Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update November 2010
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update for the month of November 2010
This month we have had 27 days of operation which gave us plenty of sightings of a variety of pelagic and coastal seabirds. November sees the arrival of some of our summer species such as grey-faced petrel, flesh-footed shearwater, Buller’s shearwater and fairy prion. These sightings will increase as the season progresses. Hutton's shearwaters have been seen in huge flocks this month also. To see what was seen for November and for other months, go to our sightings page.
Sightings of interest this month include a banded wandering albatross, bar-tailed godwits, and southern cape petrel.
On the 1st, one of our Dolphin Encounter boats came across a large squid being eaten by Salvin's and white-capped albatross. After sending the photos away to an expert, it has been identified as a dana octopus squid (Taningia danae). Very little is known about these cephalopods with most specimens being found in the stomachs of sperm whales. This species may therefore be on the menu of Kaikouras resident population of sperm whales.
On the 10th there was a visit by some extreme endurance fliers! A couple of bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica) circled our vessel four times and then continued their travels to the south, presumably to the Avon Estuary in Christchurch. These birds breed in the northern hemisphere during the boreal summer, then migrate to New Zealand during our spring to enjoy another summer feeding and rebuilding body reserves to repeat the journey back north. In 2007 some godwits were tracked via satellite tags and travelled from China to New Zealand, (the actual track flown by the bird was 11,026 kilometres) in 9 days! This was the longest known non-stop flight of any bird.
On the 28th a wandering albatross was seen at the back of our vessel sporting a metal band. It was not possible to read it from the boat so with patience and a quick hand, skipper, Alastair Judkins, managed to safely secure the bird and record the band details before returning it to the water. The bird was banded by an Australian scientific vessel in October 2007 in the Tasman Sea off Sydney. By measuring certain body parts, such as the length of the bill, it was determined that it was a male Gibsons Wanderer. As such it is probably breeding on Auckland Island but no more information regarding its breeding status is known.
The southern cape petrel is an occasional visitor to our waters. This circumpolar breeder can be distinguished from the more prevalent Snares cape petrel by having extensive white checkering on the upper-wings and a white back and saddle. This individual was sighted on the 20th of this month.
We look forward to seeing you out on our tours for some unforgettable moments with the albatross!
Till next month, good birding.
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