of Californian Quail, Jeet declared that he was happy and had seen the “bird of the trip”. The rest of the group went for a general tour around Norfolk, which included a lap around the island, a quick run through the small shopping district and more time to explore the convict ruins around Kingston.
We met back at the pier at 17:30, loaded into the Zodiacs and boarded the Spirit of Enderby then headed to the bar for the daily recap and bird list. A great day was had by all, and everyone agreed it was nice to be off the ship and have a chance to stretch our legs. Thanks to Margaret and her team for such a great day, especially with such friendly and accommodating guides who were willing to impart so much information. The crew lifted the anchor and we started heading towards New Caledonia.
At sea, north of Norfolk Island heading towards New Caledonia
06:00 27.06S 167.24E
18:00 25.16S 166.57E
The earlier rising birders were well rewarded this morning when Graham spotted a Collared Petrel, it passed right by the ship allowing good views, but there was no one with a camera about to get a shot! The Easter bunny had arrived over night, with everyone getting a small stash of chocolate eggs with their breakfast. After breakfast a fish oil slick was laid out, and then we spent the next two hours doing pass bys around this. The weather conditions were perfect for oiling, with the slick holding together well and not spreading out too far. This clearly helped and attracted good numbers of Tahiti and Black-winged Petrel which remained within or near the slick. This provided great views of the Tahiti Petrels in particular which came in close allowing us with excellent photo opportunities.
Continuing with the Easter theme, Joss and Rocket served up freshly baked hot cross buns for lunch. The most noteworthy sightings during a fairly slow afternoon were numerous small flocks of Short-tailed Shearwaters passing by the ship on their migration north. Following dinner Chris gave an over view of the birds of New Caledonia and broke the news that Tuesday’s start time will be 3am!
At sea, approximately 40 nautical miles south of New Caledonia heading to Noumea
06:00 23.15S 166.49E
18:00 22.47E 166.33E
We had made good progress over night and at daybreak were approximately 40 nautical miles south of New Caledonia in the area we wanted to search for the ‘New Caledonian Storm Petrel’. Shortly after breakfast we laid out a slick and spent the next few hours circling this looking for birds. The slick attracted good numbers of Tahiti Petrel and Wedge-tailed Shearwater, but no storm petrels of any species were seen. During lunch the ship sailed further north, to a spot were Chris and Kurt had only a few weeks ago seen several ‘New Caledonian Storm Petrels’ on a trip aimed at attempting to catch this “unknown” species. On arrival at this location we laid out a second oil slick, and dropped one of the buckets of frozen chum previously prepared by Chris and Mike and now dubbed the ‘chumsicle’. This attracted great numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Tahiti Petrel which were actively feeding on the fish. In addition a few Gould’s Petrels and Wilson’s Storm Petrels were also seen. Chris spotted what he thought was a ‘New Caledonian Storm Petrel’ and about four others had a quick view of a bird which appeared to have a white belly. Unfortunately it did not hang around and moved off the slick and disappeared. We remained with the slick for a further two hours, but the bird was not seen again. Joss and Rocket served up another fine dinner and most turned in early in preparation for the very early start the following morning.
New Caledonia, birding at Riviere Bleue.
06:00 Tied up at Noumea
18:00 22.22S 166.15E
The ship picked up the Pilot at 01:00 and headed inside the reef to the harbour at Noumea. So by the time Aaron made the 03:15 wakeup call we were alongside the quay and the ship’s crew was busy with the Customs and Immigration agents. Joss and Rocket had got up extra early and put on a full breakfast which enabled everyone to be fed and watered by 04:30 and ready to depart. The bus kept us waiting for a time, running about half an hour late. We headed out of Noumea and into the centre of the island, towards Riviere Bleue National Park for a day’s birding.
On arrival at the park we had a quick comfort stop, and despite Aaron’s instruction that this wasn’t a birding stop, Barred Honeyeater and Red-faced Parrot Finch were spotted. Somehow we managed to drag everyone away and herd them back onto the bus to continue into the park. The driver had a few issues with the greasy road so we cautiously made our way. We arrived at Le Pont Perignon where we left the bus and were shuttled the eight kilometres to the edge of the rain forest by minivan to start birding. The first species on everybody’s wish list was the Kagu and the first bird was soon found. It responded well to the tape playback allowing great views and excellent photo opportunities. A little later we saw five Kagu in a group and throughout the day over 15 individual birds were seen. The efforts of conservationists in New Caledonia to save this remarkable bird should be applauded.
After finding the Kagu we walked through the forest along the road to Grande Kauri searching for other endemic birds. The road makes its way through second growth forest and at places there are clear views out over the river. The weather was kind to us, being not too hot with only two short heavy downpours which caused cameras to be hurriedly packed away. We saw a number of endemics as we spread out along the road. Mike caused a stampede at one stage, pointing out a green bird which ended up being a leaf! However, the prize must go to his wife Liz, who despite claiming not to be a birder was the only person to see both the New Caledonian Parakeet and the Horned Parakeet. A total of 14 endemic birds were seen amongst our group, with highlights including the Cloven-feathered Dove, New Caledonian Friarbird and Myzomela. Geoff also saw the New Caledonian Crow using a twig as a tool, which is what has made these birds famous.
The drive back to the ship was much quieter than our outbound journey, with the early morning start taking its toll and many people dozing off. Those that managed to stay awake added a few more birds to the list on the way back. On arrival back at the quay Chris called in Dark-brown Honeyeater in the few scattered trees about the wharf. Departure from New Caledonia meant saying good bye to our new friends Noel and Heather who got off the ship here due to Heathers hand injury. The ship was pulled off the wharf by a tug, and we headed out of the harbour towards the reef entrance. As we passed numerous small islands a good watch was kept for terns, with Bridled, Fairy and Crested Terns seen. Joss and Rocket had prepared some wonderful food platters and eating these outside on the monkey deck as we sailed away from New Caledonia after a great day birding made us appreciate that this is the way to live!
At sea, running up the coast of New Caledonia
06:00 21.20S 164.35E
18:00 20.02S 163.22E
First light is now around 0:600 and the keen birders are up on deck by this time, only racing inside for a quick breakfast before returning to deck to continue the watch. The birding in the morning was quite slow, although there were several large flocks of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters feeding and Black Noddy which required our attention. Throughout the day all three species of booby were seen – Masked, Brown and Red-footed, with the latter putting up a great display as they attempted to catch flying fish put up by the ship. After lunch we laid an oil slick in the water and made several passes to check for birds. This soon attracted several Tahiti Petrels, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Wilson’s Storm Petrels. Later an interesting dark storm petrel with a white rump came in to the slick briefly on two occasions and was identified as a Band-rumped Storm Petrel. Joss and Rocket produced a great dinner, followed by a stunning pudding which some of the group described as “death by chocolate”.
At sea, north of New Caledonia heading towards Rennell Island.
06:00 18.07S 162.33E
18:00 16.33S 162.05E
The early rising birders were well rewarded this morning with a Polynesian Storm Petrel being seen just before 07:00. Chris spotted the bird ahead of the ship and it came down along the port side to about mid ship when it turned and followed alongside us for a time before heading off towards the northeast. Although only seen briefly it came in fairly close to the boat and allowed good views to be had, especially showing the distinctive flight pattern – very little wing flapping and lots of gliding. Needless to say breakfast was a very short affair for most, as most people desperately searched for another one. Luck was on our side and throughout the day a further three Polynesian Storm Petrels were seen, including one bird during lunch time which caused a mad dash for the stairs! First thing in the morning Morten had found a flying fish which had landed and expired on the 400 deck. The fish was in near perfect condition and enabled a close inspection of the creature of which we have seen plenty, but obviously rarely get a chance to see in the hand. It was later thrown overboard and was taken by a Red-footed Booby.
As the temperate started to climb in the afternoon, the birding dropped off and a Hawksbill Turtle in close to the boat caused a welcome distraction. To battle the heat our Russian crew turned on the back deck hose to cool off and filled a rubbish skip with water to act as a plunge pool. Lucky wee Anneliese got to enjoy her paddling pool which was also set up on the back deck. The birding in the late afternoon picked up a little, with five Band-rumped Storm petrels, two Tropical Shearwaters and single Magnificent and Providence Petrels being seen. After dinner Mike gave a presentation on the efforts of the Taiko Trust, a community conservation group in the Chatham Islands striving to save the Magenta Petrel and other endemic bird life.
At sea, south of and heading towards Rennell Island.
06:00 14.41S 161.03E
18:00 12.15S 160.02E
In short, today was a very hot day with the birding very slow. The keen birders stuck at it all day and at the end of the day had little to crow about. It was noticed that every now and then someone disappeared from the crowd as they snuck off for a short nap! Throughout the day conversation shifted towards the upcoming landing on Rennell Island and the list of birds which might be seen. At sunset Leanne had made a tasty ‘sun down spritzer’ which was enjoyed on the bow and monkey deck. A very refreshing end to a long hot day in the sun! During the afternoon, the TV monitors were flicking through the photos which had been entered into the photo competition. After the reading of the bird list, Sarah announced the winners. The ‘At Sea’ winner was (unsurprisingly) Bruce’s image of a White-capped Albatross seen on the first day at sea whilst chumming on the Kaikoura Trench. Geoff won the ‘At Land’ section with a beautiful photo of two Kagu taken at Riverre Bleue. Laurens won the ‘People’ section with a shot of one of the Russian crew being hosed down with the deck hose to cool off. Thanks to all those who entered their images. It was great to remember the sights we have seen and the efforts of those who have been working hard with their photography. After dinner Chris presented an overview of the birds of Rennell Island, and then everyone turned in early in preparation for an early start in the morning.
Ashore at Rennell Island, Lavangu Village
06:00 11.42S 160.16E
18:00 11.56S 160.33E
During the early hours of the morning the Spirit of Enderby arrived offshore of Rennell Island, the southern most of the Solomon Islands. The waters around the island are too deep to anchor, so the Captain needed to maintain a position offshore. The morning call was made at 05:30 and breakfast was served shortly after this. At first light, Aaron and Mike went ashore to pick up the Solomon Islands Custom and Immigration Officials and brought them on board. Once formalities had been completed by the officials, we started taking passengers ashore. As it was high tide the Zodiacs had no trouble negotiating the narrow reef entrance and were soon inside the calm turquoise lagoon heading for the sandy beach. We were welcomed ashore at Lavange Village by Johnson and his friendly band of helpers. After a quick briefing by Chris we headed inland to start birding.
The road from the beach climbs up a steep slope and then meanders through the main village for some time. The village consists of about 40 dwellings and there were a lot of new buildings under construction. The birders continued along this road which initially passes through land cleared by villagers for growing crops and regenerating scrub/forest. As the road gets further inland it enters mature primary rainforest. After about two kilometres it joins a wider forestry road, along which came barrelling the odd lorry. At places we headed off this road along small trails which the villagers use to harvest timber for their own use. These trails gave us a much better sense of the nature and structure of the rainforest and in particular the rough jagged limestone nature of the forest floor. The birding was great, with good sightings of all the targeted endemic birds. Highlights included excellent views of the Silver-capped Fruit Dove, Rennell Shrikebill, Fantail and White-eye. The Bare-eyed White-eye was most interesting as it doesn’t have a white eye at all.
Those not so obsessed with birds spent their time exploring the village, wandering along paths and discovering how locals live in such an isolated location. Some of the group were invited into the homes, visited the local school and took a closer look at some of the fruit and vegetable plantations. The young local boys provided each of us with a refreshing fresh coconut to drink on the return from our walk. Jemi delighted the kids by taking photos with her digital camera and then instantly printing off photos for them. As the day warmed up many headed to the beach to swim and snorkel. The coral and fish life in the lagoon, especially in the deeper water by the lagoon entrance was quite spectacular. Peter and Liz found themselves an idyllic spot on the water’s edge at the far end of the beach to relax in peace.
At 14:30 the last Zodiac left the beach and we waved the Lagange Villagers farewell. Once on board we welcomed the news that Joss and Rocket had extended lunch time so we could all get a bite to eat. After lunch many people retired to their cabins for a well earned rest, to download photos or just to cool off in the air conditioning. Later in the afternoon some heavy rain came through which had the bow camera crew trio of Geoff, Kurt and John racing inside and temporarily abandoning their photography of flying fish. Before dinner Chris gave a run down on the birds of Makira, where we will be birding and visiting a local village tomorrow. This was followed by the usual reading of the bird list and dinner. We all agreed that today’s visit to Rennell was fantastic. The island had a wonderful feel to it, the locals were friendly and the birds great. Most turned in immediately after dinner looking forward to an early start again tomorrow as we island hop through the Solomon lslands.
Ashore at Makira Island, and Anuta Village
06:00 10.21S 161.22E
18:00 09.59S 161.05E
As dawn broke the Captain was bringing us into Kirakira Harbour where the ship anchored. Shortly afterwards the Zodiacs were lowered and the first groups were transferred to Makira Island for a mornings birding. Once all were ashore we headed up the steep track into the forest in search of birds. The logging operations have been abandoned during the past year and the roadway has become somewhat overgrown. However the damage caused by their presence was visible everywhere, with discarded logs left lying about and the forest highly degraded in places. We followed the road as it climbed into the interior of the island, working our way through areas of more intact forest and ridges with wide views across the forest where we could scan for birds. The forest was poorer than yesterday at Renell Island and the birds somewhat harder to get. Overall the birding that day was a little frustrating and pretty tough going, with many people dipping out on the key endemics. Highlights included Brahminy Kite, Pied Goshawk, Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon, Yellow-bibbed Lory, Mikira Cicadabird, and Sooty Myzomela.
