Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update September 2010
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for September 2010.
Spring has been a challenging month in more ways than one. The massive earthquake that caused widespread disruption and damge in Christchurch, had even wider implications when 6 days later a landslide came down closing State Highway 1 south of Kaikoura. It was presumed that although the earthquake was only very minor in Kaikoura, combined with the large amounts of rain experienced at this time, this was enough to cause this large landslide. The highway was closed for 6 days with traffic having to divert through the inland route while the slip was cleared.
Despite the weather and disruptions on the main highwayl, we were still able to operate on 15 days this month. With the arrival of spring, our diversity of bird species has begun to change with the arrival of birds such as Hutton’s shearwaters, Buller’s shearwaters and fairy prions. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
It’s always exciting to see the return of the Hutton’s shearwater. During the winter months they migrate to southern Australia and return to Kaikoura at the start of the breeding season. These birds are an alpine breeding seabird with their breeding colony high up in the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains between 1200–1800 metres. The birds feed on krill and small fish on the Pacific and have been sighted this month in rafts of up to 5,000 individuals. This bird is special to Kaikoura as it’s the only place in the world where they are found to breed.
With the arrival of the Hutton’s shearwaters, it usually signifies a change in some of our other bird species. Our sightings of the black-browed and Buller’s albatross have declined with an increase in sightings of Salvin’s and white-capped albatross, which have started returning from their winter migrations from South America and South Africa. We do still have sporadic sightings of black-browed albatross throughout summer, but we will see them in larger numbers once again next winter.
Some exciting news for us was the sighting of a new banded wandering albatross, sighted this month for the first time in Kaikoura. Sightings information and photos have been sent to our research team and they gave us all the information on this bird. Red 06E is a Gidson's wandering albatross banded on Adam's Island on the 12th Januray 1997. He has nested 9 times in 1997-2005 with the same mate, but always unsuccessfully - presumably one or the other was infertile. His mate died in the big mortality event in 2005, and he's been alone each summer on the island since then. However, he re-mated and laid again last January, so hopefully will be back now at his nest with the food he got from Kaikoura!
We get passengers from all walks of life coming out on our tours, but it’s always great to see the young, budding ornithologists like Morgan, an 8 year old visiting with his family from Perth. Armed with his own binoculars, he already possessed an extensive knowledge of birds having frequently ventured out on pelagic tours in Western Australia with his mum. This young lad had already encountered an abundance of snowy wandering albatross and Indian yellow- nosed albatross, but was pleased to get a few new birds like the northern royal and Gibson’s wandering albatross, grey-faced petrel and Antarctic fulmar under his belt.
So, till next month happy birding!
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