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Albatross Encounter Update for December 2013

Posted by Ed Nolan (0 Comments)
Tuesday, 14 January 2014 in Default

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® Update for December 2013.

Our tours have been consistently busy this month with 57 tours operating. Species of interest this month have included black-browed albatross, southern giant petrel, grey-faced petrel, Cook's petrel, Caspian tern, Buller’s and short-tailed shearwater. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.

Again we had a surprise visitor this month with a white morph visiting the area over several days. It’s not known whether this individual was the same as last month or just a mere coincidence!! Only 10 % of the population of southern giant petrels have this distinctive white morph phase and are usually seen in the dead of winter. This particular individual also showed a keen interest in the flippers of dolphin swimmers on the nearby dolphin swimming vessels, something this bird has probably never experienced before!!

Black-browed albatross have been encountered on several occasions this month, again usually a species observed more in winter than summertime, but always a very pleasant surprise and a delight for photographers keen to get that photogenic shot. We also mentioned last month about a Campbell albatross with mysterious blue markings, and have since found out that these markings have originated from researchers banding albatross on Campbell Island.

We’ve seen a subtle change in the composition of the great albatross in the area this month, with a decrease in the numbers of wandering albatross, but an increase in the numbers of both northern and southern royal albatross. We did spot a Gibson's  albatross though and this one was trying to  make a hearty meal of a large squid that was seen floating on the surface.

Sightings of Buller’s shearwaters have been on the increase with the largest raft of birds estimated to be around 400 individuals. This is surprising at this time of year to have such high numbers. Buller’s shearwaters only breed on two main islands on Poor Knights Islands offshore of the North Island. At the end of the breeding season they migrate to the North Pacific and it’s usually at this time of year that we encounter them here in Kaikoura in these larger flocks.

The little blue penguin is known by many different names such as blue penguin, little penguin, and is more commonly known as fairy penguins in Australia. It is the world’s smallest penguin measuring around 25cm tall and only 1-1.5kg in weight. A small breeding colony exists under the Kaikoura Coastguard building and the surrounding areas at South Bay, Kaikoura. Little blues forage out to sea during the day hunting for small fish, crustaceans and squid and it’s on these foraging trips that we have been encountering them on a regular basis. Most of the time, these penguins are on the surface for just a short period of time living up to their scientific name   “Eudyptula” meaning “good little diver” however often we see them preening or basking at the surface.

The Million Dollar Mouse campaign is almost there with less than $933,248 so if you’re keen to help with the final effort, check out their website: -

So, that’s all our news for now, follow us on Facebook for the latest goings on at Albatross Encounter.

Happy birding.

Tour Photos
 © Albatross Encounter» Cook's Petrel
 © Albatross Encounter» White Morph
 A fishing boat fishing out off the Kaikoura Coast.  © Albatross Encounter» Fishing Boat
 © Albatross Encounter» Grey-faced Petrel
 A Gibson's albatross with a large piece of squid, probably the remnants of a meal from a local sperm whale.  © Albatross Encounter» Albatross and Squid
 There have been quite a few blue penguins about recently.  © Albatross Encounter» Blue Penguins


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