Our next stop was at Anuta Village where it appeared that every villager had turned out to welcome us ashore. The local women and children had made floral leis to present to each visitor and these were presented to each of us by young girls as we came ashore. The fresh coconuts they gave us to drink were a welcome refresher after our hike through the forests. The children in particular were especially welcoming, very inquisitive and interested in our presence. Jemi was again a big hit with her camera which printed off digital images. The delight in the eyes of the children receiving a picture of themselves and their friends will remain a lasting memory. Baby Anneliese was just about kidnapped as soon as Sarah carried her ashore. The local mothers and grandmothers snatched her up in their arms as soon as she arrived and then passed her around for everyone to have a hold. The kids were delighted with her and followed her every move, including a swim later during the visit when Sarah and Anneliese were surrounded by children in the water.
The chief of the village welcomed us and explained how the village was very grateful for our visit. He told us that the outer villages of the Solomon’s receive little assistance from central government in Honiara and that this message needs to be taken back to the countries we come from. Following the welcome we were left to explore the village, with many locals showing small groups of us around. Life is pretty basic here; cooking over open fires and in stone ovens; washing and bathing in the stream; and drinking water being rainwater collected in tanks from the roof. The locals were genuinely grateful for our visit and as interested in our stories as we were with theirs.
On the way back to the ship in the Zodiacs we saw a pair of Beach Kingfishers and got some great views. Once back on-board the Spirit of Enderby there was a chance for people to go for a swim off the ship and later we set sail for Honiara. The sea was glassy calm and it didn’t take Mike long to find a small pod of Pigmy Sperm Whales, however the hopes of more such sightings during the afternoon disappeared as rain set in and the sea chopped up.
Ashore at Guadalcanal, Honiara and Mount Austin
Aaron’s morning call at 03:30 saw us anchored off Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. Joss and Rocket had again got up earlier to provide us with a hearty breakfast before our day ashore. The first Zodiacs headed to the bustling wharves at 04:30, dodging the inter-island freighters and dugout canoes in the dark on the way in. Our local agent Wilson and his drivers were waiting for us and we transferred to the shuttle bus and four wheel drive vehicles for the trip up to Mount Austin. The morning had gone smoothly, so we arrived up the mountain before day break. This gave us the chance to try for the owl, and following tape playback it was heard in the distance but not seen. We arrived at the top of Mount Austin just as day was breaking.
After a quick briefing by Chris, we headed off into the forest. From the clearing at the top of the hill, the path dropped off steeply down into a river valley, followed shortly by a wide vista which provided good views over a large area of forest. Some time was spent here targeting birds and was the only place that the Buff-headed Coucal was seen (several others were heard, but not seen). As the track continued to drop into the valley it passed through a variety of habitats from areas of thick forest to regenerating forest and then small grassy clearings. The birding was much more productive than yesterday, with the tally of targeted birds slowly increasing as the group moved further along the trail. There seemed to be a lack of smaller forest birds however, or was it just that these were harder to see? The Ultramarine Kingfisher was spotted and the bird stayed perched for some time allowing excellent views and photo opportunities. Most ended up with a pretty healthy bird list for the area, with highlights including great views of Blyth’s Hornbill, Solomon’s Sea Eagle, Solomon’s Cuckooshrike and Black-headed Myyzomela.
Meanwhile, those who didn’t want an early morning start headed into Honiara at 08:00 and spent the day exploring the city. Joss and Rocket visited the local market and bought a selection of local fruits which were provided at lunch. The refreshing taste of local tropic fruits was greatly enjoyed by the group. The overall impression of Honiara is that the locals are friendly, but that there is much poverty and hardship, resulting in the town centre being somewhat run down.
The birders arrived back at the wharf at 11:30 and headed back out to the ship for lunch. We bid farewell to Leanne, Matt and Mike as they left the ship for flights out to Brisbane and home. In the early afternoon we set sail once again and the wildlife highlight was a pod of False Killer Whales. That evening we enjoyed a stunning sunset as we continued our way northwards.
Ashore at Kolombangara Island, Kukudu
The Spirit of Enderby had made good time overnight and dawn saw us heading into Kolombangara Island a few hours ahead of schedule. This was welcome news as it provided more time for birding. The Zodiacs started shuttling people ashore straight after breakfast at 07:30. The trip to shore passed around a coral reef and landed people at the mouth of a small river in the village of Kukudu. A huge tree beside the landing place provided a welcome source of shade. Wasting no time as usual, Chris provided a quick briefing and then we headed out through the school grounds in search of the Roviana Rail. Chris’s playback did not work in attracting any rails, but he did manage to attract the attention of a cat which started stalking towards the call!
As the tracks on this island are narrow single file tracks, it was best to split the group into two to head off birding, each doing the same circuit but in a different direction. Initially the track followed the coastline through a grove of coconut palms where Graham, Allan and Janet were lucky enough to see two Melanesian Scrubfowl. We meandered through a village which stretched along the river bank to the forest edge. The track then dived into the forest, initially low regenerating forest, but further back it became more mature but was clearly not completely unmodified. Our local guides led us around a number of trails as we searched for birds, finally coming back out onto the Kukudu school sports field.
The days birding was somewhat tough going, birds could be heard calling but would not come out to be seen even when we used tape playback, so the extra time ashore was valuable. However, the list of targeted birds seen gradually crept up, and by the end of play a good selection of birds had been recorded. The first group managed to get the Roviana Rail relatively easily, with the second group waiting at the same spot for over an hour. By this time a small group had broken off to go back into the forest to continue searching for other birds, only to end up missing the rail. Back at the landing site the local artists had gathered and were displaying a range of stone and wood carvings which were for sale. Many of the cravings were true works of art and are a credit to the local villagers. The tide had dropped during our time ashore, so the Zodiacs had to weave their way out of the small river channel to get everyone back on board for a late lunch.
After lunch we drifted along the coast and a group of kids in six dugout canoes paddled out to the ship. Their friendly smiles and waves were a delight to see. A large burst of thunder had them quickly turning for shore however as they obviously had a healthy respect for the weather! Shortly afterwards we boarded our own 'canoes' (a.k.a. Zodiacs!) and headed towards land again. Chris led the small group who dipped out on the rail back for another crack, while the remaining three Zodiacs went for a cruise along the mangrove forests. This was a fascinating trip and a magical way to experience the island. We passed several women fishing from dugout canoes, saw amazing orchids hanging from branches and had good views of the birds. Aaron led us along a narrow waterway deep into the mangroves where we often had to dodge fallen trees. Heinz who was perched on the front of one of the Zodiacs had to lie flat as the craft made its way under a low fallen tree to avoid being knocked off! When we arrived back at the ship at sunset, everyone agreed that our last day in the Solomon Islands was great, with the Zodiac cruise a great way to finish off. At the reading of the bird list, Erling again pointed out which of the birds we had seen represented an endemic subspecies.
At sea, passing Bougainville and New Britain.
The morning found us over the deep water trench between Bougainville and New Britain, Papua New Guinea, and throughout the day we moved closer inshore, travelling along the 1000 metre contour. This is an area which in the past has produced good birding and cetaceans so most were up early and on deck scanning the seas. The day proved to be a little disappointing with only a small number of birds, whales and dolphins seen. Whilst in the Solomons we had learned that the water temperature was 3-5 degrees warmer than usual and it would seem likely that this has influenced the marine life. Part way through the day the ship suddenly did an abrupt u-turn and then came to a standstill. The Captain reported that there was an issue with communication between the bridge and the rudder, which left us drifting in calm waters for an hour while the problem was resolved. The main highlight of the day was the sighting of a few Heinroth’s Shearwater, a species all of the birders were keen to see.
At sea, between New Britain and New Ireland
Dawn break on our final day at sea saw all the usual suspects on deck, keen to make the most of their last opportunity for more ticks. This time they were quickly rewarded with an early sighting of Beck’s Petrel. Many people decided to forgo breakfast in the hope of getting another sighting, and more than once there was a mass departure from the restaurant when a Beck’s Petrel sighting was radioed in. As the day progressed it proved to be a very fruitful one, with the birding and cetacean watching much better than yesterday. Regular sightings of target birds, whales and dolphins kept the team interested and keen. Highlights for the day included multiple sightings of Beck’s Petrel and Heinroth’s Shearwater, and sightings of False Killer Whales and Spinner Dolphins.
The final evening in the bar saw all crowded in for the last reading of the bird list by Chris. The final tally of species was 206, and Mike won the BirdLife ‘Guess the number of birds seen’ competition. Sarah then announced the winners of the second photo challenge. They were: Bruce with his shot of a sleeping child in a village; Hannah with an underwater shot of a floating coconut; John with his Beach Kingfisher shot; and Laurens with his Ultramarine Kingfisher shot. Afterwards Aaron put on a slideshow reviewing the expedition. It was great to see all the photos and re-live the trip from the beginning. It has been an amazing trip with some stunning birds and fascinating locations. After the final dinner prepared by Joss and Rocket, Bruce gave a short slide show of his photos from the trip. He had some truly stunning shots and was a nice way to close out the night.
New Ireland, ashore at Kavieng
At dawn we anchored in the Port of Kavieng. The Papua New Guinea Immigration and Customs officials took their time coming onboard and then took even longer processing the paper work before we could go ashore. The call this ‘island time’! Everyone was busy packing and organising themselves, and finally we were given the all clear to head ashore. Baggage was sent ashore first and the passengers followed. Once ashore we were transferred to the Kavieng Hotel to drop off gear before our day trip.
We boarded a couple of buses and mini vans for the hour and a half drive south of Kavieng to a small village. On the way out everybody was moved by how much of the vegetation had been cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. Large swathes of the island were covered in the palms and it was a stark contrast to the lush forests we have been visiting. Many island economies inevitably rely on this type of agriculture but it seems a shame to lose so much native vegetation. The traditional welcome was loud and colourful, with some amazing masks used. Afterwards a lunch of barbecued chicken and fish with locally grown vegetables and fruit was served. On the way back to the hotel we headed inland to an area of forest where we spent an hour looking for birds. A number of endemics were spotted.
That evening we all gathered in the hotel restaurant for a seafood buffet dinner. We spent a pleasant evening chatting, swapping emails and talking over the expedition highlights and birds seen.
We were all agreed, the Western Pacific Odyssey 2013 was a great trip.
Voyage # 1277
Western Pacific Odyssey
29 March 2012 - 28 April 2012
© Heritage Expeditions © Heritage Expeditions
The taxonomy and English names used in this checklist generally follow The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World by James Clements with revisions made where an alternative name/taxonomy is considered more appropriate.
This systematic list was compiled by Chris Collins (based on the figures agreed at the nightly logs) and includes all species recorded between departing Tauranga and arriving in Yokohama.
Accurately counting seabirds at sea is extremely difficult (eg as one can never be sure which birds are following or revisiting the ship), so the system outlined below was adopted, with this also used for the more numerous land birds:
1-10 = actual number seen
11-100 = A
101-1,000 = B
1,001-10,000 = C
10,001-100,000 = D
Non-native introductions are shown in brackets.
Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa
A low A was logged on Kolombangara on 12 April with similar numbers also then noted on Chuuk on 17-18 April.
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
A lone bird seen on Chuuk on 18 April was the sole sighting on the expedition.
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Three were seen on Chuuk on 17 April.
Melanesian Scrubfowl Megapodius eremita
A single bird was seen during the shore excursion on Makira (10 April).
[Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus]
This introduced species is well established on Norfolk Island and two were seen during the zodiac cruise along the
western shoreline (2 April).
Snowy Albatross Diomedea exulans
Several birds which were considered to be this form/species were seen in the Hauraki Gulf (30 March).
Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis
A single bird which showed features of this form/species was seen in the Hauraki Gulf (30 March) with a further
individual noted the following day.
Gibson's Albatross Diomedea gibsoni
A number of birds showing characteristics of this form/species were seen in the Hauraki Gulf (30 March) with
others seen the following day.
Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus
Participants on WPO 2012 enjoyed the best showing by this species for several years with at least 22 individuals
seen across three days.
A total of nine birds, in various plumages, were seen off Torishima on 25 April, with some good views in the late
afternoon close to the ship. The following morning, there were some more close encounters (again offshore from
Torishima) with the day total being ten individuals, which included several seen as the 'Spirit of Enderby' continued
The final sightings were between Miyake-jima (Izu Islands) and Tokyo Bay (27 April) where three different birds
Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis
This species can be tricky along the WPO route, however, three birds were seen between Miyake-jima and Tokyo
Bay (27 April).
Black-footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes
The first sightings of this species were on 24 April (east of the Bonin Islands) where A was logged. Similar numbers
were then seen on the subsequent two days (off Torishima and cruising northward from there), with the final birds
being as the ship sailed north from Miyake-jima to Tokyo Bay on 27 April.
