Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update December 2010
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update for the month of December 2010
What a great end to 2010 it has been for us! We have had 28 out of 31 days of operation with a wide range of pelagic and coastal species sighted. To see what species were sighted for December and for other months,see our sightings page.
What has been great was the consistency of our sightings of both the royal and wandering albatross. Every day on our tours both of these flying giants of the sea were sighted, amazing us all with their 3m+ wingspans. It was a great opportunity for our skippers to point out the differences between these species and for customers to capture some incredible images of them displaying various behaviors including sky-pointing.
This month saw the inclusion of a new skipper on the Albatross Encounter tour, Tracy Cooper. Tracy has been with the company for 5 years, primarily in the role of guide for our Dolphin Encounter tour. Over this time she has accumulated a wealth of experience identifying the wildlife that abounds in these rich waters including the many species of pelagic seabirds. Having successfully qualified as a commercial skipper we welcome her as a valuable addition to the team alongside Gary Melville and Alastair Judkins.
There was a welcome return to Kaikoura of one of our favorite individual Wandering albatross on the 29th of this month, #512 orange. This 14 year old female Gibsons wanderer was first sighted on our tour when she was 2 years old and has been sighted every year for the past 12 years. What has been interesting is to see the changes in her plumage as she matures. When 1st photographed at the age of 5 her plumage was quite dark and it has gradually been lightening as she grew older. This last year however has been quite dramatic with her plumage change being almost complete. This final stage is usually completed from the age of 15 to 20 years old in the Gibson's so she is well on her way to becoming a full adult. It is unknown if she is breeding this year, but we will keep you updated on her status when we learn more!
On a less positive note we again saw a wandering albatross that had swallowed a baited long-line hook and had either broke the trace in its efforts to escape or had been released by the fishing crew. Either way the prognosis will not be good for this bird. Fishing vessels in New Zealand have a strict code of practice to mitigate seabird by-catch, but as these birds can travel huge distances it is unclear where the incident happened. Although great progress is being made around the world to reduce the mortality of seabirds, obviously more work needs to done to keep these iconic birds from the brink of extinction. To learn more about this issue, see our Albatross Conservation page.
Fairy prions have been a regular sighting over this month with 25 to 30 individuals being the norm. These diminutive birds were often seen after strong northerly wind systems having been blown down from the Cooks Strait region where they breed. Photographing them is a challenge due to their eratic flight pattern but Gary managed to capture a nice image.
We hope you have enjoyed our updates for 2010 and we look forward to seeing you on our tour in 2011.
Until then, fair seas and good birding!
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