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Albatross Encounter Update April 2013

Posted by Dennis Buurman (0 Comments)
Tuesday, 14 May 2013 in Default

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for April 2013.

Our busy summer season has slowly begun to wind down now with 31 tours operating this month. Species of interest this month have included black-browed albatross, Buller’s albatross, Campbell albatross, brown skua, grey-backed storm petrel and common diving petrels. To see what was sighted this month click on our sightings page.

The numbers of our winter species is on the rise with an increase in the sightings of our Buller’s and black-browed albatross. These photogenic albatross continue to surprise our passengers with their striking features. A few have also been lucky enough so see a rarer visitor, the endemic Campbell albatross which is occasionally sighted in the area. On one occasion, passengers were lucky enough to have it land on the water enabling a much closer view and comparison with the closely resembling black-browed albatross.

Sightings of our banded birds continue this month with Red 73E, the most commonly observed bird frequenting the area. Yellow 278, the young male Gibson’s wanderer also put in a brief appearance, but the highlight for us was the arrival of a banded northern royal albatross from the mainland breeding colony at Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula. We rarely see these birds as their preference is to forage straight out to the east, rather than head north to Kaikoura. It was pretty exciting to see this bird and to photograph its colour sequence of bands, some of which can be hard to see. The sequence yellow-white-blue belongs to a female bird that is amongst the oldest of the birds at the breeding colony, aged 38 years old. She is currently breeding with a young chick down on the colony. It’s incredible that this bird is so old yet has never been sighted here before and gives you an idea of the huge variety of individuals that are encountered on the water.

A few bird mishaps have been witnessed this month with a southern royal albatross with a broken tip to its beak; how it happened, no-one knows but I’m sure there’s a few ideas out there!!

Gary also came to the rescue this month, this time with a wandering albatross entangled with what he described as elastic string around its wings and tail. Gary managed to entice the bird to the back of the boat with some chum enabling him to bring it on board disentangling it before setting it free....good on ya Gary!!!!

We’re still seeing a few blue sharks around the boat with 2 blue sharks visiting on one tour. A young lad onboard jumped up and down with excitement as the blue sharks arrived. Both sharks were clearly not impressed with the competition between them, the giant petrels and other albatross as they cruised around trying to get at the chum and even investigating the giant petrels.

April has been a busy month for the fledging of Hutton’s shearwaters. Hutton’s are endemic to Kaikoura with only 2 breeding colonies remaining high up in the Seaward Kaikoura mountain range with a third breeding colony being established on the Kaikoura Peninsula. It’s common at this time of year (as the chicks from the mountain range fledge), for the young birds to become confused with the bright lights of the Kaikoura Township and mistakenly crash land around the roads, especially when the road is wet. Locals have been finding these birds and bringing them into Encounter Kaikoura so that we can organise the banding and release of these birds. This is the first year that a formal recording and banding programme of chicks found in the township has taken place and gives an invaluable comparison with chicks fledging from the mountains, to those translocated chicks on the Kaikoura Peninsula.

The Encounter Foundation provided valuable financial assistance for the translocation of 100 chicks this year. For each passenger that joins our Albatross Encounter, a small percentage of their fare is contributed into the Foundation enabling the company to assist with important projects such as this one. To learn more about the Foundation, visit our website: http://www.encounterkaikoura.co.nz/dolphins/Foundation/

The ongoing Million Dollar Mouse campaign is still working towards its target of $1 million dollars and is creeping slowly towards its target currently sitting at $796,194. 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.

Happy birding.

Tour Photos
 Passengers on the albatross boat getting plenty of photo opportunities.  © Albatross Encounter» Bird Watching
 This photo demonstrates clearly the differences between the Campbell and black-browed albatross. It's all in the eye.  © Albatross Encounter» Black-browed and Campbell Albatross
 A beautiful April day with lots of birds entertaining our guests.  © Dennis Buurman» Boat and Birds
 A royal albatross showing the signs of having had a run in with a fishing hook.  © Albatross Encounter» Damaged Bill
 A banded royal albatross paying the bird boat a visit.  © Albatross Encounter» Banded Royal Albatross
 Jenny, one of our dolphin guides on the dolphin boat, releases a Hutton's shearwater that was found on the streets in Kaikoura. This time of the year, young birds are leaving their burrows in the Kaikoura Mountains for the first time as they fledge and sometimes the birds miscalculate (at night) and are deceived by the lights of the township, thinking it is the water.  © Albatross Encounter» Hutton's Shearwater

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