Campbell Albatross Thalassarche impavida
Four were seen in the Hauraki Gulf on 30 March with the characteristic honey-coloured eyes of this form/species
being well seen on some of the closer birds.
White-capped Albatross Thalassarche steadi
A low A was logged in both the Hauraki Gulf (30 March) and the following day, with the birds considered to be this
form/species of 'Shy' albatross.
Pacific Albatross Thalassarche platei
A single bird was seen in the Hauraki Gulf (30 March) with at least five the following day.
Although it is difficult to be absolutely sure, it appeared that the birds were 'Pacific Albatrosses' which is split by
some authorities from Buller's Albatross.
Beck's Petrel Pseudobulweria becki
One of the major specialities of the voyage, with at least eight individuals of this extremely poorly known species
seen off New Ireland on 14 April. The first of these was on a chum slick off Cap St George in the early morning,
with at least three later in the day on another slick which was laid further north near to the Feni Islands.
Single birds were also seen the previous evening off NW Bougainville and the following day whilst cruising north
towards Chuuk, although the views were much better on 14 April.
Tahiti Petrel Pseudobulweria rostrata
This species was seen on a daily basis from 1-8 April inclusive (day south of Norfolk Island - day south of Rennell
Island) with A logged on three dates and low single figure counts on the other days.
The only other sightings were off New Ireland (14 April) where three birds were recorded.
Grey-faced Petrel Pterodroma gouldi
Good numbers were seen on a daily basis between the Hauraki Gulf and Norfolk Island (30 March - 2 April) with
the highest count being a low B (ie at least 100 individuals) on 1 April.
Providence Petrel Pterodroma solandri
This species is not recorded annually on the WPO, however, two individuals were seen on 3 April, ie the sea day
north of Norfolk Island.
Kermadec Petrel Pterodroma neglecta
Seen on six dates with the majority of sightings being between 31 March-3 April when this species was seen on a
daily basis, with a low A logged on 1 April (day south of Norfolk Island). The only sightings outside this period were
single birds on 8 April (sea day south of Rennell) and 23 April (sea day south of Bonin Islands).
Herald Petrel Pterodroma heraldica
Two birds were seen whilst cruising north from the Three Kings Islands, off northern North Island. This area had
not been previously visited on the WPO and these constituted the first records for any WPO expedition.
White-necked Petrel Pterodroma cervicalis
There were sightings on five dates. A was logged on a daily basis between 31 March-3 April, with the final record
being a lone bird close to New Caledonia on 4 April.
Cook's Petrel Pterodroma cookii
This species has generally finished breeding with most birds having left their New Zealand breeding grounds by the
time the WPO starts, although A was logged in the Hauraki Gulf (30 March) and the following day as the ship
cruised north from the Three Kings Islands. The final sightings were four birds on 1 April.
Gould's Petrel Pterodroma leucoptera
Seen on a daily basis between 31 March- 6 April (day 1 to Norfolk Island - day 1 to Rennell) with the highest counts
being around the southern end of New Caledonia (4-5 April) when B was logged.
Collared Petrel Pterodroma brevipes
Separating pale morph Collared Petrels from Gould's Petrels is never easy and is best done from photos, however,
birds which appeared to be Collared Petrels were seen on 1, 3, 4 and 5 April.
Interestingly, photos suggested that a surprisingly large number of the Pterodromas seen off southern New
Caledonia (3-4 April) were this species even though it is not considered to breed there. This raises the intriguing
question as to whether the criteria for separating Gould's and Collared Petrels are indeed correct, or whether the
former actually breeds in the mountains of New Caledonia.
Magnificent Petrel Pterodroma (brevipes) magnificens
Birds which were considered to be this form/species were well photographed on 3 and 7 April (day south of New
Caledonia and two days south of Rennell Island).
Bonin Petrel Pterodroma hypoleuca
The most northerly of the Pterodromas which are regularly seen on the WPO, with the first sightings being three
days south of the Bonin Islands (21 April: low A). The largest numbers were recorded in the vicinity of the Bonin
Islands with B logged on both the day south of the islands and whilst cruising past the archipelago. There were
then single figure counts on the following two days (25 April off Torishima: 2; and 26 April northwards from
Black-winged Petrel Pterodroma nigripennis
Encountered on a daily basis from the Hauraki Gulf (30 March) until a day north of Norfolk Island (3 April) with A
logged on the middle three days and single figures counts on the other two dates.
Pycroft's Petrel Pterodroma pycrofti
Two birds which were considered to be this species were photographed in the Hauraki Gulf on 30 March.
Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur
A was logged in the Hauraki Gulf on 30 March with five birds then seen the following day.
Bulwer's Petrel Bulweria bulweria
Seen in good numbers, with sightings on nine dates and a total of 27 individuals recorded. The first bird was on 9
April (off Rennell), however, between 15-23 April May (a day north of New Ireland - day south of Bonin Islands),
birds were seen on seven dates, with the highest count being 15 individuals three days south of the Bonin Islands.
White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis
A single bird was photographed in the Hauraki Gulf on 30 March.
Black Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni
B was recorded in the Hauraki Gulf (30 March) with A noted the following day and a total of three birds across the
subsequent two dates.
Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas
This species is sometimes recorded off New Ireland and on WPO 2012 we logged a low A there, with a further four
birds seen the following day. The biggest numbers were, however, on the last three days of the expedition with a
high C (ie approaching 10,000 individuals) between Miyake-jima and Tokyo Bay (27 April).
Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes
This species was recorded at both ends of the voyage, with a high A in the Hauraki Gulf (15 April), two birds the
following day and a single individual off Norfolk Island (2 April). Another lone individual was then seen off the
Bonin Islands (24 April) with the final records being seven birds between Miyake-jima and Tokyo Bay (27 April).
Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus
This was the most frequently encountered species on the voyage with sightings on 23 dates. The first records were
a day south of Norfolk Island (1 April: 6) and birds were then seen on an almost daily basis until north of Torishima.
On most dates, A or B was logged with the highest count being in the evening shortly after leaving New Caledonia
when a high C (ie approaching 10,000 birds) was recorded.
During the first half of the trip, dark phase birds predominated, however, during the latter stages of the expedition
almost all the birds were pale.
Buller's Shearwater Puffinus bulleri
Only seen in the Hauraki Gulf on 30 March where a high B was recorded and the following day when A was logged.
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus
Only seen in the early and latter stages of the voyage with a total of eleven birds recorded. The first of these were
in the Hauraki Gulf (30 March: 3) with a lone bird then recorded the following day. The only other confirmed
sightings were close to Japan with three off the Bonin Islands (24 April) and four between Miyake-jima and Tokyo
Bay (27 April).
Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris
This species was recorded on 22 dates with almost daily sightings from a day north of Norfolk Island (3 April) until
reaching Tokyo Bay (27 April). On many previous WPOs, big flocks of migrating birds have been recorded but these
were not in evidence until the latter stages of the 2012 expedition with single figure counts on the majority of
The highest numbers were a day south of the Bonin Islands when a low C was recorded.
Christmas Shearwater Puffinus nativitatis
A new bird for the WPO systematic list, with at least two individuals off the northern end of the North Marianas
Islands archipelago on 21 April, with one of these being well photographed.
Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavial
A was logged in the Hauraki Gulf (30 March) with a further four birds the following day.
Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
Seen on a daily basis from 30 March - 2 April (Hauraki Gulf - Norfolk Island) with the highest count (a low A) on
the last of these dates.
The birds seen around Norfolk Island were presumably of the race assimilis which breeds on Norfolk Island. It is
interesting to note, however, that according to Margaret Christian who wrote the field guide to the birds of the
island, there are summer and winter breeding populations which vary so markedly in size that they require
different size leg rings !!
Further south, the birds were presumably of the subspecies haurakiensis which, as its name suggests, breeds in the
Bryan's Shearwater Puffinus bryani
This taxon, which was only described in 2011, has since been discovered to breed on some of the small islets at the
northern end of the Bonin Islands archipelago and it has been speculated that this could be one of its main
breeding grounds. A bird which showed the described characteristics (eg small size, white face etc) was seen on 24
April a few miles offshore from these islands.
Atoll ("Tropical") Shearwater Puffinus (bailloni) dichrous
The first sightings were near Noumea, New Caledonia on 5 April with single birds then seen on the following two
Birds were then seen close to Chuuk (17 April: 2; 18 April: 5) with others off the North Mariana Islands (22 April:
low A, 23 April: 2) with the final sighting being a lone bird off Torishima on 25 April which was considered to not be
a Bannerman's Shearwater.
Although the Audubon's/Little/Tropical Shearwater complex has recently been split by several authorities, it seems
clear that the situation has not been fully resolved, as there are plumage differences between some of the
different populations, winter and summer breeders on the same island etc. The name 'Atoll shearwater' has,
therefore, been used to describe the birds seen on this voyage, ie to differentiate them from those in the Indian
Ocean, however, even this is undoubtedly a simplification of the situation.
Bannerman's Shearwater Puffinus bannermani
The identification criteria for this poorly known bird remain somewhat confused, especially as Atoll ("Tropical")
Shearwaters also seemingly occurs in the waters between the North Marianas and Bonin Islands.
A bird which was considered to be Bannerman's Shearwater was, however, seen east of the Bonin Islands (24
Heinroth's Shearwater Puffinus heinrothi
One of the star seabirds of the WPO with a total of nine individuals logged across four dates, a far wider range of
sightings than on any previous WPO expedition.
The first record was close to the Russell Islands, west of Guadalcanal, on 11 April, with five then noted the
following day close inshore to Kolombangara. Two birds were then seen off western Bougainville on 13 April with
a singleton off New Ireland the following day.
Wilson's Storm-petrel Oceanites oceanicus
This species was seen periodically throughout the voyage and was recorded on eleven dates including daily
sightings between 30 March-4 April. The first sightings were eight birds in the Hauraki Gulf (30 March) with the
final sightings being two birds east of the Bonin Islands on 24 April. The typical number seen on any one day was
between 1-4 birds with the maximum being eight.
New Zealand Storm-petrel Oceanites maorianus
Oiling in the outer Hauraki Gulf for this species proved highly successful with a low A logged for the day. The
maximum number seen at any one time was fourteen birds, with possibly at least twenty during the day.
The following day a single bird was recorded whilst cruising north from the Three Kings Islands.
"New Caledonian Storm-petrel"
Participants on WPO 2012 had by far the best views to date of this mystery storm-petrel (which resembles New
Zealand Storm-petrel), with at least one individual seen well to the east of all previous sightings (2008, 2010 and
When a short article about the 2008 sighting was published in the British magazine Birding World (by Steve Howell
and Chris Collins) reference was made to the fact that a number of observers felt the bird was too large to be New
Zealand Storm-petrel. The excellent views on WPO 2012 solidified this belief, with good photos taken of the bird
immediately alongside a Wilson's Storm-petrel.
White-faced Storm-petrel Pelagodroma marina
The first sightings were of four birds in the Hauraki Gulf on 30 March with two then logged the following day and
the final sightings being three individuals near Norfolk Island on 2 April.
White-bellied Storm-petrel Fregetta grallaria
Three individuals were seen on 3 April as we cruised north from Norfolk Island towards New Caledonia. It is
interesting to note that this species was not recorded on the first two WPO expeditions but 2012 was the fourth
year in succession it has been seen.
Polynesian Storm-petrel Nesofregetta fuliginosa
Two individuals of this poorly known and endangered species were found on 7 April (day 2 to Rennell) with a
further bird seen the following day.
This final individual, which was seen well by many close to the bows of the ship, was the most northerly WPO
record by at least 200 nautical miles.
Leach's Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa
This species was only seen in the late stages of the expedition with five birds seen between 22-25 April (two days
south of the Bonin Islands - Torishima).
Tristram's Storm-petrel Oceanodroma tristrami
The first sightings of this species were on the day the ship passed the Bonin Islands (24 April) where A was logged.
Similar numbers were then recorded (ie up to 100 individuals) on the following two days, with the highest counts
being on 27 April (cruising towards Tokyo Bay from Miyake-jima) when B was recorded.
Matsudaira's Storm-petrel Oceanodroma matsudairae
This species was seen on six consecutive dates with the first sightings being four days south of the Bonin Islands
(20 April: 4 birds). For the following three days A was logged, with B then recorded off the Bonin Islands on 24
April. The final records were four birds off Torishima (25 April).
Common Diving-petrel Pelecanoides urinatrix
Good numbers were seen in the Hauraki Gulf on 30 March with A logged.
Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda
The first sighting was a day north of the Hauraki Gulf (31 March: 1), with birds then seen on the subsequent three
days including some good views of this species on the zodiac cruise off the western side of Norfolk Island (2 April:
A total of seven individuals were then seen on an irregular basis between 6-25 April with the final sighting being off
Torishima on 25 April.
White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus
This species is invariably more regularly recorded on the WPO than Red-tailed Tropicbird with sightings on sixteen
dates including daily sightings from New Ireland (14 April) until a day south of the Bonin Islands (23 April). There
was only one occasion during the trip when more than three birds were logged (17 April Chuuk: 6) with all other
counts being between 1-3 individuals.
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor
Although many of the more distant frigatebirds seen during the voyage were not identified to species, there were
confirmed sightings of Great Frigatebird on nine dates with the first sighting (1 bird) being off Norfolk Island on 2
April and the final record off Chuuk on 17 April. The highest count was off New Ireland where B was logged.
Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel
This species was only recorded during the middle section of the trip, with birds seen on nine dates between 5-15
April (New Caledonia-day 1 north of New Ireland). On most occasions, the day counts were in single figures
although off Bougainville, New Ireland and a day north of there (13-15 April), A or B was logged.
Masked Booby Sula dactylatra
This species was recorded on seven dates during the voyage with the largest numbers (A) recorded close to
Norfolk Island (2 April) with all other counts being in single figures.
It is worth noting that the birds on Norfolk Island are 'Tasman Boobies' and these may eventually be treated as a
full species given there are structural and plumage differences from other populations.
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster
This species was encountered on seventeen dates between New Caledonia and Tokyo (6-27 April). Although most
day counts were in low single figures, A was logged off Guadalcanal (11 April) and the Bonin Islands (24 April).
Red-footed Booby Sula sula
Seen on fifteen dates between 2-24 April (Norfolk Island - Bonin Islands) although on most dates only a single
figure count was recorded.
Following the sighting of a sub-adult white morph bird south of the Bonin Islands in 2011 which had a dark tail and
thus showed the main characteristic of the Eastern Pacific subspecies websteri, there were a couple more records
of similar looking birds in the latter stages of the 2012 expedition. It is presumed that this is, therefore, a rare
plumage variant in West Pacific populations rather than birds wandering from further afield.
Australian Gannet Morus serrator
The only records were in the Hauraki Gulf on 30 March when B was logged and the following day when a low A (ie
c20-30 individuals) was recorded.
Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
Two birds were noted whilst zodiac cruising along the west coast of Norfolk Island (2 April) where this species is a
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
A reasonably common bird in Tokyo Bay (27 April).
Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius
The only record on the voyage was shortly after the 'Spirit of Enderby' left the wharf at Tauranga (29 March)
where there is a small colony of this species.
Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos
Three birds were observed on the trip to Riviere Bleue on New Caledonia (5 April), with a lone bird in the harbour
at Honiara on 11 April being the only other record on the expedition.
Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
A total of at least thirteen birds were observed during the shore excursions on Chuuk (17-18 April).
Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia
A single bird was seen at the small marsh on Chuuk (18 April).
White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae
Recorded during the zodiac cruise off Norfolk Island (2 April: 1) and on New Caledonia (5 April: 2).
Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra
Seen on five dates with three birds on New Caledonia (5 April), one on Rennell (9 April), two on Kolombangara (12
April) and four individuals on both days on Chuuk (17-18 April).
Striated Heron Butorides striatus
Two birds seen on the zodiac cruise through the mangroves on Kolombangara (12 April) were the only sightings of
Rufous Night-Heron Nycticorax caledonicus
This species was only recorded on Chuuk with seven birds seen in the late afternoon of 17 April and five the
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
As the ship cruised into Tokyo Bay on 27 April, a low A was logged.
Australian Ibis Threskiornis molucca
This species is reasonably common on Rennell with A logged on 9 April.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
This species was seen in small numbers on three of the islands visited in the Solomons, namely Rennell (9 April),
Makira (10 April) and Kolombangara (12 April). The only other records were on New Caledonia where there were a
total of two sightings.
It is worth noting that some authorities now split the Osprey and if this proposal is followed, the birds seen on the
WPO would be Eastern Ospreys.
Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata
Somewhat surprisingly, the only sighting of the expedition was a lone bird on Makira on 10 April.
Black (-eared) Kite Milvus (migrans) lineatus
Only seen as the 'Spirit of Enderby' cruised through Tokyo Bay (27 April) with A logged.
Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus
This species was only seen on New Caledonia with three recorded on 4 April and a low A the following day during
the shore excursion to Riviere Bleue.
Brahminy Kite Haliastur Indus
This species was seen on three of the four landings in the Solomons (none on Rennell) with a total of nine
Solomon Islands Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus sanfordi
This impressive Solomon Islands endemic was seen on three islands with two birds on Makira (10 April) and four
individuals the following day at Mount Austin on Guadalcanal. The final sightings were two birds during the shore
excursion on Kolombangara (12 April).
Variable Goshawk Accipiter hiogaster
A single bird was seen at Mount Austin on Guadalcanal on 11 April.
Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus
There were three sightings of this species on Rennell on 9 April.
Pied Goshawk Accipiter albogularis
This species is endemic to the Solomon Islands and birds were seen on Makira (10 April: 2), at Mount Austin,
Guadalcanal (11 April: 2) and on Kolombangara (12 April: 1).
Australian Kestrel Falco cenchroides
A single individual was seen during the zodiac cruise off Norfolk Island (2 April).
Oriental Hobby Falco severus
One was seen during the zodiac cruise through the mangroves on Kolombangara (12 April).
Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philippensis
A single bird was seen during the journey back to Noumea from Riviere Bleue on New Caledonia (5 April).
Roviana Rail Gallirallus rovianae
Five individuals of this highly localised Solomon Islands endemic were seen on Kolombangara (12 April).
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
At least eight birds were seen on 12 April whilst ashore on Kolombangara.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
This species is a reasonably recent, seemingly natural, colonist of Chuuk and birds were seen on both days (17-18
Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus
This species is always one of the major landbird highlights of the WPO and we enjoyed great looks at eleven birds
at Riviere Bleue, New Caledonia on 5 April.
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Ten birds were present near the landing site on Kolombangara (12 April) with slightly smaller numbers seen on
both days on Chuuk (17-18 April). The only other sightings were birds seen flying passed the ship in the latter
stages of the expedition with two recorded on 26 April (sailing north from Torishima) and a lone individual the
following day between Miyake-jima and Tokyo Bay.
South Island Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus finschi
Several birds were seen as the ship sailed from Tauranga on 29 March.
Variable Oystercatcher Haematopus unicolor
Another species which was only seen as the ship sailed from Tauranga (29 March) with several feeding on the
Wandering Tattler Heterosceles incanus
Five were found whilst zodiac cruising along the shoreline of Norfolk Island on 2 April, with the only other sightings
being a total of four birds on Chuuk (17-18 April).
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
A single bird was noted on Rennell (9 April) with the only other sighting of the expedition being one flying past the
ship between Miyake-jima and Tokyo Bay (27 April).
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
A reasonably common species on Chuuk with A logged on both days (17-18 April). A lone migrating bird was also
seen flying by on 25 April (offshore from Torishima).
Grey ("Red") Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius
This species was only recorded during the final days of the expedition with sightings on 25-28 April (Torishima-
Yokohama). The highest numbers were between Miyake-jima and Tokyo Bay when B was logged.
Red-billed Gull Chroicocephalus scopulinus
This New Zealand endemic was only seen in Tauranga (29 March) and around the Maori Rocks in the Hauraki Gulf,
where there was a substantial flock which was estimated to be approaching 1,000 birds (30 March).
Silver Gull Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae
This species was reasonably numerous (A) around the harbour in Noumea, New Caledonia on both 4 and 5 April.
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
A common bird in Tokyo Bay (27 April) where a low B was logged.
Vega Gull Larus vegae
Seen in reasonable numbers in Tokyo Bay (27 April) with A recorded.
Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus
A lone bird in Tokyo Bay (27 April) was the sole sighting of the expedition.
Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris
Another gull which was only seen at the very end of the expedition. This species was also reasonably numerous
with A logged on 27 April (ie the approach to and within Tokyo Bay).
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus
This species was first seen on the sea day south of Norfolk Island on (1 April) and last recorded off the Bonin
Islands on 25 April with sightings spread across fifteen days between those dates.
The highest numbers were recorded around Chuuk (18 April) where B was logged.
Black Noddy Anous minutes
This species was encountered on an almost daily basis between a day south of Norfolk Island (1 April) and a day
north of Chuuk (19 April) with sightings on fifteen dates. The highest counts were around Norfolk Island and
Chuuk, where B was logged.
Grey Ternlet Procelsterna albivitta
This species is regular in the Hauraki Gulf and also breeds around Norfolk Island. It was seen on a daily basis
between these two locations (30 March-2 April) with A logged at the Maori Rocks in the Hauraki Gulf and daily
single figure counts for the following three days.
White Tern Gygis alba
Sightings of this species were divided into two discrete blocks with birds seen on a daily basis from the sea day
south of Norfolk Island until arriving at New Caledonia (1-4 April) and from 14-22 April (New Ireland - two days
south of the Bonin Islands). The highest count was around Chuuk on 18 April where B was logged with all other
daily maxima being in single figures or A.
Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscata
Generally this widespread species is one of the most frequently encountered seabirds on the voyage and in 2012
was seen regularly between Norfolk Island (2 April) and Torishima (25 April). There were sightings on eighteen
dates during this period with B logged on seven occasions and the highest count being off Bougainville where C
was recorded on 13 April.
Grey-backed Tern Sterna lunata
This species rarely seems to approach ships although birds were seen on four dates with the highest count being
off Bougainville where a low A was logged on 13 April. Two birds were seen as the ship cruised away from
Guadalcanal on 11 April with a further two individuals noted off New Ireland (14 April).
The best sightings of the expedition were, however, way to the north with six individuals seen reasonable well
offshore from some of the uninhabited islands at the northern end of the North Marianas archipelago on 21 April.
Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus
This species was only encountered whilst cruising through the Solomon Islands and off Bougainville with a total of
eight individuals logged between 11-13 April.
Little Tern Sternula albifrons
Two birds in Tokyo Bay (27 April) were the only records on the expedition.
Fairy Tern Sternula nereis
Good numbers were found shortly before arriving at Noumea on 4 April with three birds also seen the following
afternoon as the ship departed New Caledonia for the Solomon Islands.
Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii
Seen on four widely spaced dates with the highest number being four individuals off Rennell on 9 April.
White-fronted Tern Sterna striata
Only seen as the ship sailed from Tauranga on 29 March where several individuals were seen.
Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana
Good numbers were in the waters around Chuuk with A logged on 17 April and B the following day. The only other
sightings were four birds (4 April:1 and 5 April: 3) as the ship sailed between the reef entrance and Noumea.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
This species was only recorded on Chuuk with what was presumed to be the same lost individual seen on both 17
and 18 April.
Great Crested Tern Sterna bergi
This species was seen close to the majority of islands between New Caledonia and Chuuk (with sightings on nine
dates) with the highest count being offshore from Kolombangara where A was logged (12 April). On almost all
other days when this species was recorded, counts were in single figures.
South Polar Skua Stercorarius maccormicki
A total of seven 'South Polars' were seen between 23-27 April with three on 25 April (off Torishima) and lone
individuals on all other dates.
Brown Skua Stercorarius antarcticus
This species was new for the WPO list and two birds were noted close to the Three Kings Islands off northern New
Zealand on 31 March.
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus
This species returned to a more normal level of sightings on WPO 2012, after only a limited number of records in
2011 (when the expedition commenced three weeks later), with birds noted on eleven dates. Most of these were
seen in the second half of the expedition with the highest count being 42 birds between Miyake-jima and Tokyo
Bay (27 April).
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus
There were single figure counts of this species on eleven widely spaced dates with the first sighting being in the
Hauraki Gulf (30 March) and the final records between Miyake-jima and Tokyo Bay on the last sea day of the
expedition (27 April).
Long-tailed Skua Stercorarius longicaudus
The most frequently recorded Skua in terms of the number of birds sighted and dates with at least 65 individuals
seen across fourteen days.
This species was noted on an almost daily basis from Bougainville (13 April) until Tokyo Bay (27 April) although two
birds were also recorded off Northern New Zealand on 31 March with one the previous day in the Hauraki Gulf.
Probably the most bizarre record was an individual which was seen harassing a South Polar Skua - something
which cannot have been seen many times previously !!!
Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus
Two birds were seen in Tokyo Bay on 27 April.
Japanese Murrelet Synthliboramphus wumizusume
Japanese Murrelet is the last of the 'big birds' on the WPO itinerary and two birds were seen very well off the bows
of the ship as we cruised past their breeding islets near Miyake-jima on 27 April with several other birds seen more
distantly in the same general area.
Rhinoceros Auklet Cerorhinca monocerata
Another species which is only seen at the very end of the voyage with approximately twenty birds (ie a low A)
logged in Tokyo Bay (27 April).
Metallic Pigeon Columba vitiensis
Six birds were seen in the late afternoon of 4 April at Mount Koghi, New Caledonia with the only other sighting
being a lone bird on Makira on 1 May. Although this was the fifth time the 'Spirit of Enderby' had visited Makira,
this was only the second sighting of this species on this island.
[Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis]
This Asian introduction was seen on New Caledonia, with A recorded on both 4 and 5 April.
Mackinlay's Cuckoo-dove Macropygia mackinlayi
This species can be found on all islands on the WPO itinerary through the Solomons archipelago and was indeed
recorded on all landings there, with the highest count being on Rennell (9 April) where A was logged. On all other
dates, there were only low single figure counts.
Pacific Emerald Dove Chalcophaps longirostris
The only sightings of the voyage were two individuals at Riviere Bleue on 5 April.
Stephan's Dove Chalcophaps stephani
A single bird was seen on the shore excursion to Mount Austin, Guadalcanal (11 April), with another lone individual
the following day on Kolombangara.
