Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update for September 2013.
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter Update for September 2013.
As we enter into spring, we welcome the arrival of some of our birds returning from their winter migration and say goodbye to our winter birds heading home in time for the summer breeding season.
With 16 tours operating this month, we’ve encountered a diversity of species ranging from southern giant petrels, Salvin’s albatross, Westland petrels, sooty shearwaters and fairy prions. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
One bird that we always expect to see in large numbers at this time of year is the Hutton’s shearwater. This species is very important to Kaikoura, not only is it an endangered seabird, but it’s also endemic to Kaikoura with a bizarre breeding location. These birds are known as an alpine breeding seabird, breeding every year high up in the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains at an altitude ranging from 1200-1800m. The Hutton’s leave Kaikoura at the end of summer and spend winter around Australia and up into the East Timor Sea, before returning home in spring to begin their breeding season.
One of the main threats to the mountain colonies is from large mammals such as pigs and deer. Pigs in particular are one of the greatest threats predating on nesting birds. In response to this, a walk-in pig trap was installed by the Kowhai River colony in 2009. No pigs had been caught in the trap until this year, and only by a chance sighting by local helicopter operator, Kaikoura Helicopters, who's pilot saw 4 pigs caught in the trap with a further 7 outside of it. Kaikoura Helicopters and DoC staff returned immediately to ensure no pigs escaped alive. Hopefully this was an isolated incident, but at least with good management systems in place, it will ensure the survival of this species.
One of the main known threats facing albatross today is the ingestion of plastic. Although having read stories about this worldwide, it was something that never occurred to us that would be witnessed here in Kaikoura. So, it was with disbelief that sitting out on the edge of the Kaikoura Canyon, watching some of the great albatross, that a white-capped albatross landed a short distance away. It began to attempt to eat something floating on the surface. On closer inspection, the floating object was a coke can. Thankfully, this bird was clearly unsuccessful in its attempt to eat it, much to our relief! We quickly headed over and with a willing observer rolling up their sleeves, retrieved the can to take it out of harm’s way. This experience gave a fascinating insight into how easy it is for these birds to see what they think is food and ingest rubbish that has been irresponsibly thrown away, ultimately causing death for some birds. It also served as a timely reminder to ensure we do our bit for the environment, whether it’s as simple as placing rubbish or recycling in the correct receptacle, or picking up litter if we’re walking along the beach; every small action helps.
Currently, most of the commercial fishing boats are off the water and as a result the birds appear to be particularly hungry, clearly demonstrated by the white-capped albatross with the coke can. The behaviour of the birds towards each other is pure aggression as the birds fight with one another to get as much food for themselves. It’s not a pretty sight to see such enormous birds fighting with each other. Some of the birds use the stealth approach surprising each other from behind and launching an attack in a bid to push them away from the chum bag.
Red 73E put in several appearances towards the end of the month which was great to see as he hasn’t been seen in this area since 20th July this year. Wonderful to know that he still uses Kaikoura as one of his regular feeding grounds.
The ongoing Million Dollar Mouse campaign continues to creep towards its final $1 million target. The campaign was set up in response to carnivorous mice predating on native flora and fauna in the Antipodes Islands. The fund is currently sitting at $ 826,398 so if you’re keen to make a contribution and help them achieve their target, check out their website: - www.ourfarsouth.org/milliondollarmouse.
So, that’s all our news for now, don't forget to keep up to date by following us on Facebook.
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