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Albatross Encounter Update March 2013

Posted by Dennis Buurman (51 Comments)
Monday, 13 May 2013 in Default

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® Update for March 2013.

Well our glorious hot summer continues, with gorgeous weather and lots of calm days. While New Zealand's North Island has officially been declared a drought zone due to lack of rain, in Kaikoura we had a day and a half of rain which was most welcome as we too have been very dry.

In respect of our species of interest this month, we saw black-browed albatross, Buller’s albatross, brown skua, Wilson’s storm petrel, common diving petrels and Cook’s petrel. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.

We are slowly starting to see a change in bird species and birds such as Buller’s shearwaters have begun to raft up, preparing themselves for their winter migration to the North Pacific, whilst we see an influx of the more photogenic albatross such as the Buller’s and black-browed albatross. These two species tend to be the “favourite” albatross of many of our passengers due to their striking features, however the great albatross potentially steal the limelight with their enormous wingspans as they soar past the boat and prepare for a nearby landing. We’ve also been fortunate to see both species of royal albatross, enabling people to see the similarities and differences between these two great albatross species.

It’s been a month for fantastic photo opportunities with huge feeding frenzies amongst the birds, particularly with the arrival of the Sealord fishing vessel the 'Thomas Harrison'. The arrival of this boat brought thousands of seabirds including up to 1,000 white-chinned petrels, 500 cape petrels and 500 white-capped albatross.

One of our dolphin swimming guides, Sarah, who is taking a break from her professional photography business, seized the opportunity to jump into the ocean with her underwater camera. Sarah was able to take photos of albatross at the back of Encounter II, photographing them from a slightly different perspective that we wouldn’t normally get to see.

There has been an increase in the numbers of white-capped and Salvin’s albatross this month including a daring and cheeky white-capped albatross that managed to steal squid from a wandering albatross. Another white-capped albatross had a close encounter with a brown skua. Brown skua, also known as Antarctic skuas, are more known for their aerial piracy, preferring to chase other birds to get them to regurgitate their last meal, or to drop their recent catch. Brown skuas are uncommon for this area, so it was with great excitement that they were witnessed chasing albatross here.

Our regular Red 73E continues to visit us this month, but we were excited to see another banded bird this time with a yellow band. Yellow-278 is a relatively new bird to the area and has been seen on 4 different tours this month. This is a male wandering albatross that was banded as a one year old chick just before he fledged back in 1996 in the Auckland Islands. He first arrived in Kaikoura when he was 15 years old in 2011 and hadn’t been seen since until his arrival this month.

Finally, the Hutton’s shearwater project is coming to a close. 103 chicks have been translocated from the Kowhai Colony and placed within the predator proof area on the Kaikoura Peninsula. An army of volunteers have been assisting with the daily feeding of these chicks. Once fledged, it will take 3-4 years before they return and it’s hoped that they will return to the Peninsula Colony to establish a third breeding colony. This translocation project had a huge helping hand from the Encounter Foundation who donated a massive $10,000 towards the translocation of chicks. For further information on the Foundations work, check out the Foundation website

The ongoing Million Dollar Mouse campaign is still working slowly towards its target of $1 million dollars and currently stands at $694,664. 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
 Banded bird 278, only the second time we have seen this bird.  © Albatross Encounter» 278
 A brown skua takes on the challenge of attempting to get a white-capped albatross to regurgitate its food!  © Albatross Encounter» Skua and White-capped
 Lining up for a wonderful photo of a Gibson's albatross.  © Albatross Encounter» Great Photo
 Fishing vessel Thomas Harrison. Notice the tori lines out the stern of the vessel which deter the birds from coming in close and getting hit by the trawl wires.  © Albatross Encounter» Thomas Harrison
 Buller's Albatross  © Albatross Encounter» Buller's Albatross
 Sarah Alice Lee in the water photographing the birds.  © Albatross Encounter» Sarah

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