Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update February 2012
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for February 2012, the last update for summer.
Sadly, we never seemed to get much of a summer this season with lots of wind and rain and the odd dusting of snow on the mountains, interspersed with the odd sunny day. The birds don’t mind the lack of summer, preferring strong windy days and it’s amazing to observe the birds maximizing their dynamic soaring techniques on the more challenging days.
Despite the weather, we have succeeded in operating 57 tours this month. Species of interest this month include Chatham Island albatross, black-browed albatross, short-tailed shearwater, king shag, fairy prions and white-faced storm petrels. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
Our sightings of Buller’s and black-browed albatross have been steadily increasing throughout the month, a sure sign that the seasons are changing. The presence of a Chatham Islands albatross created a huge amount of excitement this month being sighted on 2 separate occasions. The Chatham Islands albatross breeds only on a small rocky outcrop known as the Pyramids in the Chatham Islands and is ranked internationally as being critically endangered. These birds generally forage to the east of the Chathams and are an unusual visitor here although there have been sightings of at least one individual on a yearly basis.
We continue to see large swarms of krill like creatures known as squat lobster and have on occasion seen large bait balls of fish known as Ray’s bream. On one tour we sighted both albatross and petrels feasting on a piece of squid in an area where a resident sperm whale had just descended back to the ocean floor. The albatross, although sampling the squid, seemed quite unimpressed with it preferring the chum offered by Encounter II.
A few banded bands this month including our regular red 73E and orange 512 have been sighted. There have been exciting sightings of 2 new banded birds for Kaikoura, black 097 and red 81F. The researchers are currently busy down in the Auckland Islands so we’re looking forward to receiving news on how the breeding season has gone this year.
Orange 512 has been a regular visitor this month being sighted almost every day over a 2 week period. Our theory is that she has just finished breeding and is quite happy to hang out feasting on the nutrient rich Kaikoura waters. Red 73E arrived sporting a large blue dot on his forehead and a shiny new bracelet, a sure sign that the researchers have retrieved his geolocator and hopefully are busy downloading his movements over the last year. We also had a visit from a recently fledged wandering albatross, a beautiful bird with chocolate brown plumage, white face and still a few ‘down’ feathers remaining. Unfortunately this bird wasn’t banded so there’s no way of knowing the breeding grounds it had just vacated.
Finally, we hosted a celebrity birder, Floyd Murdoch. Floyd was visiting New Zealand keen to expand his birding list. He won the Big Year in America in 1973 with 668 birds and featured in the novel The Big Year. So far, he has visited 80 countries in his quest to find new birds and has clocked up 5,500 birds. Floyd and Ronald Van Der Vort left Kaikoura after a successful pelagic trip and were heading south to Stewart Island to see Matt Jones and maybe a few more birds to add to their list.
So, that’s all our news for now, happy birding.
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