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We saw 5 species of sea birds on Kouare Island in the great southern lagoon of New Caledonia. Ilot Kouare is part of the New Caledonia Lagoon World Heritage Site and I think the birds know and appreciate this. Like most birds, they are wary of visitors but also curious. After I set up my tripod to take this sphere image the birds in the island bushes and on the beaches watched me watching them for about half an hour and then they went back to business as normal – which, for the Noddy Turns, was mating ritual flights.
Most of the Noddy Turns flew in pairs, their wingtips often just centimetres apart, dancing high above the island making little chirping noises to each other. They soared, glided, came plummeting down to graze the waves and then climbed again, circling each other with excitement.
Sometimes I saw a ménage a trois with three Noddy Turns doing aerobatics together. I suppose they were two males trying to impress the same female – but it could have been any combination at all or even just a group of birds doing flying exercises just for fun. I was actually hoping one of the couples would land in the bush next to me and consummate their ritual. But they evidently wanted a little more privacy for that. If you look straight up in the sphere image you will see one pair of noddy turns way, way up there. Can't get more private than that.
In all this flocking excitement, the occassional sea gull would flap down the beach and every once and awhile land on the beach and waddle into the clear water to cool off.
White sterns of two species flitted by at high speed, on their way to snatch some lunch from the lagoon fly-by just beyond the edge of the reef.
Ilot Kouare is about 40 nautical miles south of Noumea and except for holidays and long weekends when yachts come down to this lagoon anchorage, the sea birds have the lovely little island all to themselves.
New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.