Caroline Islands Ground-dove Gallicolumba kubaryi
This species is endemic to the Caroline Islands and was seen in good numbers on Weno on 18 April with a low A
recorded. Three birds were also observed the previous afternoon in a brief walk after the ship had been cleared.
Crimson-crowned Fruit-dove Ptilinopus porphyraceus
Reasonably numerous on Chuuk, with A logged on both days ashore (17-18 April).
Yellow-bibbed Fruit-dove Ptilinopus solomonensis
Two birds were seen on Makira (10 April).
Silver-capped Fruit-dove Ptilinopus richardsii
This species is endemic to Rennell and a few nearby islets, however, it is fairly common with A recorded on 9 April.
Claret-breasted Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus viridis
Another range-restricted fruit-dove which was seen on Guadalcanal (11 April: A) and Kolombangara (12 April: A).
White-headed Fruit-dove Ptilinopus eugeniae
This species is endemic to Makira and a few adjacent small islands and was seen during the shore excursion on 10
April with two individuals logged.
Pacific Imperial-pigeon Ducula pacifica
This species was only seen on Rennell (9 April) with a low A recorded.
Red-knobbed Imperial-pigeon Ducula rubricera
This impressive looking pigeon was seen in reasonable numbers on Makira, Guadalcanal and Kolombangara (10-12
April) with A logged on both Makira and Kolombangara and eight on Guadalcanal.
Chestnut-bellied Imperial-pigeon Ducula brenchleyi
This poorly-known species is endemic to just three islands in the Solomons (plus a few islets) but can be reasonably
common around Anuta, with three birds seen during the shore excursion on Makira on 10 April.
Island Imperial-pigeon Ducula pistrinaria
This nomadic species was seen on Rennell, Makira and Kolombangara (9,10 and 12 April) although only in small
numbers with the highest count being five birds on Rennell.
New Caledonian Imperial-pigeon Ducula goliath
Two individuals were logged at Riviere Bleue on 5 April, with another six seen the previous day by those who went
to Mount Koghi.
Ducorps' Cockatoo Cacatua ducorpsii
This species was seen at Mount Austin, Guadalcanal on 11 April and the following day on Kolombangara with A
logged on both landings.
Cardinal Lory Chalcopsitta cardinalis
This brilliantly coloured parrot was seen on Guadalcanal and Kolombangara with A logged on both islands.
Coconut ("Rainbow") Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus
This species was common in downtown Noumea, New Caledonia (4-5 April), with a few birds also seen on the
excursion to Riviere Bleue. It was also seen on Makira (10 April: 4), Guadalcanal (11 April: 3) and Kolombangara
(12 April: A).
Yellow-bibbed Lory Lorius chlorocercus
A Solomon Islands endemic which was seen on Rennell, Makira, Guadalcanal and Kolombangara (9-12 April) with
the highest count being at Mount Austin where A was logged.
Meek's Lorikeet Charmosyna meeki
A single bird was seen on Kolombangara (12 April).
Duchess Lorikeet Charmosyna margarethae
The only records of this handsome parrot were on Kolombangara where a low A was recorded on 12 April.
Finsch's Pygmy-parrot Micropsitta finschii
Although this species is reasonably numerous in the Solomons, its tiny size can make it difficult to spot, however, it
was seen on Rennell, Makira and Guadalcanal with the highest count being on Rennell where A was recorded (9
Horned Parakeet Eunymphicus cornutus
This New Caledonian endemic showed well at Riviere Bleue (where it can be tricky) with at least eight birds
recorded on 5 April.
New Caledonian Parakeet Cyanoramphus saissetti
Another species which is not seen on every WPO but many people had excellent looks during the visit to Riviere
Bleue, New Caledonia on 5 April with eight birds being logged. The previous afternoon, two were also seen at
Mount Koghi by those who visited this site.
Singing Parrot Geoffroyus heteroclitus
Seen on Rennell, Guadalcanal and Kolombangara with the highest count being on Kolombangara (12 April) where A
Eclectus Parrot Eclectus roratus
Another beautiful bird which was recorded on Makira, Guadalcanal and Kolombangara (10-12 April) with the
highest count being at Mount Austin where A was logged.
Shining Bronze-cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus
Three birds were seen on Kolombangara (12 April) during the zodiac cruise through the mangroves.
Buff-headed Coucal Centropus milo
This raucous Coucal, which is endemic to the Solomon Islands, makes an almost mammalian-like call and was seen
at Mount Austin, Guadalcanal (11 April) with three logged during the morning excursion. The following day, six
were seen on Kolombangara.
Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta
This species was seen in reasonable numbers on the two days ashore on New Caledonia (4-5 April) and then on all
the islands visited in the Solomons with A logged on each island.
White-rumped Swiftlet Aerodramus spodiopygius
Reasonably numerous on Kolombangara (12 April) with A recorded with the only other sighting being on New
Caledonia (4 April).
Uniform Swiftlet Aerodramus vanikorensis
Seen on all the islands visited in the Solomons, with the highest count being on Makira (10 April) where a high A (ie
approaching 100 individuals) was logged.
Caroline Islands Swiftlet Aerodramus inquietus
This extremely common Swiftlet is endemic to the Caroline Islands and was seen on Chuuk on both 17 and 18 April.
Moustached Treeswift Hemiprocne mystacea
This impressive bird was seen on Rennell (9 April: 5), Guadalcanal (11 April: 4) and Kolombangara (12 April : low A).
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Two birds of the race salomonensis were seen on Kolombangara on 12 April. These birds differ markedly from the
birds in Europe having blue ear-coverts and richer purple-blue upperparts and surely warrant further taxonomic
Little Kingfisher Alcedo pusilla
Three individuals seen during the zodiac cruise through the mangroves on Kolombangara (12 April) were the first
WPO sightings for several years.
Ultramarine Kingfisher Todirhamphus leucopygius
Four individuals (two presumed pairs) of this tricky and always much desired Solomon Islands endemic were found
at Mount Austin, Guadalcanal on 11 April.
Collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris
A low A was logged on Rennell on 9 April, with two birds the following day on Makira and the final sightings (also
two individuals) being on Kolombangara on 12 April.
Beach Kingfisher Todirhamphus saurophaga
A single bird was seen on a small island just offshore from Makira on 10 April.
Sacred Kingfisher Todirhamphus sanctus
This species was first seen on four dates with the most surprising sighting being a lone bird which landed on the
ship well offshore from Bougainville on 13 April. Curiously, this is at least the third time this species has been
recorded at sea in this general area on WPO expeditions.
Birds were also seen during the zodiac cruise off Norfolk Island (2 April: 6), with single individuals on the shore
excursions on Rennell and Kolombangara (9 and 12 April).
Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
Only recorded on Makira (10 April) where four birds were seen.
Blyth's Hornbill Aceros plicatus
Reasonable numbers of this spectacular bird were seen at Mount Austin, Guadalcanal on 11 April (low A) with four
the following day on Kolombangara.
New Caledonia Myzomela Myzomela caledonica
The first of six species of Myzomela recorded on the voyage with a low A logged at Riviere Bleue on 5 April and
three the previous day at Mount Koghi.
Micronesian Myzomela Myzomela rubratra
This species is common on Chuuk and A was logged on both 17-18 April.
Cardinal Myzomela Myzomela cardinalis
This species was only seen on Rennell where it is common (9 April: A).
Yellow-vented Myzomela Myzomela eichhorni
A relatively scarce and range-restricted Solomon Island endemic, with eight recorded on Kolombangara on 12
Black-headed Myzomela Myzomela melanocephala
Endemic to some of the islands in the Central Solomons, four individuals were seen at Mount Austin, Guadalcanal
on 11 April.
Sooty Myzomela Myzomela tristrami
Restricted to Makira and a few nearby islands, this species was reasonably numerous (A) during our shore landing
on 10 April.
Dark-brown ("Grey-eared) Honeyeater Lichmera incana
This species is more readily found in scrubby/urban habitats than in the forest at Riviere Bleue and several birds
were seen around Noumea and at Mount Koghi on 4 April.
Barred Honeyeater Phylidonyris undulata
This endemic is not uncommon in suitable habitat on New Caledonia, with a low A at Riviere Bleue on 5 April and
five the previous afternoon at Mount Koghi.
Crow Honeyeater Gymnomyza aubryana
We were extremely fortunate to visit Riviere Bleue (5 April) when there were a number of flowering trees
immediately adjacent to the track and, as a result, had the best showing by this species of any WPO visit. A
minimum of eleven birds were found with some incredible views obtained.
New Caledonian Friarbird Philemon diemenensis
This endemic was seen on the excursion to Riviere Bleue on New Caledonia (5 April: A) with two also seen by those
who visited Mount Koghi the previous afternoon.
San Cristobal Melidectes ("Makira Honeyeater") Melidectes sclateri
This bizarre-looking honeyeater is restricted to Makira but somewhat disappointingly proved hard to find on this
occasion with only two individuals located (10 April).
Norfolk Island Gerygone Gerygone modesta
Usually this Norfolk Island endemic is reasonably easy to find, however, with sea conditions making it impossible to
land, views were somewhat more distant than usual with two individuals seen during the zodiac cruise along the
western shoreline on 3 April.
Fan-tailed Gerygone Gerygone flavolateralis
Seen in reasonable numbers on New Caledonia with A during the excursion to Riviere Bleue on 5 April and similar
numbers the previous afternoon at Mount Koghi.
Rennell (Fan-tailed) Gerygone Gerygone (flavolateralis) citrina
A reasonably numerous bird on Rennell with A logged during the shore excursion on 9 April.
Although this bird is generally lumped with the Gerygones on New Caledonia (and not treated as a Rennell
endemic), visually it is quite different, eg pale eyes and a mainly yellow breast compared with the birds on New
Caledonia which have dark eyes and less yellow on the underparts. Playback experiments on both New Caledonia
and Rennell also suggest that the birds do not recognise the songs of the birds from the other island, providing
further evidence that the two forms should indeed be split.
White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus
This species is generally only encountered in more 'open country' habitats on New Caledonia with a lone bird on
the afternoon of 4 April and five during the trip to Riviere Bleue on 5 April.
Southern Melanesian Cuckoo-shrike Coracina caledonica
Six birds were seen at Riviere Bleue, New Caledonia on 5 April with three having been seen the previous afternoon
at Mount Koghi.
It is worth noting that until relatively recently the birds on New Caledonia were lumped with those in the Solomon
Islands, however, these have now been split into two species by some authorities.
Northern Melanesian Cuckoo-shrike Coracina welchmani
Four individuals were seen on Kolombangara (12 April).
Yellow-eyed Cuckoo-shrike Coracina lineata
This cuckoo-shrike was the most frequently encountered during our shore excursions in the Solomon Islands and
was seen on all the islands which were visited. A was logged on Rennell and Kolombangara (9 and 12 April), with
six birds seen on both Makira and Guadalcanal (10-11 April).
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina papuensis
As with the above species, this cuckoo-shrike was only seen in the Solomons with A logged at both Mount Austin,
Guadalcanal and on Kolombangara (11-12 April).
New Caledonian Cuckoo-shrike Coracina analis
This New Caledonian endemic was seen at Riviere Bleue on 5 April where six birds were found.
Cicadabird Coracina tenuirostris
Only seen on Guadalcanal (11 April) where three individuals were seen at Mount Austin and the following day on
Kolombangara where a lone bird was recorded.
Makira Cicadabird Coracina salomonis
Six individuals of this recent split were seen on Makira on 10 April.
Long-tailed Triller Lalage leucopyga
Two individuals were seen at Riviere Bleue, New Caledonia on 5 April, with a lone individual seen the day before at
Mount Koghi. The only other sightings were on Makira (10 April) where two were noted.
Oriole ("Golden") Whistler Pachycephala orioloides
At least six were seen on Makira (10 April) with three the following day on Guadalcanal. Oriole Whistlers were also
heard on Kolombangara (12 April).
New Caledonian ("Melanesian") Whistler Pachycephala caledonica
This endemic is generally found in more forested areas than the next species (ie Rufous Whistler) and a low A was
logged at Riviere Bleue, New Caledonia on 5 April.
Rufous Whistler Pachycephala rufiventris
The only record was during the shore excursion to Riviere Bleue, New Caledonia where a lone individual was seen
Willie-wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys
Seen on Makira (10 April: 1), Guadalcanal (11 April: 2) and Kolombangara (12 April: low A).
White-winged Fantail Rhipidura cockerelli
Two individuals were seen during the mangrove zodiac cruise on Kolombangara on 12 April.
Rennell Fantail Rhipidura rennelliana
This species is endemic to Rennell and was seen well during the shore excursion on 9 April with a low A logged.
Grey Fantail Rhipidura fuliginosa
Nine individuals were seen on the shore excursion to Riviere Bleue on New Caledonia (5 April) with smaller
numbers at Mount Koghi the previous afternoon.
Streaked Fantail Rhipidura spilodera
Another New Caledonian endemic which was well seen at Riviere Bleue (5 April: low A).
Rufous Fantail Rhipidura rufifrons
This species was only found on Makira and Guadalcanal with a low A on 10 April and a lone bird the following day
at Mount Austin.
