Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update October 2010
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for October 2010.
Spring has been a busy month for us and we have been able to operate on 26 days this month despite north-easterly and southerly winds. Windy conditions are always great for the albatross and often results in them displaying their magestic soaring ability a lot closer to shore than normal.
Species of interest this month included southern cape petrels, Australasian gannets and a grey-backed storm petrel. We’ve also seen huge flocks of Hutton’s shearwaters with numbers estimated to be 5,000-6,000 individuals. To see what was sighted this month click on our sightings page.
We’ve seen a few banded birds this month including orange 512, red 90A, red 06E and red 73E.
Orange 512 is probably the most famous of all the wandering albatross in the Kaikoura area due to achieving recent national media attention. A local charter fisherman (Ian Croucher) was pulling up a craypot off the Kaikoura Peninsula when he noticed some fishing line floating in the water. As he started to pull in the line, he realised it was attached to an albatross nearby. The line had become entangled around the legs of a banded albatross, which turned out to be one of our favourites, orange 512.
The charter fisherman called up Gary (who was about to leave South Bay skippering one of our dolphin boats) and said he was bringing in a banded albatross. When the boat came into South bay, Gary got on board and with a pair of scissors and set about cutting the line (which turned out to be about 150 metres in length) to free the bird. Once the line had been cut free, Gary took 512 aboard our dolphin boat and headed out to sea to release her. 512 acted very calmly throughout the entire procedure. The following morning, Gary saw 512 on our albatross tour and she looked none the worse for her endeavours. 512 probably had a life saving escape as Gary believed the bird would not have survived unless someone could have freed her.
Sadly we have seen other birds affected by fishing practices this month, including a young Wandering albatross with a long line hook through its leg. Unfortunately this individual didn’t come close enough to our boat in order for us to help it.
Occasionally we see the seabirds capturing their food live as was the case on the 28th of this month. The scenario was that a flock of Hutton's shearwaters had found a school of smelt and were diving underneath them, forcing them to the surface, where they were pounced on by red-billed gulls and white-fronted terns.
The grey-backed storm petrel is the most likely species of storm petrel to be seen off the Kaikoura Coast, although only a rare visitor. It has a distinctive fluttering flight close to the waves and breeds throughout the Sub-Antarctic. They are diminutive birds weighing a mere 25-30gm, but are extremely agile in flight. As such it can be very challenging to take photos of these pelagic pipsqueaks!
The cape petrels continue to amuse our passengers with their raucous noises however on one occasion, Emma from Spain, had an encounter with a difference when a cape petrel landed on her head and seemed quite content to use her as a resting stop!
That’s all our news for now, so till next month, happy birding!
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