Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update August 2010
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for August 2010.
Once again we haven’t been able to get out much this month and have only managed to operate on 10 days. The diversity of pelagic birds however continues to be extensive. To see what was sighted this month click on our sightings page.
The Hutton’s shearwaters are beginning to return to Kaikoura and we have seen the largest raft of birds so far this winter of about 200 individuals. These birds are awaiting the snow to melt on the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains before they can recommence their summer breeding season.
Our albatross species are subtly changing with increased number of northern and southern royals. We’ve also seen a few snowy wandering albatross this month. Our smaller mollymawks are also changing signifying the end of winter as our Buller’s and black-browed albatross numbers start to decline and we start to see the occasional sightings of Salvin’s and white-capped albatross as they return from their winter migrations.
In the middle of the month, a rare yellow-eyed penguin was sighted. Also known as the hoiho, which in Maori means “noise shouter” as a result of their shrill call. This bird is endemic to New Zealand with a population of 6000-7000 individuals. These penguins are more commonly found further south around the Otago Peninsula, Stewart Island and the Sub-Antarctic Islands. Over the last few years the occasional yellow-eyed has been sighted around the Kaikoura coastline with one individual taking up residence on the Kaikoura Peninsula. Being in this area, they really are at the very northern limits of their boundary. The majority of its diet consists of fish and occasionally red arrow squid gained on deep dives ranging from 20-60m.
We’ve also taken several camera club groups out on their quest to see the albatross. Their challenge is to capture these magnificent birds in flight which proved to be quite a task for some, especially with the initial problems to overcome such as standing on a boat, in swell and trying to hold the camera still!
Gary Melville abandoned us for a few weeks this month as Pete stepped in to take over his albatross tours. The reason for Gary’s disappearance was to attend the very important annual bird fair at Rutland Water in England. The aim of the Fair is to draw birdwatchers together to celebrate birds, to develop a commercial Fair for the birdwatching industry and to support international conservation projects. Gary has attended the Bird Fair for the last 5 years and it provides a great opportunity to promote New Zealand birding to a wider audience. Gary and Jo Thompson (our marketing manager) managed a stall in the New Zealand section and represented the NZ Birding Network. It is hoped in the coming season that these businesses will see a few new faces from the active marketing at the Bird Fair.
Well the returning of the Hutton's shearwaters is quite significant as on Saturday the 28th August, the Minister of Conservation, the Hon. Kate Wilkinson, was the guest speaker at Takahanga Marae (Kaikoura) for the celebration to mark the completion of the predator protection fence for a third colony of Hutton’s shearwater on the Kaikoura Peninsula.
Chairman of the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust, Paul McGahan, said this is a milestone for Kaikoura and the future protection of this species. It celebrates the amazing community effort, support and commitment that has gone into the project.
The Trust, founded in October 2008 by Geoff Harrow of Christchurch, quickly set about raising over $200,000 within six months and by April of this year (2010) the fence was completed. Harrow, with a lifelong passion of protecting this species over 47 years, first came upon this species in the headwaters of the Kowhai River after speaking with local hunters in 1964. Hutton’s shearwater only breeds in burrows in the Seaward Kaikoura mountains at heights of between 1200-1800 metres and spend their winters feeding in offshore Australian waters.
He subsequently discovered seven other colonies throughout the Kaikoura Ranges but within less than 20 years, only two were left. The other colonies had been wiped out by predators, mainly pigs, placing Hutton’s on the endangered species list.
In 2005 DoC set about establishing a third breeding colony due to the risks faced by the species. Between 2005 and 2008 transfers of 270 chicks were made from the Kowhai headwaters to the new Peninsula colony. The chicks were fed until they fledged so they would imprint and return to breed at this site.
Geoff Harrow says this is a long term project and over time will make a significant contribution to the conservation and protection of this species.
So this event was a milestone for Kaikoura and a fantastic achievement for the dedicated trustees of the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust.
So, as we say goodbye to our harsh winter, we look forward to welcoming spring and the change in species the season brings with it
So, till next month happy birding!
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