Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update May 2010
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for May 2010.
The beginning of the month brought some glorious autumnal weather followed by some challenging storms towards the latter half of the month. The wind however is great for bringing albatross into the area and with the beautiful backdrop of the freshly snow-capped Seaward Kaikoura Mountain’s, it is a photographers dream. To see what species were seen, go to our sightings page.
Species of interest this month included diving petrels, brown and arctic skua and the New Zealand falcon. We’ve seen large numbers of cape petrels, black-browed and Buller’s albatross and southern royal albatross.
During early May, we almost achieved our record number of Gibson’s wandering albatross where 48 individuals were sighted on one tour! Our record currently sits at 54 individuals. We’ve also had a few banded Gibson’s this month with our more regular #73E Red being sighted. This wanderer is a mature male first tagged on Adam's Island in 2001. He was last sighted here in Kaikoura back in January. We have also seen one of our regulars, 050 who we last photographed in November 2009.
Record numbers of NZ white-capped albatross were spotted close inshore with a massive 250+ individuals seen. This was over a 2 mile stretch with the birds sitting on top of an obvious upwelling. Never before have we seen such a density of these mollymawks and it’s a clear indication of the abundant food supply brought in by the Kaikoura Canyon system.
Buller’s shearwaters have been sighted in rafts of 60-70 as they prepare to migrate to the North Pacific as far away as Japan and Alaska. Typically, during May our sightings of the small diving petrel increase before promptly declining once more towards the end of the month. Also our arctic skua migrates back to the Northern Hemisphere to their annual summer breeding grounds.
A surprise for us this month was a sighting at Barney’s Rock. We frequently stop at Barney’s to look out for different bird species. At this time of year it’s used as a roost for spotted shags who gather in large numbers. They generally stay around for winter although they don’t breed here. As well as the spotted shags, our unusual visitor was a karearea or New Zealand falcon. These birds of prey are also known as sparrow hawks or bush hawks and are endemic to New Zealand. Sightings of them here in Kaikoura are incredibly rare and they’re classified as a threatened species due to population decline. These birds are capable of reaching speeds of 100km/hr and feed predominantly on birds. Their diet has been known to include white-faced herons which can be found around Barney’s rock.
Finally, it’s great to see the Kaikoura locals out and about enjoying the albatross. The occasion, an 80th birthday treat for a group of 14. Marianne Brown's husband had been a stock agent in Kaikoura many years ago, so as well as seeing the albatross, he had the opportunity to spot all of his farms from a different oceanic perspective. It was refreshing to see a family get-together having so much fun with a dual purpose.
During the last week in May we experienced a very big southerly storm which brought up some impressive seas along the coastline with some extreme swells. This resulted in our tours having to be cancelled for a number of days. Let's hope thing improve as we move into June.
Till next month, good birding!
Comments are closed.