Western Pacific Odyssey Spring 2007


Introduction

Since the early days of sail and global exploration, the remote islands of the Pacific Ocean have held a strong grip on the popular imagination. Even in these days of effortless jet travel, many amazing island archipelagos remain remote and rarely visited by birders or whalewatchers. It is probably fair to say that the tropical Pacific represents the great unknown for pelagic enthusiasts.

Ocean Wanderers is proud to announce a new and exlusive cruise through the Western Pacific, masterminded by John Brodie-Good and Rodney Russ. John is the founder of WildWings (and its sister company WildOceans), without doubt the premiere oceanic nature travel company in the world! Based in Bristol, England, WW/WO offer an unrivaled portfolio of seabird and marine mammal-orientated holidays all over the globe. The cadre of handpicked leaders is unsurpassed in terms of their breadth of oceanic travel experience and their ability to maximize the complete experience for the clients. Rodney Russ is the founder of Heritage Expeditions (NZ), which specializes in exploration cruises to the Subantarctic and Antarctic waters of New Zealand and Australia. Click here to read an illustrated account by John Brodie-Good and myself of a voyage in 2001 with Rodney and his crew to the Subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia. More recently, Heritage Expeditions (NZ) has expanded its portfolio to include the Arctic, Galapagos and true expedition voyages such as the Western Pacific Odyssey.

In March and April 2005, seabird cruise veterans Chris Collins and Kaj Kampp undertook a recce trip aboard
the Spirit of Enderby, sailing from Auckland to Pusan, South Korea. This took them further west in the later stages of the cruise than intended for the Spring 2007 trip, thereby missing several specialities of the Japanese waters (Short-tailed Albatross, Bonin Petrel, Bannerman's Shearwater, Tristram's Storm-Petrel, Japanese Murrelet). That said, Chris and Kaj logged a very impressive list of tropical Pacifc specialities and future participants can look forward to careful modification of the sailing directions to pass through as many key areas as possible and to do so during daylight hours. As a brief taster to the more easterly run up to southern Japan, you can read about my own brief visit to the wonderfully rich waters around Torishima and the Osagawara Islands.

Hope you enjoy the account, Angus Wilson

Ps Don't forget to mention 'OceanWanderers' if you decide to sign up :))


Fig. 1. Black Petrel (also known as Parkinson's Petrel) Procellaria parkinsoni. Nesting on Little and Great Barrier Islands, Black Petrels are extremely similar in plumage and bill coloration to Westland Petrel P. westlandica, which nests on the South Island of New Zealand. Both species range widely in the south Pacific towards central America and Australia and can present a formidable identification challenge. Both have an obvious dark tip to the pale yellow bill, a key distinguishing feature from the more numerous White-chinned Petrel P. aequinoctalis. Compared to Westlands, Black Petrels are smaller and less heavily built. In flight they are more reminiscent of shearwaters than the other Procellaria. When seen close, the tips of the toes can be seen peeking beyond the tail tips. Photography in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand by
Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.


Overview

Cruise Route: Auckland, New Zealand to Kagoshima, Japan
Dates: 26th March – 27th April 2007
Leaders: The WildWings team, Rodney Russ & the Heritage Expedition (NZ) team

We are now turning our attentions to the pelagic wonders of the Pacific Ocean, relatively unexplored by keen sea watchers, until now. We have conceived and designed a ‘world first’ voyage, sailing northwards from New Zealand to Japan in spring 2007. This voyage will include many days at sea, travelling through waters rich in highly desired seabirds and cetaceans and features selected island stops, bird wise concentrating on the applicable endemics. The unique Kagu of New Caledonia being one of the star species we will seek ashore. We will also enjoy some great snorkelling and general island exploration opportunities for the not so keen birder. The main purpose of the voyage will be the seabirds and cetaceans however, and a number of ‘chum’ stops will be made throughout the voyage to attract seabirds to the ship. We will have radios for constant communication onboard, to help maximise everyone’s sightings. Photographic opportunities should be good. The 2005 voyage recce report is on our website now, and will be amended over time, it now includes our air recce to the Caroline and Northern Marianas Islands. Further recce visits will be made before the actual voyage. Seasonal weather at this time of year is expected to be good, the recce voyage enjoyed a generally calm passage. Because of the length of the whole voyage, we will be able to offer sectors too, but preference will be given to passengers who want to experience the whole expedition first. Join us for this unique voyage.


Figs. 2-3. New Zealand Storm-Petrel Oceanites maorianus. Getting up close-and-personal with this recently rediscovered jewel is a dream for almost every seabird fanatic. First collected by the Astrolabe Expedition in 1829, there are only a handful of specimens and the bird was last 'seen' in 1850. On 25th January 2003 a pelagic trip sailing out of Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand, organised by Wrybill Birding Tours briefly encountered a puzzling white-rumped Storm-Petrel. Fortunately they managed to photograph the bird and it was not long before the link to the three extant specimens (in London and Paris) was made. Follow up trips have successfully encountered more New Zealand Storm-Petrels, sometimes in small flocks. Now the search is on to discover and protect the nesting sites. Photography in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand by Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.