Southern Shrikebill Clytorhynchus pachycephaloides
Six individuals of this regional endemic (which is only found on New Caledonia and Vanuatu) were seen at Riviere
Bleue National Park on 5 April.
Rennell Shrikebill Clytorhynchus hamlini
This Rennell endemic is common (A) and was seen very well during our shore excursion on 9 April.
Chuuk Monarch Metabolus rugensis
Those who visited Tol South had some great looks at this highly range-restricted and endangered species with a
pair seen on 18 April.
Chestnut-bellied Monarch Monarcha castaneiventris
A Solomon Islands endemic which was seen on both Makira (10 April) and at Mount Austin, Guadalcanal (11 April)
with A logged at both localities.
White-capped Monarch Monarcha richardsii
This monarch is only found in the New Georgia group of islands (within the Solomons) and five individuals were
seen on 12 April during our shore excursion on Kolombangara.
White-collared Monarch Monarcha viduus
This is another very range restricted monarch (which in this case is endemic to Makira) with three seen on 10 April.
Kolombangara Monarch Symposiachrus browni
This species is only occasionally recorded on WPO visits to Kolombangara, however, we were extremely fortunate
to find a male bird which gave some great views to many (12 April).
Solomons ("Black-and-white") Monarch Symposiachrus barbatus
This is another species which is not seen every year, however, three birds were seen at Mount Austin on 11 April.
Oceanic Flycatcher Myiagra oceanica
This Micronesian endemic is relatively common on Chuuk and A was logged on both days we were ashore (17-18
April) with birds seen on both Weno and Tol South.
Steel-blue Flycatcher Myiagra ferrocyanea
This Solomon Islands endemic was seen on Guadalcanal (11 April: low A) and Kolombangara (12 April: 7).
Melanesian ("New Caledonian") Flycatcher Myiagra caledonica
This species was seen at Riviere Bleue, New Caledonia (5 April: 5) and also on Rennell (9 April: 6).
The calls of the birds on the two islands are different and there are also some plumage differences, so this is
another instance where further taxonomic work is certainly required.
New Caledonia Crow Corvus moneduloides
This New Caledonian endemic is one of the few birds known to use tools (sticks in the case of this species). It can
be difficult to locate at Riviere Bleue, however, five were found in the forest at Riviere Bleue on 5 April with one
seen the previous afternoon at Mount Koghi.
White-billed ("Guadalcanal") Crow Corvus woodfordi
This is another corvid which can be extremely elusive, however, at least six birds were seen at Mount Austin,
Guadalcanal on 11 April.
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
Four individuals of this reasonably widespread species were seen in Tokyo Bay (27 April).
Yellow-bellied Robin Eopsaltria flaviventris
This New Caledonian endemic is reasonably numerous at Riviere Bleue National Park with A logged (5 April).
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
A total of nine birds were seen migrating past the ship over the last three sea days of the expedition (Torishima-
Yokohama) with the only other sighting being a lone, seemingly vagrant, bird on Chuuk on 18 April.
Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena
This species is reasonably common on Norfolk Island (2 April) with A logged during the zodiac cruise along the
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
Seen on Makira, Guadalcanal and Kolombangara with A logged on each island.
[Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer]
This Asian introduction is reasonably common around Noumea, New Caledonia with A recorded on both 4 and 5
Caroline Reed Warbler Acrocephalus syrinx
This species is endemic to the Caroline Islands and was seen in reasonable numbers on both Weno and Tol South,
Chuuk on 17-18 April with A logged on both dates.
Siberian Rubythroat Luscinia calliope
A lost migrant spent several minutes flying around the ship on 25 April (close to Torishima), although it was not
seen to land.
Island Thrush Turdus poliocephalus
The only island on the WPO itinerary where this highly variable species can be found is Rennell with the birds
resembling 'mini Blackbirds'. During our shore excursion (9 April), a low A was logged.
Caroline Islands White-eye Zosterops semperi
This Micronesian endemic is reasonably numerous on Chuuk and A was logged on both 17 and 18 April with birds
recorded on both Weno and Tol South.
Rennell White-eye Zosterops rennellianus
Despite its name, this Rennell endemic does not have a white eye-ring (it is dark !!) and somewhat
uncharacteristically for a white-eye, it also has a bright orange bill. Nevertheless, it was well seen during the
landing with a low A recorded (9 April).
Solomon Islands White-eye Zosterops rendovae
This slightly confusingly named white-eye is only found on the New Georgia group of islands (including
Kolombangara) within the Solomons archipelago. During our shore excursion, it was less numerous than some of
the other white-eye species on the voyage with only eight individuals logged on 12 April.
Green-backed White-eye Zosterops xanthochrous
This New Caledonian endemic is reasonably common and A was recorded following the visit to Riviere Bleue on 5
April with slightly lower numbers the previous afternoon at Mount Koghi.
Silver-eye Zosterops lateralis
The only sightings of this species were at Mount Koghi on 4 April, the day before the excursion to Riviere Bleue.
Faichuuk ("Great Truk") White-eye Rukia ruki
This species is only found on a few of the islands within the Chuuk lagoon and is treated as critically endangered by
Birdlife International. After a long zodiac ride and a tough climb, two birds were seen on Tol South on 18 April.
Bare-eyed White-eye Woodfordia superciliosa
This species is the commonest of the single-island endemics on Rennell and good numbers (a low B) were seen
during the shore excursion on 9 April.
Although this species is currently treated as a white-eye, further taxonomic work is surely required as structurally
it seems so different from 'normal white-eyes'.
Metallic Starling Aplonis metallica
Seen on Makira (10 April: 4), and Kolombangara (12 April: A).
Singing Starling Aplonis cantoroides
This species was recorded on Makira (10 April: low A), Guadalcanal (11 April: 1), and Kolombangara (12 April: A).
Rennell Starling Aplonis insularis
This Rennell endemic seems to be somewhat nomadic as the numbers seen do vary from year to year. On this
visit, however, it was present in comparatively low numbers with a low A recorded during the shore excursion on 9
Brown-winged Starling Aplonis grandis
This Solomon Islands endemic species is reasonably reliable at Mount Austin, Guadalcanal with A logged on 11
April and five birds then seen the following day on Kolombangara. Despite its name, the diagnostic pale brown
primaries can, on occasions, be moderately difficult to see when birds are perched.
San Cristobal Starling Aplonis dichroa
This Makira Island endemic can be moderately tough to find with only six birds seen during the shore excursion on
Striated Starling Aplonis striata
This New Caledonian endemic is not particularly common at Riviere Bleue and only seven individuals were
recorded there on 5 April, however, those who visited Mount Koghi on the previous afternoon logged A.
Micronesian Starling Aplonis opaca
A common bird on Chuuk with A recorded on both 17-18 April.
Long-tailed Myna Mino kreffti
This myna (which has recently been split into two species - Long-tailed and Yellow-faced with the latter now
regarded as a Papua New Guinea endemic) was seen at both Mount Austin, Guadalcanal (11 April: low A) and the
following day on Kolombangara (6 birds).
[Common Myna Acridotheres tristis]
This Asian introduction was reasonably numerous on New Caledonia (4-5 April) and in Honiara, Guadalcanal (11
April) with A recorded on all three dates.
[European Starling Sturnus vulgaris]
This introduced species is common on Norfolk Island and despite being unable to land (due to the weather
conditions), a low A was logged during the zodiac cruise along the western coastline (2 April).
Midget Flowerpecker Dicaeum aeneum
This Solomon Islands endemic is not uncommon at Mount Austin on Guadalcanal and a low A was recorded on 11
April, although its tiny size means getting good views can often be challenging.
Mottled Flowerpecker Dicaeum tristrami
Reasonable numbers of this Makira Island endemic were seen on the shore excursion on 10 April with A recorded.
Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis
Only seen on Makira (10 April: 1), Guadalcanal (11 April: 6) and Kolombangara (12 April: A).
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis
One of the biggest surprises of the expedition was a lone wagtail which flew close to the ship a day north of New
Ireland (15 April).
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala
A single migrant was seen flying past the ship on 25 April (offshore from Torishima).
[House Sparrow Passer domesticus]
Another common introduction which was seen on both days ashore in New Caledonia (4-5 April) with A recorded.
[Tree Sparrow Passer montanus]
This species was recorded in small numbers on both days on Chuuk (17-18 April) where it is believed to be a
recent, and presumably ship-assisted, arrival.
[Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild]
Seen in small numbers (6 birds) in Noumea on 4 April.
Blue-faced Parrotfinch Erythrura trichroa
This species was seen on both days ashore on Chuuk with A recorded on 18 April and nine individuals the previous
Red-throated Parrotfinch Erythrura psittacea
This, sometimes tricky, New Caledonian endemic was only seen in small numbers at Riviere Bleue (5 April: 3).
Sperm Whale Physter macrocephalus
Sperm Whales were only seen on two dates with ten animals on 31 March (a day north of the Hauraki Gulf) and
two on 3 April (a day north of Norfolk Island). Somewhat surprisingly, none were seen off Bougainville where this
species is usually regular.
Short-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala macrorhynchus
A small pod of approximately seven animals was seen two days south of the Bonin Islands (22 April).
Pygmy Killer Whale Feresa attenuata
The only sightings of this small and rarely encountered species were west of Guadalcanal (11 April) where a pod
which contained about fifteen animals was seen.
Melon-headed Whale Peponocephala electra
A pod, which comprised at least a hundred animals, was seen and photographed off New Ireland on 14 April.
False Killer Whale Pseudorca crassidens
Pods were seen off Bougainville and New Ireland (13-14 April).
Risso's Dolphin Grampus griseus
This species was seen on three occasions with the first sightings being four animals west of Guadalcanal (11 April).
Two were then seen on 22 April (two days south of the Bonin Islands) with the final sightings being a pod of about
eight whilst cruising north from Torishima (26 April).
Cuvier's Beaked Whale Ziphuis cavirostris
Three of these distinctive whales were seen off the Bonin Islands (24 April) with a lone individual seen the
following day off Torishima.
Ginkgo-toothed Beaked Whale Mesoplodon ginkgodens
A small pod of beaked whales were seen offshore from Torishima (25 April) which appeared to be this poorly
known species. What was presumed to be the male was black in colour with no scratch markings noted and none
of the patterning/markings which would indicate it was either Hubb's or Stejneger's Beaked Whales, the other two
species which are known from this general area.
It is interesting to note that a pod of seemingly identical animals was seen at almost exactly the same location on
WPO 2011 and whilst this is merely speculation, it seems not inconceivable that these were actually the same
group of animals.
The following day (26 April) there was a sighting of two beaked whales further to the north and again a male was
seen which exhibited similar features.
Beaked Whale sp
As well as the sightings described above, beaked whales were also seen on a further seven days but none of these
were identified to species, although it is thought at least some of them were probably Blainville's Beaked Whales.
Dwarf Sperm Whale Kogia breviceps
This species was only seen on 11 April (west of Guadalcanal) with two animals spotted. It is likely that the
marginally choppier conditions than usual reduced the number of sightings as this species is difficult to find unless
the seas are flat.
Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops aduncus
This comparatively recent split from the more widespread Bottlenose Dolphin was seen on two occasions with two
animals off Bougainville (13 April) and five within the lagoon on Chuuk (18 April).
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis
A decent sized pod (A) was seen in the outer Hauraki Gulf on 30 March.
Spinner Dolphin Stenella longirostris
This species is generally the most frequently encountered dolphin on the WPO and pods were seen on a daily basis
between Guadalcanal and New Ireland (11-14 April).
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin Stenella attenuate
This species was seen on four widely spread dates with the first sighting being off Norfolk Island (2 April) and the
final record off the Bonin Islands on 24 April.
All arrived safely from our many and varied home countries, and by mid-afternoon had boarded Spirit of Enderby, our home for the coming month at sea. We let go the lines at 6 pm and headed away from Tauranga, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. After an introductory meeting with the ship’s staff and our mandatory safety briefing we enjoyed the first of many fine meals and a welcome sleep.
Day 2: Hauraki Gulf and heading northward, 34o47’S 175o10’E to 34o51’S 174o19’E.
A moderate southwest wind and following sea, protected mostly by the NZ mainland, made for a very comfortable first day – and a very successful one. Starting out around the Mokinhau Islands we scanned the feeding balls of Red-billed Gulls for a few Gray Ternlets, as Buller’s Shearwaters and Australasian Gannets wheeled around us. Then we were off north, stopping to chum for the iconic New Zealand Storm-Petrel – which took a while but finally proved to be almost “common,” and everyone enjoyed good views of this striking seabird. A few Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and a late White-faced Storm-Petrel also came into the slick, but the “best” bird was a surprising Great Shearwater – one of only a handful of records from New Zealand. Other notables included good numbers of Gray-faced Petrels, a few Little Shearwaters and Parkinson’s (Black) Petrels, pods of Common Dolphins and Pilot Whales, and our first flyingfish of the voyage. Adam braved a barrel of fish guts for an afternoon chumming session, and we had great views of Campbell, Shy, and Buller’s mollymawks (the smaller albatrosses), and even some majestic Wandering Albatrosses (presumably Gibson’s) right behind the ship. Gentle seas continued through the evening, and after dinner Chris gave a talk on the seabirds we might see between NZ and New Caledonia.
