Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update April 2011
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for April 2011.
Our tours have become quieter this month due to a combination of the end the our summer season, coupled with some rather large weather systems coming through from the cold south bringing wind speeds of up to 55 knots. Despite this, we have still been able to operate on 18 days this month.
Species of interest this month include white faced storm petrel, Wilson’s storm petrel, grey-backed storm petrel, long-tailed and brown skua, common diving petrels and a great shearwater. To see what was sighted this month click on our sightings page.
We’ve achieved a few records this month, 2 of which originate from a full day pelagic trip that Gary undertook during the middle of the month. These full day tours go out much further offshore, up to 18 miles out to sea, for birders keen to see something maybe a little more unusual. This was certainly the case this month with the sighting of a long-tailed skua…..a first for Albatross Encounter, together with the sightings of 3 different species of skua in a single trip and 3 different species of storm petrel on one trip. It was an exciting day for all, a lifer for many on board and a first for Ocean Wings.
The three species of skua consisted of the arctic skua, brown skua and long-tailed skua. The arctic skua is probably the most commonly sighted skua here. The brown skua is a Sub-Antarctic breeder and is only occasionally sighted here in Kaikoura. It’s the heaviest of the skua species and the females are larger than the males which is the complete opposite for gulls, albatrosses and petrels. The long-tailed skua is the smallest skua measuring around 35cm excluding central tail feathers and weighing a mere 300g. They are Arctic and Sub-Arctic breeders and are a rare migrant to New Zealand waters and the majority of birds sighted in New Zealand have been predominantly beach-wrecked.
Storm petrels are uncommon on our standard tours. The white-faced storm petrel is the most common storm petrel in New Zealand. It breeds in colonies around New Zealand in places such as the Chatham Islands and on various islands from the Three Kings to the Motumahunga Islands in the North Island. Despite being widespread here, it’s a rare visitor to the Kaikoura coast. The grey-backed storm petrel is circumpolar breeding on many of the subantarctic islands and is the most likely of all the storm petrels to be seen in Kaikoura. Wilson’s storm petrels are one of the most abundant bird species in the world and are a Sub-Antarctic/Antarctic breeder.
Also, a rarity for Kaikoura is the sighting of a great shearwater at the beginning of the month by Gary and “Sav” Saville. Around this time last year Gary spotted a great shearwater and it turned out to be the second ever sighting of such a bird in New Zealand. This year, “Sav” also spotted the great shearwater whilst leisurely out fishing off Kaikoura for the day and then Gary sighted probably the same bird a few days later making it the 3rd and 4th sighting of this bird in New Zealand. This information quickly spread around the birding network and birders have avidly been keeping an eye out for a once in a lifetime opportunity.
We continue to see some of our regular banded birds such as orange 512, red 73E and orange 021. Red 73E is still sporting his radio transmitter and we’re still waiting to hear news of the research being undertaken. A new banded bird for Kaikoura has been seen with a red colour band 04G, so we will be passing this information onto the researchers and hope to learn more about this individual.
For those inspired to experience a full day pelagic trip, the next one is proposed to take place around the end of July so watch this space.
So, that’s all our news for now, till next month happy birding!
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