a field guide to the planet - by Damon Ramsey
There are so many places to see tropical Indo-Pacific seashores...
Arnavon (Arnarvon) Islands, Solomon Islands.
Cairns esplanade, Australia.
Lacepede Islands, Australia.
Lizard Island, Australia.
Michaelmas Cay, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia.
A beautiful atoll. Aitutaki is a triangular shaped atoll. It is famous for it's shallow lagoon and blue waters. After settlement by Polynesians, the first European to discover the series of islands was Bligh on Bounty. It was used as a military base by the United States of America and New Zealand in WW2. Today, it is most famous for it's stunning sand beaches, regularly cited as some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Most day tours into the lagoon stop at an island that has a population of breeding red-tailed tropic-birds.
Alim Island has a beautiful booby breeding colony. There is coral around most of the island, however the water seems fairly murky, and the coral is not spectacular. The island is best suited to boat cruising, looking for and watching breeding birds. You can land at higher tides, however, you can cover more ground and see more birds by boat. It is probably also better for the birds to watch them from a boat, rather than on foot, as you can approach them closely without disturbing them.
This small island complex includes various sea birds to identify. But even better is the chance to watch the behaviour of sea birds at close range.
The main bird species here is the Red-footed Booby. This species is found feeding mainly out to sea, thus it is difficult to get access to their breeding areas. Here, you can see Boobies nesting. They are mainly built on mangrove trees. The nests are small platforms balanced on tree branches just above the salt water. This island also gives one a chance to get great close views of the different forms of Red-footed Boobies. All the forms have red feet, but when in flight, the forms vary with the amounts of black, brown and/or white in the body and wings. However, close up, one can also see the differences in colours in the faces in the different morphs. The patterns and colours are stunning, and I have not seen them shown accurately in any field guides.
This island is located off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. It is very inaccessible. It is not very well known; in fact, the latest field guide "Birds of New Guinea" does not mention this place or any breeding sites of Red-footed Boobies within the region. The only probable way to visit the island is with expedition style ships. However, this island is not regularly included on any itineraries.
Other species seen here include; Black Noddy (White-capped Noddy), Brown Noddy (Common Noddy), Crested Tern, and Black-naped Tern, and others.
Thinking of travelling again after everything settles down? The first expedition I am booked to work on after the virus is Micronesia, New Guinea & Indonesia in 2021 with Silversea. Meanwhile I am giving a lecture on the Sunshine Coast (Australia) on the "Sounds of suburban south-east Queensland".