We awoke to gentle seas, a rainbow, and very pleasant conditions, with a steady trickle of gadfly petrels passing by (mainly Gould’s and Gray-faced, but also a few Black-winged), the occasional albatross (Wandering types, plus Buller’s, Campbell, and Shy) and a few other seabirds, including White-faced Storm-Petrel and Australasian Gannet. A few flyingfish were also seen, and then things quieted down, with many taking a siesta after lunch. After a mid-afternoon squall the wind picked up slightly and in the space of a few minutes a close White-necked Petrel, a White-bellied Storm-Petrel, and a Red-tailed Tropicbird roused us from the lull. A chumming session produced great views of Gray-faced Petrels plus a Campbell Albatross and another White-bellied Storm-Petrel, before another rainbow and a stunning sunset.
Although a little warmer than yesterday, the wind was stronger and birds were whipping around. Birding before breakfast produced a few Black-winged Petrels and White-faced Storm-Petrels, and our first White Terns and (dark-morph) Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. Birds continued through the day, with a spectacular wave of over 200 Short-tailed Shearwaters after lunch, a beautiful fresh juvenile Wandering Albatross, and a couple of light-morph Kermadec Petrels; a few flyingfish were seen, including Pink-tailed Clearwings. By late afternoon the shape of Norfolk Island could be discerned on the horizon, and small numbers of Masked Boobies, Red-tailed Tropicbirds, Gray Ternlets, and White Terns passed by on their way home to roost. After dinner, Rodney and Chris gave us the zodiac briefing and an overview of the birds we might expect on Norfolk.
Occasional heavy showers punctuating a near-constant drizzle characterized our visit to Norfolk Island, a beautiful and tranquil Australian outpost, home to friendly people and to the spectacular Norfolk Pine. The rain didn’t dampen our birding, however, and our visits to the botanical gardens (with tea and some delicious cakes) and to Palm Glen produced all of the extant endemic landbirds – Slender-billed White-eye, Norfolk Gerygone, Norfolk [Golden] Whistler, and, with some work, the sadly declining Norfolk Island Parakeet. Also notable were Pacific Robin, Emerald Dove, Gray Fantail, migrant Wandering Tattlers, and astonishing numbers of “Red Junglefowl” aka chickens, which the Australian birding “authorities” tell us are countable… The seabird colony at Rocky Point included great views of nesting Black Noddies, plus White Terns and Red-tailed Tropicbirds. The wind picked up while we were ashore and made for fun zodiac rides back to the ship, and for some great birding as we headed away offshore in mid-afternoon. A spectacular seabird show, despite the overcast and fairly windy conditions, featured hundreds of noddies (Black, Brown, White, and Gray, if one includes White Tern and Gray Ternlet as noddies), well over a hundred Little Shearwaters, lots of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, great views of Black-winged Petrels, and even a couple of Solander’s (aka Providence) Petrels. We ended at 28o38’S 167o47’E, SST 24oC, and rolled on into the night.
A blustery 20-25 knot NE wind in the morning made for some atmospheric seas – but was seemingly to the liking of the 7 species of gadfly petrels we saw, including our first Tahiti Petrels, both dark- and light-morph Collared Petrels, and more White-necked and Kermadec Petrels. A fish-oil slick in mid-morning allowed even better views of Tahiti Petrels and a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel. The wind dropped a little after lunch, bird numbers also dropped, and flyingfish numbers picked up a bit before a spectacular rain squall darkened the skies and closed down the birding. After dinner, Chris gave a recap on the birds we hope to see on New Caledonia.
At sea heading north to New Caledonia, with stops to try for the enigmatic “New Caledonia Storm-Petrel” – one did come into a slick we laid about 30nm south of Noumea, along with 15+ Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, but sadly it stayed mostly beyond camera range. The slick (thanks again, Adam) also produced great views of many Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Tahiti Petrels, and other birds in the morning included numerous Gould’s Petrels and at least one Collared Petrel. Perhaps the most striking avian points of the day, however, were the Red-footed Boobies (in their varied plumages) that hunted flyingfish around the ship, and the impressive northward streams of Short-tailed Shearwaters. We picked up the pilot in mid-afternoon and by 5 p.m. were tied up at the wharf in Noumea. Our approach to land featured Crested, Black-naped, and Fairy Terns, the New Caledonia race of Silver Gull, a couple of Bottlenose Dolphins, some distant Glossy Swiftlets (of the white-rumped form), and Dark-brown Honeyeater at the dock. After customs formalities there was a chance to wander briefly around the town before back on board to tally the bird list and an early dinner in preparation for a very early start tomorrow. Started at 23o01’S 166o25’E and ended in Noumea (22o16’S 166o26’E). Partly cloudy and mostly sunny, starting to get hot, with gentle low seas and a light southwest breeze.
As a trio of Kagus walked around right in front of us, raising their crests, any memories of the 3.15 wake-up call faded into the magical forest at Riviere Bleu. Birding in the forest along the dirt road through the park produced most of the specialty birds, and we were blessed by very pleasant weather. Highlights included good views of both Horned and New Caledonia Parakeets, the visually and vocally impressive Goliath (or New Caledonian) Imperial-Pigeon, endearing Yellow-bellied Robins, Melanesian and New Caledonian Cuckoo-shrikes, perched New Caledonian Goshawks, the elusive Red-throated Parrotfinch, and mixed-species flocks with fantails, gerygones, white-eyes, and whistlers. After a good picnic lunch we birded a little and headed back to ship. Heading out through the reef, our old friends Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Gould’s Petrels were there to greet us, plus a few Tahiti Petrels and a nice Collared Petrel.
At sea heading northwest off the west coast of New Caledonia, with a pleasant following wind and sea. Starting at 21o17’S 164o26’E, ending at 20o00’S 163o13’E; SST 26.5oC. Birds were slow but steady with a good variety that built up through the day. Notable were some nice Collared Petrels in the morning, Red-footed Boobies hunting flyingfish, a White-tailed Tropicbird that visited briefly, and a Great Frigatebird feeding over a group of Brown Boobies. The fish oil drip off the stern attracted numerous Tahiti Petrels and a few Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, but Polynesian Storm-Petrel remained elusive. The mid-late afternoon produced a few more Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, Sperm Whale and a mix of distant [= unidentifiable] dolphins and blackfish, and ended with an obliging Lesser Frigatebird over the ship. Variably cloudy and with some very hot and sunny spells.
Heading north-northwest towards Rennell, starting at 18o05’S 162o08’E and ending at 16o21’S 161o27’E; SST 27.5oC. Another surprisingly “cool” day with mostly overcast conditions, frequent showers, and a following wind and sea. The undoubted highlight of the morning, before breakfast, was a well-seen Polynesian Storm-Petrel. Also notable were our first feeding flocks of Sooty Terns and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, the occasional frigatebird and tropicbird, a few Red-footed Boobies, a single White-faced Storm-Petrel and, in the afternoon, some surprise Band-rumped [= Madeiran] Storm-Petrels. Flyingfish numbers were also very much on the rise, with numerous types seen and even photographed. After dinner, Adam gave a beautifully illustrated talk on reef fish of the western Pacific.
Heading north-northwest towards Rennell, starting at 14o29’S 160o42’E and ending at 12o50’S 160o04’E; SST 29oC. The overcast and cool conditions continued, with frequent rain showers to freshen up the diehards who tried to remain outside. Birding was generally slow, but flyingfish numbers and diversity continued to build. Highlights from the birders included 3 more Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, a light trickle of northbound Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, good views of both Red-tailed and White-tailed tropicbirds, and some fine late afternoon entertainment from 2 Red-footed Boobies hunting flyingfish (and then perching on the radar scanner tower). After dinner, Rodney, Chris, and Adam gave a briefing on tomorrow’s visit ashore to the island of Rennell, the southernmost of the Solomon Islands.
Our day ashore on this island paradise offered some great birding, swimming, and snorkeling around a small village of happy people – and although hot and humid, by local standards the weather was remarkably pleasant. A Rennell Shrikebill at the landing was followed as we walked through the village edge by numerous gerygones, myzomelas, and Bare-eyed White-eyes, and scope views of perched Pacific Imperial-Pigeon, Brown Goshawk, and Rennell Starlings. Heading into the forest we quickly found the remaining endemics – Rennell White-eye and Rennell Fantail – but had to work a little for the retiring Island Thrush. Other highlights included fabulous views of the handsome Moustached Treeswift, “cute” pygmy-parrots feeding at eye level, Silver-capped Fruit-Doves, and both Sacred (migrant) and Collared (resident) kingfishers. After birding we convened at the beach for some swimming and a perusal of local crafts, while swarms of local children reveled in playing and diving from the zodiacs.
All were loaded back on board by 2 p.m., and after a great buffet lunch we headed off east along the south side of Rennell. Torrential rain showers were punctuated by some mind-blowing rainbows as Red-footed Boobies flew past, and the day ended with a tranquil and beautiful sunset. Before dinner Chris briefed us on tomorrow’s visit to Makira Island.
Another early start saw us ashore on the little-visited island of Makira, where we met, finally, with the much-touted hot and humid WPO conditions that had to date (thankfully) eluded us – but it was worth it. A very productive morning along the logging road across from Anuta village, produced the endemic White-headed Fruit-Dove, San Cristobal Melidectes (which took a bit of work!), Makira (or Ochre-headed) Flycatcher (named by somebody either color-blind or anatomically challenged), San Cristobal Starling, and numerous Sooty Myzomelas and Mottled Flowerpeckers. Also nice were Red-knobbed, Pacific, and Chestnut-bellied imperial-pigeons (all seen perched and enjoyed through the scope), Eclectus Parrot, Yellow-bibbed Lory, Dollarbirds, vocally strident Golden Whistlers, and a good raptor showing that featured Solomon Sea-Eagles, Pied Goshawks, and handsome Brahminy Kites. After this great morning we headed across to Anuta and a wonderful visit with the friendly and hospitable people (despite the staged “attack” by whooping, clay-painted boys with spears!) who make our visits here possible. A greeting ceremony, during which the young girls of the village presented us with leis, was followed by a formal greeting, for which even some of the Russian crew and captain Dmitri came ashore! Rodney was presented with a spear, and he presented the village with some school books and a cricket bat, wickets, and bails – we then enjoyed teaching the local children the basics of the game, after pied-piper Adam had led them on a race along the beach. Some outrigger racing followed, and the birding contingent found a handsome Beach Kingfisher. All too soon it was time to return to the ship, enjoy a quick swim before lunch, and relax a bit before we headed on towards the adjacent island of Guadalcanal, as a close pod of Pilot Whales had everyone out on deck. Afternoon birds featured numerous Bridled Terns and a few Gray-backed Terns, before we ended at 10o01’S 161o06’E and convened in the bar for a briefing on tomorrow’s visit to Guadalcanal.
Our earliest start of the trip found us bleary-eyed on the wharf in Honiara (9o25’S 159o58’E), waiting for buses to take us up to Mount Austin. Sadly, logistical problems killed our intended owling venture, but we still arrived in perfect time at the edge of the forest for what proved to be a fabulous morning of birding. We were greeted by squadron after squadron of eye-popping Blyth’s Hornbills, their wing-rush filling the air over our heads. Fruiting trees offered perched views of brilliant red Cardinal and Yellow-bibbed lories, the fancy DuCorps Cockatoo, plus a variety of cuckoo-shrikes, Black-headed Myzomela, Claret-brested Fruit-Doves, Brown-winged Starlings, and Yellow-faced Mynas. Other avian highlights ranged from the tiny but very handsome Midget Flowerpecker to the massive and almost mammalian Buff-headed Coucal, from the endemic Guadalcanal (White-billed) Crow to the striking Ultramarine Kingfisher. Some raptor watching from the shade produced another Solomon Sea-Eagle, and then we returned to the ship for a refreshing buffet lunch and well-deserved rest. The non-birders (the sensible members of our party?) slept until a reasonable hour and spent an interesting morning exploring Honiara, capital of the Solomons, visiting the market and meeting many friendly people. The hot and humid afternoon was spent transiting towards Kolombangara Island; most people took the opportunity to relax while a few hard-core souls watched Crested Terns hunting flyingfish. In late afternoon the temperature dropped, and feeding flocks included our first Tropical Shearwater among Wedge-tails and Short-tails before ending at 8o55’S 159o23’E.
After the intense shearwater action yesterday evening we awoke early with optimism – but after an hour not a single bird had been seen, and the remarkably strong early morning sun was truly cooking. A light breeze and some cloud after breakfast ameliorated the heat a little, and among the flyingfish some nice Yellow Bandwings and Blue Bandwings were a distraction from the lack of birds. After lunch (just before which a distant Heinroth’s Shearwater was seen), we went ashore to Kolombangara Island, at the neatly kept and very attractive village of Kukundu. Some folks wandered around the village, went swimming, and perused the local handicrafts, which included some beautiful carvings. The birders split into 3 groups, all of which confirmed that birding in a tropical forest in the heat and intense humidity of mid-afternoon is rather unproductive. A few nice birds were seen, though, mainly around the village on our arrival (notably some stunning Duchess Lorikeets and the ever-popular Moustached Treeswift) and again at the forest edge in late afternoon, with all groups converging at a very birdy area – with fruit-doves, starlings, myzomelas, cuckoo-shrikes, white-eyes, White-capped Monarchs, Cardinal Lories, Solomon Sea-Eagle, Ducorps Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrots, and swarms of confusing swiftlets. After this intense burst of activity we headed down to the village for a beautiful, tranquil evening and great views of the spectacular fruit bats. Sadly, our search for the enigmatic Roviana Rail proved fruitless and we headed back to the ship for some cold drinks and another great dinner.
