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Albatross Encounter Update October 2009

Posted by Dennis Buurman (11 Comments)
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 in Default

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update for the month of October 2009.

We have had 20 days of operation with some great sighting of pelagic and coastal birdlife in a variety of situations.  For a list of what was sighted this month, go to our sightings page.

This month was also notable for the completion and launching of our improved bird watching vessel, “Encounter II”. The vessel has had a refit to give more space at the stern (rear) of the vessel for customers, allowing for better opportunities for viewing and photography. The vessel has also been lengthened, making it a sturdier platform for our seabird viewing tours. So come aboard and have a sea birding encounter like no other in the world!

We had a unique experience on our tour on the 22nd of this month.  Hutton’s shearwaters, Australasian gannets, and dusky dolphins were co-operatively feeding on small baitfish, herding them to the surface. Salvins albatross soon arrived on the scene and began sub-surface lunging to feed on the easy meal. It was an interesting insight into the natural lives of a variety of species all at once.

A wandering albatross was photographed on our tour which had an unfortunate encounter with a long-line vessel. This individual was one of the lucky ones having been brought on board the vessel and having the trace cut to release the bird. It was seen to be opening its beak to feed so it is hoped the hook will rust out in time allowing the wanderer to resume its long and nomadic life on the Southern Ocean. In the past, approximately 100,000 albatross and other seabirds were caught on long line hooks annually, as they were deployed and retrieved from the vessels. Due to co-operation between fisherman and conservation groups, a lot of progress has been made to reduce this figure. Even so, many birds are still under threat from accidental by-catch from fishing vessels around the world. For more information on this subject, visit the SOUTHERN SEABIRDS TRUST website.

There were also a variety of species seen that appeared to have oil stains on their feathers. This may have occurred when feeding alongside a fishing vessel that was emptying their bilges after an engine leak. It is hoped that the oil will break down and the bird won’t ingest harmful levels of oil during their preening sessions.

Sooty shearwaters have been stopping here to rest and feed after their amazing journey from the high latitudes of the North Pacific. During our winter these shearwaters migrate to the food rich waters off Alaska and Russia in the Bering Strait. Now they are returning to their breeding sites, completing a world record 64,000km round trip. These sites are mainly on offshore islands of New Zealand such as Codfish Island and the “Mutton Bird Islands” off Stewart Island.  On one of our tours approximately 10,000 were seen as they recharged the batteries before continuing south towards home.

We are looking forward to November which will bring more sightings of pelagic species such as Buller’s shearwaters and grey-faced petrel.  We hope to see you out there soon.

Till next time……….



Tour Photos
Who's Oldest
Oiled Birds
Fishing Boat
Albatross and Fish
Antractic Fulmar
Grey-faced Petrel
Encounter II


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