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Albatross Encounter Update February 2013

Posted by Dennis Buurman (42 Comments)
Tuesday, 14 May 2013 in Default

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for February 2013.

Once again we have been kept busy with visits from cruise ships and lots of keen birders and have operated 56 tours this month.

Species of interest have included short-tailed, sooty and fluttering shearwaters, Campbell albatross, Buller’s albatross, Fiordland crested penguin, white-faced storm petrel, Caspian tern and southern giant petrel. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.

We experienced an air of excitement at the beginning of the month with a local fisherman’s discovery of a giant squid floating out to sea near the Kaikoura Peninsula. This 8m long female was hauled ashore and taken to the Kaikoura aquarium for further investigation with anyone in the area invited to view the squid and see this creature from the deep for themselves. Living at 1,000m deep, this giant squid would be well off the menu for an albatross, however several smaller squid species have been seen on the surface with albatross and petrels fighting over their share of it.

Red 73E has been sighted on 9 occasions this month with just 1 sighting of orange 512. Red 73E is a male Gibson’s albatross and is one of our most frequently sighted banded birds. He was banded in the Sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands as an adult bird in 2000. This albatross seems to have incurred a lot of drama in his life having nested successfully with the same female in 2001 and 2003, only to lose his partner and become a widow on the breeding grounds ever since. He did find another mate in 2009, however this was unsuccessful. Recently he has been seen showing aggression towards other birds around the chum bag, which is unusual for him so we’re maybe thinking that he’s found another suitable partner and so the pressure’s on to use Kaikoura as a food resource as much as he can.

A juvenile wandering albatross has introduced himself to Kaikoura this month. Recently fledged, this individual has been spotted checking the bird boat out on a regular basis and also being inquisitive around dolphin swimmers. Unfortunately this bird isn’t banded so we don’t know which island it’s come from, but we hope it continues to enjoy the abundance of food Kaikoura can provide.

We’ve recently started seeing quite a few blue penguins on our tours and the northern giant petrels have been seen living up to their reputation as an “aggressive marine vulture” and enjoying targeting these birds. On one tour we witnessed two giant petrels attacking a blue penguin. Naturally, we took pity on this poor penguin being mobbed by the petrels and raced in to save it, scaring the petrels away and giving the penguin a chance to dive and make its escape. We’re hoping that with our intervention it managed to get away relatively unscathed.

As winter rapidly approaches, our check-in times are slowly being pushed back as the mornings become darker. The 6.30am tour is still a popular option with Encounter II out on the water for sunrise. It’s certainly a magnificent time of day witnessing the sun as it emerges form the ocean and creates a fantastic photo opportunity to photograph albatross in the early morning sunlight.

The ongoing Million Dollar Mouse campaign is still working towards its target of $689,650. 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
 Watching the seabirds on Albatross Encounter.  © Albatross Encounter» Watching the Albatross
 A beautiful sunrise on the dawn trip.  © Albatross Encounter» Sunrise
 Campbell Island albatross.  © Albatross Encounter» Campbell Island Albatross
 Red 73E displays some annoyance that another Gibson's is getting too close!  © Albatross Encounter» Red 73E
 The very large giant squid that was found floating at sea. Giant squid are favourites on the menu of the sperm whale.  © Albatross Encounter» Giant Squid
 A new addition to the birds at Kaikoura is this newly fledged Gibson's albatross.  © Albatross Encounter» Young Gibson's


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