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Albatross Encounter Update August 2011

Posted by Dennis Buurman (27 Comments)
Thursday, 15 September 2011 in Default

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for August 2011.

We’ve been a little quieter this month with only 13 tours operating. Our mild winter weather that we’d been enjoying came to an abrupt end with a huge polar storm sweeping across the country lasting a whole week. The ocean raged with massive swell and snow fell, bringing chaos to many roads and airports around the country, even the fishermen stayed home for the entire week! Snow threatened the Kaikoura township and although the crew hoped for snow down to sea level, we just had to accept low lying snow in the foothills and Seaward Kaikoura mountain range. However Highway 1 was closed for two days due to snow, something which has never happened before.

After the bad weather had passed, we had a bit of a rush with several bird tours booked up. The good news for birders choosing to venture out with us was that the storm brought lots of birds into the area. This was perfect for our standard tours as well as the 4 hour tour booked by some keen birders who had flown in from Auckland and Melbourne, specifically to undertake the tour. The recent snow created a beautiful backdrop for the photographer’s dream photo of an albatross in flight with the mountains in the background.

Species of interest this month include black-billed gulls, Salvin’s albatross, southern giant petrel, grey-faced petrel and a grey-backed storm petrel. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.

We saw 2 new banded birds this month, both of which were old male Gibson's wandering albatrosses that lost their partners in the 2005 mortality event. Red 974 was banded back in 1993 and is believed to be at least 30 years old. He made a grand entrance at the stern of Encounter II asserting his authority over all the other birds, whilst Red 99F was more subdued, being a slightly younger bird around 25 years old. Both these birds were banded by the researchers on Adam's Island in the Auckland Islands. Orange 512 has also been sighted on several tours, so great to see she’s still going strong!

We had the most black-billed gulls ever seen on our tours this month, with estimated numbers around 120 individuals. Black-billed gulls are endemic to New Zealand and are mainly found around inland waters and braided rivers of the South and North Islands, however during the winter months they move out towards the coast.

Kaikoura has been in the media on several occasions having been recently nominated as the top 7 Eco-tourism destinations throughout the world by Planet Green. Albatross Encounter also received a finalist’s award in the Rankers Awards for NZ Wide Bird Watching 2011. The Rankers Awards are voted by independent travellers and this is the first time we’ve received this award, being pipped to the post by Okarito Kiwi Tours.

Well spring is on the way and the Hutton's shearwaters will no doubt be back in Kaikoura in huge numbers.

Till next time........


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