2015 Expedition: Appreciating the birdlife on Rawaki Island

Aquarium researchers and staff are on expedition to the remote Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) to study the natural history of the islands, surrounding reefs and connecting open water ecosystems. Research on the 2015 expedition will directly inform the management and maintenance of this world-renowned MPA. Today's post comes from the expedition's chief scientist in the field Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai.

Rawaki is home to hundreds of noddies, boobies, terns and frigates. Free of predators these birds both nest and lay eggs out in the open. Young chicks squeeze themselves under rocks to avoid the midday sun and wait for their parents to return with food.

Brown booby rests on skiff | Photo: S. Mangubhai

Although we are a group of marine scientists, we cannot help but notice and appreciate the seabirds that have made the Phoenix Islands their home. We are currently at Rawaki which is a small flat island with not a single tree growing on it. Every morning as the sun rises we watch seabirds lift up into the air and head out to sea to feed. Some fly low to the water, while others soar on the thermals coming off the ocean.

After our first dive, I decided to share with the team one of my many favourite things to do in the Phoenix Islands. We headed out a little way from island in search of large schools of seabirds. I look out for them hovering over the surface of the ocean and then wait until they dive down in a frenzy of activity. That is when I know I have found the spot, and shout to everyone to grab their snorkel, mask and fins and jump into the water.

Brown booby peers down at divers | Photo: S. Mangubhai
Below the surface were 500 schooling rainbow runners, surrounded in a ball of baitfish. As we looked down into the blue we could see grey reef sharks circling the rainbow runners. Sometimes if we are lucky we can see a brown booby peering down into the sea looking to grab a baitfish. And if you are as lucky as Dr. Craig Cooke you might even have a booby use your head as a landing site.

— Sangeeta

Facebook Comments


Post a Comment