Ocean Wings News
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter Update for January 2014
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update, the first update for 2014.
Our tours continue to be busy as the festive season and school holidays coincided with our peak summer season. We were able to operate 55 tours this month, despite unseasonably strong southerly winds throughout the month cancelling some tours and bringing fresh snow to the seaward Kaikoura mountain range. The benefit of this brief dusting of snow was the opportunity to take photos of soaring albatross with a scenic mountainous backdrop.
Species of interest this month included black-browed albatross, Buller’s albatross, southern giant petrel, grey-faced petrel, Caspian tern, fairy prions and Arctic skua. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
Again this month we’ve had occasional sightings of birds that are observed predominantly in winter, including black-browed albatross, Buller’s albatross and southern giant petrels. It’s always a surprise to see these birds at this time of year, but it also creates excitement for those keen to expand their bird lists to see both summer and winter species around the boat.
Another bird that delighted our passengers was a “white morph”. The majority of southern giant petrels we see here are during the winter months, all have a dark phase, however the white morph has a light phase and is the least common, but without doubt the most distinctive. This particular individual was first observed feasting on a red cod, but spent several days in the area and was seen demonstrating its aggressive behaviour towards the northern giant petrel.
Several banded birds have paid us a visit this month including the much awaited arrival of one of our favourite birds orange 512. The frequency of sightings of this female Gibson’s albatross has declined in recent years and our last sighting was back in June 2013. Her arrival created an air of excitement for all the crew at Encounter Kaikoura who know her story well and it was hugely satisfying to know that she’s alive and well.
512 was first seen here in 1998 and was one of our most commonly sighted banded birds. The researchers who banded her on the breeding grounds in the Auckland Islands in 1996, haven’t seen her since 2007. It is presumed that she is now breeding outside of their study area every year, however they are still very keen to try to find her.
Red 73E is a male Gibson’s albatross that was also banded in the Auckland Islands as an adult bird in 2001. He first nested successfully in 2001, but lost his mate that died during 2003 and has struggled to successfully raise a chick until more recently in 2012. He is a real Kaikoura bird and visited us 11 times this month.
Another mysterious banded bird is a northern royal albatross, first sighted here 2 years ago. It only has a single white band on its leg with no number. This bird does not come from the Otago Peninsula and may have been banded in the Chatham Islands.
Well it has been a great start to 2014, lets hope it continues right through.
Till next time, happy birding.
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