The Ship

Our vessel will be the comfortable expedition ship, the Spirit of Enderby, operated by Heritage Expeditions carrying a maximum of just 48 passengers. All cabins have portholes or windows and plenty of storage space. The ship has a bar/library lounge and a dedicated lecture room with informal dining in two dining rooms. We will use her Zodiacs for landings and cruises.


Figs. 4-5. Gould's Petrel Pterodroma leucoptera. The majority of the world's Gould's Petrels breed on Cabbage Tree Island and nearby Boondelbah Island, off the coast at Port Stephens, New South Wales, Australia. With a total world population of only 1,100-1,500 individuals, these fantastic looking petrels are appropriately listed as an endangered species. Over the last 30 years here have been substantial declines in the population due to the combined effects of predation by avian predators, entanglement in the sticky fruits of the Bird-lime Tree (Pisonia umbellifera) and degradation of the nestng habitat by introduced rabbits. When at sea, Gould's Petrels are found most commonly in the Tasman Sea. Photographed by Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.


Fig. 6. Matsudaira's Storm-Petrel Photographed by Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.

The Itinerary*

Day 1: Embark late afternoon in Auckland, NZ. WildWings group dinner ashore.
Day 2: Sail in the early hours from Auckland to the Hauraki Gulf for the recently re-discovered New Zealand Storm-Petrel, Grey Ternlet and other specialities. Evening offshore a ‘Pycroft’s Petrel’ island.
Days 3 & 4: At sea.
Day 5: Norfolk Island (Australia). We plan to seek three endemics, Norfolk Island Parakeet, Norfolk Gerygone and Slender-billed White-eye and later in the day plan to re-position the ship off nearby Phillip Island for seabirds gathering in the evening.
Days 6 & 7: At sea.
Days 8 & 9: Noumea (New Caledonia). We will have two full days to bird and explore the southern end of this tropical paradise island. We will split up into smaller groups and plan to visit both Parc de la Riviere Bleue for Kagu and other endemics plus Mount Koghi. Other birds we will seek include New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon, N.C. (White-bellied) Goshawk, N.C.(Horned) Parakeet, N.C. Myzomela, N.C. Whistler, N.C. Crow, N.C. Cuckoo-Shrike, N.C. Grassbird (very difficult to see), N.C. Friarbird, Crow, Dark-brown and Barred Honeyeaters, Yellow-bellied Robin, Cloven-feathered Dove, Red-throated Parrotfinch and Striated Starling.
Days 10-12: At sea.
Day 13: Rennell (Solomon Islands). We shall seek a number of Solomon endemics including the five species restricted to Rennell, Rennell Shrikebill, Fantail, White-eye and Starling plus Bare-eyed White-eye.
Day 14: Honiara. Birding excursion to Mount Austin. Island group endemics found here include Midget Flowerpecker, Ultramarine Kingfisher, S.I. Cuckoo-Shrike and others. NB This is the changeover point for passengers travelling on sectors only.
Day 15: Solomon Islands landing TBA.
Day 16: Ghizo and Kolombangara (Solomon Islands). We shall seek more endemics, Splendid White-eye, White-capped Monarch plus Solomon Sea Eagle and later in the day hope to see Roviana Rails as they come out before dark, the species being only first described in 1991.
Days 17-20: At sea.
Day 21: Chuuk (‘Truk’, Caroline Islands). Ashore we will look for Chuuk Monarch, Caroline Islands White-eye, Reed Warbler, Swiftlet and Ground Dove plus Oceanic Flycatcher.
Days 22 &23: At sea.
Day 24: Rota. We shall seek the endemic white-eye and Mariana Crow.
Day 25: Saipan and Tinian (Northern Mariana Islands). Another group of islands, more endemics. Golden and Bridled White-eye, Nightingale Reed Warbler, White-throated Ground Dove and Mariana Swiftlet whilst on Tinian we seek the island’s Monarch.
Day 26: TBA for Micronesian Megapode. (We are seeking permission to land at one of the Northern Mariana islands for this species)
Days 27-29: At sea.
Day 30: Torishima (Japan, landing not allowed) We will cruise off the island in the afternoon for surely one of the seabird highlights, Short-tailed Albatross.
Days 31 & 32: At sea
Day 33: Disembark Kagoshima, Japan, after breakfast.

*As applies to all expedition cruises, the exact itinerary will be subject to weather and local conditions. Some landings are still subject to final permissions.


Figs. 7-8. Wedge-tailed Shearwater. A signature species of the tropical pacific. Photographed by Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.

Seabirds (selected species only)

Little Penguin*
Wandering* Albatross
Royal Albatross sp.
Black-browed* Albatross
Buller’s Albatross
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
Grey-headed Albatross
Shy Albatross
Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus
Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis
Black-footed Albatross* Albatross
Great-winged Petrel*
Tahiti Petrel*
Mottled Petrel
Providence Petrel*
Kermadec Petrel*
Herald Petrel Pterodroma arminjoniana
White-necked Petrel*
Cook’s Petrel*
Gould’s Petrel*
Pterodroma leucoptera
Phoenix Petrel Pterodroma alba
Bonin Petrel Pterodroma hypoleuca
Black-winged Petrel*
Pycroft’s Petrel Pterodroma pycrofti
Fairy Prion*
Bulwer’s Petrel*
White-chinned Petrel
Black Petrel*
Westland Black Petrel

Figs. 9. Streaked Shearwater. Photographed by Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.

