Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update March 2011
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for March 2011.
Tours once again have been very busy and we have been able to operate on 29 days this month. Species of interest include Campbell Island and Buller’s albatross, turnstone, caspian tern, Wilson’s storm petrel and pomarine skua, all have been observed. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
We say goodbye this month to the Hutton’s and flesh-footed shearwaters and welcome the arrival of our first diving petrels and southern giant petrels for the season.
One of our skippers, Gary Melville, started off the debate at the beginning of the month with a sighting of a Buller’s shearwater with unusual plumage. The general consensus of opinion resulting from the discussion on the birding NZ forum was that the bird was a leucistic Buller’s shearwater: the unusual colouration of plumage due to abnormal pigmentation.
We are starting to see larger numbers of royal albatross this month specifically the southern royals. 99% of the total population of southern royal’s breed in the Campbell Islands. This species circumnavigates the Southern Ocean after breeding, but is commonly recorded here in Kaikoura feeding primarily on squid and fish, supplemented by salps and crustacean.
Again, we’ve been seeing record numbers of birds foraging here including 46 Gibson’s wandering albatross, 30 white-capped and 25 Salvin’s albatross together with huge groups of spotted shags of up to up to 600 individuals and up to 2,000 red-billed gulls. The current record for Gibson’s wandering albatross stands at 54 individuals. This is no doubt due to the productive nature of the Kaikoura Canyon system. Recent data from NIWA suggests that our canyon system has one of the most productive seabed habitats known with the largest biomass of the larger invertebrates of any comparable system worldwide.
We continue to see some of our regular banded birds such as orange 512, red 73E and orange 021. Red 73E was seen sporting a minute electronic device on his leg so clearly a study possibly on his foraging adventures is being undertaken. Orange 021 is a male Gibson’s banded as a chick on 18/12/96. He is now a breeding adult who first nested in 2008, but didn’t breed in 2010. It will be interesting to hear from our research team if he has had a successful breeding attempt this season. Attempts also continue to locate the breeding grounds of orange 512, our most regular banded bird.
Finally, some more commonly sighted birds attract our attention. This month it’s Bill, the black-backed gull. Out of the thousands of gulls in Kaikoura, ‘Bill’ as Gary has nicknamed him appears hitchhiking on our boat almost on a daily basis. We know he’s the same individual due to him missing some of his tail feathers. Bill used to enjoy sitting on our chum box and keep passengers amused however one day, a Dutch gentleman inadvertently put his hand on poor old Bill giving him such a fright that he now patiently waits on the roof instead. Gary lovingly shares his ginger cookies with Bill, but overfed him one day and now Bill refuses to eat the cookies, but continues to join Encounter II everyday.
So, that’s all our news for now, till next month happy birding!
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