Today we took the dinghy out to explore some of the motus along the western side of the atoll. At high tide in calm conditions (like now, when there’s hardly any swell from the south or north) it’s easy to paddle the dinghy up the shelf of the outer reef and then on in the shallow water to the motu behind.

They are all different:

The motu just in front of us consists of coral rubble that is piled up high (about 5 m) and steep with a plateau on top. The coarse rubble is covered in low shrubs–just the kind of landscape sooty terns seem to like. They nest in thousands just on the ground and underneath the shrubs (Wikipedia talks of half a million around the atoll…), circle the motu and the air vibrates with their shrill calls. Some frigate birds sit on the higher branches and add their cat-fight-like shrieks to the cacophony.

Further south we beached the dinghy in between slabs of dark coral. The tiny motu behind it consists of the same dark, solid coral plate with some finer shell sand piled up with just a few scrubs on top–just what masked boobies and red-tailed tropic birds like. We saw several couples of masked boobies around the motu and tropic birds with chicks under the shrubs.

We dinghied by another bigger motu with more land and higher leaf-trees (family pisonia). Such trees are popular with noddies and red-footed boobies who build their nests high up with the white chicks ogling down on visitors.

While we wandered around and also while we were riding slowly in the dinghy terns and boobies constantly circled us watching curiously what we were up to. We saw some traces of human visitors ashore (bottles around old fire places, a raft of the kind Polynesians use to collect lobsters), but apparently the birds haven’t had enough negative experiences with humans to be shy. At least not the generation we’re meeting here ;-)

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