Streaked Shearwater*
Flesh-footed Shearwater* Puffinus carneipes
Wedge-tailed Shearwater*
Buller’s Shearwater*
Short-tailed Shearwater*
Heinroth’s Shearwater Puffinus heinrothi
A little known species that would certainly be one of the highlights.
Christmas Shearwater
Fluttering Shearwater*
Hutton’s Shearwater
Little Shearwater
Audubon’s Shearwater*
New Zealand Storm Petrel* (recently re-discovered)
Wilson’s Storm Petrel*
Grey-backed Storm Petrel
White-faced Storm Petrel*
Black-bellied Storm Petrel
White-bellied Storm Petrel
White-throated Storm Petrel Nesofregetta fuliginosa
To maximise the chances of seeing this species on the WPO there are planning to chum for it near to New Caledonia.
Madeiran (Band-rumped) Storm Petrel
Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel Oceanodroma monorhis
Tristram’s Storm Petrel Oceanodroma tristrami
Should be encountered in numbers in the approach to Japan.
Matsudaira’s Storm Petrel*
Common Diving-Petrel*
Red-tailed Tropicbird*
White-tailed Tropicbird*

Fig. 10. Australasian Gannet. Photographed by Angus Wilson © 2001, All rights reserved.

Australasian Gannet*
Masked Booby*
Red-footed Booby*
Brown Booby*
Japanese Cormorant*
Great Frigatebird*
Lesser Frigatebird*
South Polar Skua*
Brown Skua
Black-tailed Gull*
Kelp Gull*
Slaty-backed Gull
Silver Gull*
White-fronted Tern*
Black-naped Tern*
Aleutian Tern
Grey-backed Tern*
Bridled Tern*
Sooty Tern*
Fairy Tern
Black-fronted Tern
Crested* Tern
Lesser-crested Tern
Grey Ternlet*
Brown Noddy*
Black Noddy*
White Tern*
Japanese Murrelet
Long-billed Murrelet
Rhinoceros Auklet*

* Seen on the 2005 voyage recce from Auckland to South Korea (which tracked further west in the northern section than the 2007 voyage will).

Fig. 11. Grey Ternlet. Photographed by Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.


Fig.12. Red-tailed Tropicbird. Photographed by Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.

Marine Mammals

Over 30 species of cetacean occur in the waters we will be travelling through, and there is always the real chance of new discoveries, especially in the toothed whale department. The recce saw:

Bryde’s Whale - Balaenoptera edeni
Sperm Whale - Physeter macrocephalus
Gray’s Beaked-Whale - Mesoplodon grayi
Cuvier’s Beaked-Whale - Mesoplodon cavirostris
Blainville’s Beaked-Whale (probable)
Short-finned Pilot Whale - Globicephala macrorhynchus
Long-finned Pilot Whale - Globicephala melas
Orca - Orcinus orca
False-killer Whale - Pseudorca crassidens
Striped Dolphin - Stenella coeruleoalba
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin - Stenella attenuata
Long-snouted Spinner Dolphin - Stenella longirostris
Bottlenose Dolphin - Tursiops truncates
Risso’s Dolphin - Grampus griseus
Fraser’s Dolphin - Lagenodelphis hosei


Fig. 13. Buller's Shearwater. Photographed by Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.


Figs. 14-15. White-necked Petrel Pterodroma cervicalis. Once considered conspecific with Juan Fernandez Petrel of the eastern Pacific, this impressive Pterodroma is distinguished by the larger size, obvious white hindneck (collar), stronger contrast between the dark cap and the mantle and also the bolder markings on the leading edge of the underwing. Nests on the Kermadec and Norfolk Islands. Also nests on Vanuatu, although Imber has argued that this latter population (P. c. occulta) deserves full species status. Photographed by Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.

Interested? Full details on pricing, cabin options and how to book can be found on the WildWings web site.
Please mention that you learned about the trip through 'Ocean Wanderers
'.

Need more information? I recommend visiting the WildWings web site (http://www.wildwings.co.uk/) or requesting their excellent catalogue (WildWings, 577-579 Fishponds Road, Bristol, BS16 3AF, England; Phone: +44 (0)117-9658-333; E-mail: wildinfo@wildwings.co.uk). By booking a trip through WW/WO, you are guaranteed excellent and friendly service as well as expert help with arranging flights, side-trips etc.

Fig. 16. Campell Albatross. Photographed by Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.


Figs. 17. Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes.
Photographed by
Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.


Page layout copyright of Angus Wilson© 2005, All rights reserved.
Photos
copyright of Chris Collins© 2005, All rights reserved.

Text copyright of John Brodie-Good© 2005, All rights reserved.

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