Late one afternoon as I was walking down the lane behind our house there was a sudden commotion. A brush turkey (Alectura lathami) hurtled over two back fences, across the street, and into another garden with a second turkey in hot pursuit. By the time I reached the garden, the first turkey was huddled by the front gate with its head buried in a fig hedge, whilst its pursuer – a male in full breeding condition – raked its back with its powerful claws.
This post is not about wildlife, but rather a bit of background on Tonga that might help set the scene for my last 3 posts. The following photo of a section of our family’s old world globe shows where the island nation is located in the SW Pacific.
Tonga’s 3 main island groups - Tongatapu, Ha’apai, and Vava’u – have mostly similar birds and other fauna. However I didn’t take many photographs on land as my camera was usually locked in an underwater housing. The wet weather and the camera-shy nature of many of the birds didn’t help either, but I did manage to get photos of a few creatures that were new to me.
The bird that woke me most mornings in Vava’u was this Polynesian Starling (Aplonis tabuensis). It regularly called outside my bedroom window and would then call on and off for the rest of the day. At least it didn’t start as early as the neighbourhood cockerels, or as early as our Kiwi fisherfolk neighbours who started their boat motor at 5 a.m. (and left it to warm up while they chatted!)
We are on the No Bananas, with a pod of 7 pilot whales (Globicephala – actually members of the dolphin family) about 100 metres off on the starboard bow. Three of our fastest swimmers are trying to approach them while the rest of us watch.
Suddenly we watchers are startled by a loud whoosh behind us. A juvenile humpback has surfaced on our port quarter, right next to No Bananas. It’s as if he’s saying “Pilot whales, schmilot whales. Pick me – I’m much more fun!” So we do - and he is!
For the next two hours, he regularly surfaces and rolls around near whoever’s in the water. He seems to enjoy the attention. Some of the photos tell the story best: