Brushwood Island is a typical atoll island, a low motu made of coral. John explained that it is low enough that cyclone-generated waves periodically sweep right over it in the summer, which keeps the rat population down, and allows birds to nest here. The birds nest in and under the vegetation on the island. The first thing that you notice on going ashore is the tons and tons of sooty terns, both on the ground and on the wing.
There’s a school of thought that before humans showed up with rats, almost every scrap of land in Polynesia was this densely packed with seabirds during the nesting season. The South Pacific would have been a very different place, with millions of birds feeding in spots where we now see a hundred. Most of these sooty terns were recently-fledged juveniles. Here’s a picture of a juvenile (on the right) begging from an adult.The little girls from Momo, meanwhile, couldn’t get enough of Elias.
There were also a lot of red-tailed tropicbirds around, both adults…
The tropicbirds nested underneath low-hanging vegetation. It was fun to see how the nesting habitat of the different species was seperate, with boobies (brown boobies?) nesting on the ground in the open…
We’re used to seeing the same sort of niche differentiation at Alaskan seabird colonies, but there it’s the division between birds nesting on top of the cliffs, on the cliffs, and below the cliffs.
We also saw some fairy terns, and I was very keen to see their eggs or chicks, as, if I have it right, they just lay an egg in the crook of a tree branch without building any nest at all, and raise their chicks in that precarious way. But we only saw adults.
We could have sat there, well, for days, with appropriate rest breaks. But the others were ready to go sooner than that. My flip flops had exploded, so Alisa carried our whole kit back to the boat.
Where we joined everyone else for the ride back to Anchorage Island.