Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update March 2012
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for March 2012, the first update for autumn.
Autumn initially continued with the rather indifferent weather that we’ve experienced throughout summer, with the first weekend of March bringing southerly storms and snow, resulting in all boats (including local commercial fishing boats) staying off the water. The positive side to the bad weather was once the clouds lifted, the stunning backdrop of snow covered Seaward Kaikoura mountain range gave photographers the challenge of catching an albatross in flight with the breathtaking mountains behind. Further into the month, the weather brightened up, almost an Indian summer as some may call it and we enjoyed relatively calm and sunny days. Something we have been waiting for and relished.
Our tours were fewer in March, reflecting a downturn in tourism numbers as the season draws to a close and we operated 40 tours in total. Despite this, we continue to see great species diversity with species of interest this month including Chatham Island albatross, Campbell Island albatross, black-browed albatross, Buller’s albatross, spotted shags, southern giant petrel, Buller’s and fluttering shearwaters. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
It’s a great time of year to come on tour as we witness the change in seasons and the transition of species sighted. Salvin’s and white-capped albatross, which are predominantly sighted during the summer months, start to depart on their annual winter migration, whilst we see an influx of the photogenic Buller’s and black-browed albatross.
An issue of interest this month involves recent footage from the Antipodes Islands showing the devastating effects of predation by mice on this isolated island 800km southeast of Bluff. The mice have been introduced and eat the eggs and chicks of seabirds. Shocking footage reveals how a gang of mice attack and eat a live albatross chick and this has initiated a campaign to eradicate these pests. The mouse eradication programme is estimated to cost $1 million and so far the Department of Conservation has funded $300,000. A further $700,000 is still needed. A Kiwi entrepreneur Gareth Morgan from the Morgan Foundation has stated that they will match public contributions dollar for dollar, so this is a project that we are keen to support. Further information and donation details can be obtained from their website: www.ourfarsouth.org/milliondollarmouse/
Other projects have benefitted this month from donations from our Encounter Foundation. In 2009 Encounter Kaikoura formed a charitable trust and named it the Encounter Foundation. The vision is to invest in and support the future wellbeing and sustainability of the local terrestrial and marine environment, for present and future generations, through tourism. The accumulated funds are donated to deserving projects as determined by the Foundation Trustees. By participating on the Albatross Encounter tour, each and every customer is assisting in protecting our very special natural environment. The Foundation has contributed funding to assist the following projects:
- Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust with the translocation of shearwater chicks from the Kowhai colony to the recently established colony on the Kaikoura Peninsula.
- Dragonfly Science will characterise the data taken from the Albatross Encounter sightings sheets since the late 1990's. This will include changes over time, seasonality of sightings, inter-annual trends, compare other relevant data sets and recommend any changes in data collection methods in the future.
- Sponsorship of 5th Albatross and Petrel Conference. This is the fifth in a series of four-yearly conferences dedicated to albatrosses and petrels. This will be the first time the meeting, scheduled for August 2012 in Wellington is to be held in New Zealand. Typically, the meeting attracts around 150 delegates from all over the world, including the leading researchers in the field, and represents an unparalleled opportunity to showcase albatross and petrel research and conservation initiatives from New Zealand.
So, that’s all our news for now, happy birding.
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