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Albatross Encounter Update September 2012

Posted by Dennis Buurman (525 Comments)
Wednesday, 10 October 2012 in Default

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® Update for September 2012.

We said goodbye to winter and were pleased that spring has finally arrived. The spring weather has continued to be somewhat unpredictable with calm hot days, followed by wind the next, but of course windy conditions are by far the preferred weather conditions for the birds.

We have operated 14 tours this month with species of interest that have included Salvin’s albatross, northern royal albatross, southern giant petrel, Westland petrel, sooty shearwater and Hutton’s shearwaters. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.

We have continued to host scientists who travelled to New Zealand to attend the Albatross and Petrel Conference in Wellington and it’s been great to take them out. It’s easy to assume that scientists studying albatross would naturally have seen them before, but we have to remember that some scientists carry out their research in a laboratory analysing field data and samples that someone else has collected. It’s been an interesting learning experience for us to understand some of the current research that’s been undertaken and also for the scientist to observe their subjects in real life!!

With the arrival of spring comes the departure of some of our winter species, giving way to the welcome return of some of our bird species that undertake a winter migration. Sightings of the more photogenic black-browed and Buller’s albatrosses have declined, whilst we’re starting to see the arrival of Salvin’s and white-capped albatross. Of note this month is the return of Kaikoura’s special bird, the Hutton’s shearwater that migrates to Australia during winter and returns for summer breeding. These birds certainly have their work cut out for them. Being an alpine breeding seabird, their burrows are located between 1200-1800m up in the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains and currently they are still buried under snow. These birds will be trying to access last year’s burrows underneath the snow to prepare them for the summer breeding season. Enormous rafts of up to 20,000 birds have been sighted out at sea, a formidable sight.

We see the birds exhibiting different behaviours around the boat. When the chum is in the water, birds fiercely protect the chum bag trying to eat as much as they can before another dominant bird arrives. Once all the food is consumed, peace and tranquillity returns as the birds quieten down and spend some time preening themselves or each other.This gives photographers the perfect opportunity to observe these birds preening and capturing the moment small beads of water drip off the birds. 

The ongoing Million Dollar Mouse campaign is still working towards its target of $621,684. We continue to actively encourage everyone to look up this site and help with the conservation effort to raise funds to eradicate carnivorous mice predating on native flora and fauna. For more information or to make a donation, see their website -

So, that’s all our news for now, happy birding. 

Tour Photos
 © Albatross Encounter» Wanderer's Display
 © Albatross Encounter» Photo Opportunity
 It's all about big beaks!  © Albatross Encounter» Albatross
 White-capped albatross preening.  © Albatross» Preening
 The beautiful sight of a wandering (Gibson's) albatross in flight.  © Albatross Encounter» Wanderer in Flight
 This is the time of year when we see vast rafts of Hutton's shearwaters who have returned ready to breed in the Kaikoura Mountains.  © Albatross Encounter» Hutton's




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