Text and photo by Ginni Callahan


When I was a kid, I broke my foot just before an elementary school class field trip. Instead of participating in the weekend’s activities, I was perched inside a window opposite a bird feeder, where a staff member occasionally came by to offer some informative morsel about the feathered activity I was seeing. I got to drive with the staff member on errands and watch a sparrow hawk hover over a meadow and dive for a mouse.

I was enthralled. However, being an active, busy person, I seldom slow down enough to enjoy birds like that.   On our crossing from Mexico to the South Pacific I had time. I took a great interest in birds again because looking for them gave me an excuse to stand in the cockpit and stare at the horizon for hours, which was a good antidote to seasickness. Then I realized that photos were great aids for identification. One could zoom in closer with the camera than with the eye. The photo would hold still long enough to study markings against the Seabirds book. The challenges of taking clear photos of a flying bird from a moving boat, with the dynamic background of the sea, kept me trying.

Our reference is Seabirds: an Identification Guide by Peter Harrison.

On anchor in the Marquesas I fell in love with the flocks of little white terns and their aerial maneuvers. Sun caught them dancing against a dark background of verdant hillside or grey full-bellied cloud. But I couldn’t get a satisfactory photo.

With the mission of capturing their carefree spirit in pixels, I went ashore with the camera on the atoll of Makemo. That started a tradition of wandering about on scraps of land in the South Pacific and photographing birds, and other things that caught my eye.

Below are some photos.  For stories about the experience, please visit my blog

List of seabirds seen:

At sea:

White-tailed tropic bird Phaethon lepturus

Red-tailed tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda

Masked booby Sula dactylatra

Wedge-tailed shearwater Puffinus pacificus

Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii

Madeiran storm-petrel Oceanodroma castro

Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus

Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea

Sooty tern Sterna fuscata


Tuamotu atolls:

White tern (Fairy tern) Gygis alba

Crested tern Sterna bergii

Grey-backed tern Sterna lunata

Great frigate Fregata minorj

Lesser frigate Fregata ariel

Red-footed booby Sula sula

Brown booby Sula leucogaster

Brown noddy Anous stolidus

Black noddy Anous t. minutus



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