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Albatross Encounter Update December 2012

Posted by Dennis Buurman (3 Comments)
Saturday, 12 January 2013 in Default

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter Update for December 2012.

We’ve continued to have an interesting month both in terms of the unsettled weather and diversity of birds. Species of interest have included Cook’s petrel, grey petrel, Campbell albatross, grey-backed and white-faced storm petrels. To see what was sighted this month click on our sightings page.

The numbers of tourist in Kaikoura continues to increase with the busy summer season upon us and we have operated 49 tours this month.

Red 73E has visited Encounter II on several occasions this month and has appeared to stay in the area for a day or two on each visit, clearly aware that Kaikoura is a great place to hang out. Orange 512 also put in an appearance, so here’s hoping we’ll start to see more of her again soon. 

We also had a sighting of a banded northern royal albatross which is a new sighting for us. On further investigation, we discovered that she originated from the mainland breeding colony at Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula. The banding programme there uses distinctive colour bands which enabled us to clearly identify the colour sequence on the leg and so “black, white, green” becomes a 12 year old female bird that’s breeding this year. Apparently she had only left the nest a few days before and must have travelled north straight to Kaikoura, leaving her mate on the nest incubating their egg. We don’t often encounter banded birds from Taiaroa Head in Kaikoura, as these birds generally forage to the east of New Zealand, so most of the northern royals here are assumed to originate from the Chatham Islands.

A few unusual birds have been sighted this month including a rarely sighted grey petrel. The closest New Zealand breeding colony is in the Sub-Antarctic Antipodes Islands. For Tracy, this was the first time to see this species and everyone had a great close up encounter. 

Other marine life sighted this month has included incidental sightings of orca as they have passed through the Kaikoura area, blue sharks and even a sunfish. Huge swarms of krill like squat lobster congregate together creating what appears to be “pools of blood”. These bright red creatures are actually a true crab and are sighted on the ocean’s floor before descending down to the sea floor. These small creatures can often comprise up to a third of the diet of some local fish species, so here’s hoping there’s a continuing abundance of fish and squid for future generations of albatross!

On one occasion, Gary spotted a huge butterfly tuna floating on the surface and hauled it aboard. The discovery of this massive tuna gives you an idea of how nutrient rich the Kaikoura area is....no wonder the albatross are regular visitors here. 

The bird population at Barney’s Rock is increasing with what appears to be a successful breeding season for the black-backed gulls there. The first chicks have been sighted standing proudly next to the parent, although one adult had an altercation with an overly curious New Zealand fur seal. On this occasion the outcome was a good one for the little chick!

The ongoing Million Dollar Mouse campaign is still working towards its target of $1 million dollars and is creeping slowly towards its target. It is currently sitting at $685,050. 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 - www.ourfarsouth.org/milliondollarmouse.

So, that’s all our news for now and happy birding for 2013. 

Tour Photos
 © Albatross Encounter» 73E
 © Albatross Encounter» Cook's Petrel
 © Albatross Encounter» Grey Petrel
 © Albatross Encounter» White-faced Storm Petrel
 
 A giant petrel feeding on a discarded piece of squid, remnants of a sperm whale feeding session. If you look closely you can see a nylon line from the bill of the bird, evidence of an encounter with a long-line fishing vessel. Unfortunately the hook will probably be at the end inside the bird. At this stage the bird looks non the worse for this situation.  © Albatross Encounter» Giant Petrel
 
 Our long time favourite, 512.  © Albatross Encounter» 512
 The northern royal albatross foraging all the way from Tairoa Heads in Dunedin.  © Albatross Encounter» Northern Royal
 
 
 One of the more interesting finds on a pelagic tour. Skipper Gary Melville came across this butterfly tuna floating on the surface. An easy way of fishing!  © Albatross Encounter» Butterfly Tuna
 A new black-backed gull chick on Barney's Rock, has a close encounter with a fur seal.  © Albatross Encounter» Black-backed Gull

 

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