Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update April 2010
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update for the month of April 2010.
We have had 27 days of operation this month with a wide range of species being sighted. Some of our summer species are just beginning to leave (as they start their annual winter migration) and new arrivals of winter species are also happening. For a list of birds that were sighted this month, go to our sightings page.
This month, we bid a fond farewell not only to some of our common summer species, but also to Alastair Judkins. Al is one of our long term bird skippers and he has headed off once more to the northern hemisphere to Canada for an extended winter break. Al is a passionate and enthusaistic skipper/guide who loves introducing passengers to the world of pelagic birds. Known for his flair with the camera, Al (along with Gary) also enjoys taking photos for our updates each month.Al will be back (with the summer species) again at the beginning of the summer season.
A few of our popular bird species left our Kaikoura shores this month notably the Salvin's albatross (Thalassarche salvini) which heads off to follow the productive Humboldt current off Chile. The flesh-footed shearwater (Puffinis carneipes) travels to the North Pacific whilst the white-chinned petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis) disperses around the southern hemisphere for winter.
On the 2nd of this month, we had a sighting of a brown skua. The brief fly past of this bird was a rare sight for us and delighted those on board.
Luckily for one of our Gibson's wandering albatross (Diomedea gibsoni), Gary Melville was the hero of the day. This particular bird had been spotted by Gary struggling to swallow any food and on closer inspection revealed a length of insulation tape around it's neck preventing it from feeding. It was only due to Gary's sheer determination and persistence that he was able to catch the albatross and free it of it's death sentence. A lucky survivor, this Gibson's was wary of our Encounter II vessel afterwards. It's sad though that this was quite clearly a deliberate act.
On the odd occasion this month around Barney's Rock we've seen the rare reef heron (Egretta sacra). In previous years, this bird has succesfully bred at Barney's Rock, however this year it failed to breed. We're hoping that maybe next year will be more successful.
As well as a variety of pelagic birds we often spot interesting fish life especially with the sub-tropical current travelling into the Kaikoura Canyon through the Hikurangi Trough. These warmer waters entice bizarre creatures such as the marlin and the sunfish. The sunfish is the heaviest known bony fish in the world and can weigh up to 1,000kg. It's an odd looking creature with a head and tail resembling a fish, but the main body is flattened laterally. We usually spot sunfish by it's dorsal fin flapping around on the ocean's surface as it basks in the sun. Another visitor is the blue shark. Obviously with luring the albatross to tempting chum we frequently see blue sharks, however as winter approaches and as the ocean temperature drops, we say goodbye to these fascinating fish.
Till next month, happy birding.........
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