At sea heading northwest off the west coast of Bougainville Island, starting at 7o30’S 155o15’E, ending at 6o00’S 154o24’E; SST 30oC. An overall hot and humid day with a light breeze alternating with glassy calm – the sunshade on the top deck was a life saver, and some even took to hammocks. Birds were overall sparse except for a notable feeding flock in the afternoon, which we passed on by to stop for a swim and an unproductive session of chumming. Quality made up for quantity, however, and small numbers of Heinroth’s Shearwaters and Gray-backed Terns were seen throughout the day, with a single Beck’s Petrel in late afternoon. Flyingfish diversity was excellent, including beautiful Yellow Bandwings, Solomon Ceruleans, Leopardwings, and various pinkwings, while mammals included Sperm Whales, pilot whales, dolphins, and, for some, a very close Dwarf Sperm Whale just after lunch.
We awoke near Cap St George, New Ireland (5o12’S 152o59’E, SST 30oC), and started to chum for Beck’s Petrel, which dutifully arrived just as breakfast (would have) started. For the first time on the WPO we enjoyed watching several Beck’s and Tahiti Petrels foraging together, when the striking size difference between them could be appreciated easily. A sense of satisfaction settled on the ship as we headed on north through near calm waters, inhabited by numerous cetaceans but relatively few birds. Sightings through the day included a Killer Whale, several Sperm Whales, a large pod of Melon-headed Whales, and numerous dolphins. We ended the day at 3o30’S 153o40’E with an absolutely stunning sunset over the last land we would see for several days.
Heading basically north towards Micronesia, we awoke (around 1o22’S 153o47’E) to amazingly glassy and very gently rolling seas – and very few birds. Small numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters struggled north through the doldrums, and a couple of Bulwer’s Petrels were seen. Before lunch, Steve gave a talk on flyingfish – for which the WPO is becomingly increasingly famous (over 20 types having been identified to date on this year’s voyage). In mid-afternoon we crossed the equator, stopping to swim on the line and enjoy a toast on the bow. The weather changed to notably pleasant with a light breeze as we continued north to end at 0o26’N 153o25’E; SST 29oC.
Our northward run
Through worlds untold
The Spirit takes with ease
As morning sun
Bleeds burning gold
On glassy satin seas
With gentle swell
We end the day
And pass into the night
Where dreams propel
Our minds to play
Ere dawn will bring new light
Another tranquil day at sea, rolling overall north towards Truk, starting at
02o23’N 153o02’E (SST 29.5oC) and ending at 04o07’N 152o43’E. Spectacular and ever-changing cloudscapes marked the day, punctuated by rain squalls and cooled throughout by a pleasant breeze. Short-tailed Shearwaters continued to pass on by to the north, small numbers of White-tailed Tropicbirds and terns were seen, plus a few (unidentified) dolphins, making this perhaps the quietest birding day of the trip to date. Moreover, almost no flyingfish were seen, confirming that we were deep into the equatorial ocean desert – the largest desert on Earth (just because it’s full of water doesn’t mean it isn’t a desert). Chris gave a talk on wildlife in the Russian Far East, and a Blue Planet video was screened in the afternoon. Clocks went back another hour, and the bar was re-opened for an hour from 9 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Heading north to Truk, starting at 5o57’N 152o20’E (SST 29.5oC) in gently rolling seas with a scattering of birds, including our first light-morph Wedge-tailed Shearwater, a nice Bulwer’s Petrel, and several terns. The day continued fairly quietly until the islands of Truk appeared on the horizon in mid-afternoon, when we started to see numbers of noddies and White Terns, at times in spectacular feeding flocks, with small numbers of Atoll (Tropical) Shearwaters mixed in. After picking up the pilot we headed through the reef and tied up at the wharf (7o27’N 151o50’E), where customs and immigration formalities were completed. Birding from the top deck in the pleasant late afternoon produced a number of birds, including a surprise (vagrant) Laughing Gull.
An early wake-up call was followed by breakfast, after which two groups of birders headed off on their different courses for the day: one by zodiac across to the island of Tol South, and the other up to Japanese Gun, on the main island. Both groups met with success on the birding front, seeing all of the specialty species possible. The Japanese Gun group enjoyed good views of the Caroline Islands white-eyes, swiftlets, and reed warblers, plus Oceanic Flycatchers, stunning Micronesian Myzomelas, and handsome Purple-capped Fruit-Doves, all the while with White Terns, noddies, and tropicbirds overhead; the persistent contingent even found the Caroline Islands Ground Dove. The Tol South party enjoyed relatively smooth zodiac crossings and among other birds found the Faichuuk (Great Truk) White-eye and Chuuk Monarch lower than they had expected, making the steep muddy climb shorter, but still arduous. A little bit of zodiac racing livened up the journey back to Truk. There was also a snorkeling option, and time to wander and explore town, with cold beers partaken by some at the Truk Stop Hotel before a buffet lunch on the ship and some last-minute birding and shopping. Lines were let go about 4 p.m. and we sailed out of the lagoon and back to sea for the last leg of the odyssey, with distant views of the Laughing Gull as we pulled away. Passing through the reef late in the day produced some close views of Atoll Shearwaters and a few flyingfish.
At sea heading north-northwest towards Japan, starting at 9o26’N 150o23’E (29.5oC) and ending at 10o58’N 150o05’E. Overall a very quiet day for sea life as we transected the ultra-desert of the tropical Pacific, with a few flyingfish and a few birds, including Bulwer’s Petrel, but with long periods of nothing. A good day to catch up on sleep, diaries, and editing photos. After dinner, Chris gave a talk on seabirds we might see on the rest of the route, while a Red-footed Booby slept on the mast.
At sea heading north-northwest towards Japan, continuing our transect through the edge of nowhere, which doesn’t differ substantively from the middle of nowhere in terms of birds. Day 23 was perhaps the quietest of the trip for birds, with just a handful of species and even of individuals, but things picked up a little on Day 24, with our first Matsudaira’s Storm-Petrels, increasing numbers of Sooty Terns, some nice Sperm Whales in the afternoon, a few flyingfish and even some flying squid! Ice creams on the bow were a good mid-afternoon feature, and beers on the top deck for sunset proved a popular way to end our two days of desert birding. We also crossed over the Mariana Trench, Adam completed his talks on tropical reef fish, and Steve gave the first two lectures in his series on Seabirds of the World – beginning with the question: how does one define a seabird? Day 23 started at 12o37’N 149o16’E (SST 29oC), ended at 14o21’N 148o28’E. Day 24 started at 16o05’N 147o31’E (SST 28.5oC), ended at 18o01’N 146o33’E.
As Friday the 13th dawned, we awoke off the northern Marianas Islands (19o40’N 145o42’E; SST 28oC), which are effectively oases of land in a desert of sea. The birders enjoyed an active morning as birds headed off from the islands and out for their day of foraging at sea – numerous Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (now of the light morph), and three species of booby could be seen at one time around the ship – Brown, Masked, and Red-footed, as well as noddies and a few Bulwer’s Petrels. But shortly after breakfast things got quiet again. Cruising through the gentle seas we stopped for a refreshing swim break at midday, and the afternoon birding was punctuated with a good scattering of Bulwer’s Petrels, a few Matsudaira’s Storm-Petrels, and boobies that included a dark-tailed Red-footed, perhaps of the eastern Pacific subspecies websteri. Steve concluded his Seabirds of the World talk in the afternoon, and we ended at 21o29’N 144o58’E with drinks on the top deck and a very tranquil sunset.
St (Christopher) Peter’s day dawned hot and sunny in Japanese waters (23o13’N 144o17’E; SST 27oC), with the wind having shifted to astern, making it hotter than usual. We crossed the Tropic of Cancer in the morning as a good showing of Matsudaira’s Storm-Petrels populated the wake, our dark-tailed Red-footed Booby was still with us, and the first of several Bannerman’s Shearwaters passed by. After some morning squalls the wind shifted to a more pleasant northwest and bird (and flyingfish, and even flying squid!) action picked up. In early afternoon we stopped while some folks swam, after which a fish-oil slick was laid; a few Matsudaira’s Storm-Petrels came in before we headed off again on our way. As we continued north, Bonin Petrels put on some good shows but St Peter’s green-flash sunset died even as its possibility was announced. Photo-caption competition winners were named in the bar, before the bird list, with Hugh Buck taking the honors. We ended at 24o43’N 143o33’E.
We awoke under gray skies off the southwestern Bonin Islands (26o18’N 142o38’E), the air (and water) much cooler, with SST 23oC and birds all around – a fantastic sight, with numerous Bonin Petrels, Matsudaira’s and Tristram’s storm-petrels, and light-morph Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, plus smaller numbers of Bulwer’s Petrels, Brown Boobies, Brown Noddies, and Bannerman’s Shearwaters, and a few other odds and ends including Wilson’s and Leach’s storm-petrels, Long-tailed Jaegers (Skuas), and some great views of Sperm Whales. Despite an abundance of birds and good weather in the morning, it was decided to defer chumming till the afternoon – but sadly, at the appointed time we had largely lost the birds and it was pouring rain. Despite a brave show by Adam, only 3 Black-footed Albatrosses came in to join the abundant Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. Shortly after chumming, the weather cleared again and we found an impressive feeding flock of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Brown Boobies, and Brown Noddies, as well as single dark-morph Pomarine and Parasitic (Arctic) Jaegers before ending at 28o11’N 142o12’E.
We awoke to near calm seas and overcast skies, some 60 miles south-southeast of Torishima (29o48’N 141o03’E; SST 21oC); the breeze picked up a little but birds before breakfast were sparse – a few Bonin Petrels, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, and large dark storm-petrels (mostly too distant for species ID). After breakfast Adam started chumming, and small numbers of Black-footed Albatross, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, and Matsudaira’s and Tristram’s storm-petrels began to mill in the wake. By late morning the hazy outline of Torishima could be discerned and we had gathered quite a following of birds, including our first Streaked Shearwaters and a couple of Flesh-footed Shearwaters, with some intriguing beaked whales (Mesoplodon sp.) being seen. Chumming continued after lunch, and Adam’s diligence was rewarded when a subadult Steller’s (Short-tailed) Albatross worked its way up the wake from far away and proceeded to show off at the stern for over an hour, for all to watch and enjoy – at times within almost arm’s reach! After a while we stopped the engines and drifted, and the albatrosses and storm-petrels came even closer before becoming sated; a Barn Swallow flying around the ship in late afternoon added one more species to our growing total before we ended at 30o46’N 140o26’E to spend the night drifting, in the hope that more Steller’s might be seen in the morning.
Dawn on deck in the gloom and rain produced a surprise Whiskered Tern but no albatrosses, sadly, and we headed on north for the day, from 30o57’N 140o09’E (SST 20oC) to end at 32o27’N 139o30’E. A lumpy sea with 15-20 knot northeast winds and rain made it feel like we were truly in the North Pacific, but birds were few in the morning – mainly unidentified distant storm-petrels and shearwaters, plus a few Black-footed Albatross and Bonin Petrels. The wind picked up to 20-25 knots in the afternoon, making for atmospheric conditions; numbers of Streaked Shearwaters rose steadily, a few northbound migrant waders flew past, and a Minke Whale showed well just before lunch. An eventful evening of canapés (thanks as always to Nicki and Brad) and drinks in the bar featured an auction hosted by kilted Hugh Buck and winged fairy Gemma, during which a goodly amount was raised for Birdlife International’s endangered species program.
We awoke off Miyake Jima (34o01’N 139o26’E; SST 20.5oC) under sunny skies and near-calm, and cruised slowly past the rocks where Japanese Murrelets nest – sadly, it seemed that most if not all of the murrelets had finished breeding on this date, although the eddies and surface fronts were loaded with impressive feeding flocks of Streaked Shearwaters. Two or three fly-by specks seen by a few people were the best we could muster of the (presumed) murrelet before moving on northward, where we stopped mid-morning to drift while clearing up some Japanese entry formalities. After lunch we continued north over pleasantly calm waters and found numerous Japanese Murrelets, including pairs with large chicks close beside the ship – a great relief to see the last “target seabird” of the voyage. A Laysan Albatross and a pod of Baird’s Beaked Whales rounded out the day nicely as we cruised into to shipping lanes of Tokyo Bay (35o12’N 139o47’E) and the start of our re-entry into the “real” world. After a great buffet dinner, Rodney and the staff gave a recap of the journey and outlined the plans for disembarking tomorrow.
After breakfast we disembarked into Japan and on to our many and varied destinations. It was an amazing month “at sea” and thanks to all for making it such a memorable experience.
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" I really enjoyed very much the WPO, only one complaint: too short!
" I'm back home in the cold and wet with 6.5 hrs. of daylight and a lot of really good memories from the trip. I would like to thank you all for making it such a wonderful trip filled with so many different things to see, the cetaceans were especially good for me. "