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Albatross Encounter Update For March 2014

Posted by Ed Nolan (0 Comments)
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 in Default

Welcome To The Albatross Encounter Update For March 2014.

Not surprisingly, the weather has continued to be unpredictable this month with the occasional storm blowing through and even some snow on our beautiful mountains. As well as a few turbulent weather days, we are also starting to see the visitor numbers dropping away as we get toward the end of summer. We have been able to operate 49 tours this month and have been fortunate to observe an exciting and diverse array of oceanic birds.

Species of interest this month has included black-browed and Buller’s albatross, brown and south polar skua, Wilson’s storm petrel and southern giant petrel. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.

It’s at that time of year again where our summer birds start to leave the area, heading off on their annual migration. For the Hutton’s shearwaters, it’s time for the chicks to fledge, leaving Kaikoura and heading out to sea for 3-4 years. The problem that some chicks encounter when fledging is that they can get disorientated with the street lights of the Kaikoura Township and crash land in various locations, ranging from gardens and roads, both near and far away from the ocean. These little birds, endemic to Kaikoura, have required quite a bit of human intervention where the locals have been busy bringing these birds into the Encounter Kaikoura office. Here, they are being weighed, measured and banded, before being taking out on our Albatross Encounter for their first ocean experience. Of course, this is carried out as soon as possible and well away from the prying eyes of any giant petrels!

Another species that fledges at this time of year are Australasian gannets. The closest gannet colony to Kaikoura is at Farewell Spit, located at the top of the South island. This breeding colony has around 5,000 birds. The colony is unusual in that it’s at sea level on Farewell Spit itself, rather than on the usual rocky cliffs. Normally, once these chicks fledge, they head straight to Australia before returning back to New Zealand when they’re around 3 years old. We recently encountered a highly inquisitive juvenile gannet that showed a keen interest in our chum bag. Maybe slightly confused as to which species he belonged to, he was right in amongst the albatross and was seen diving in and around the chum bag. Clearly this individual was quite intrigued with all that Kaikoura had to offer!

3 species of skua have been seen this month, including our regular summer visitor the Arctic skua and also the more unusual species, the brown and a pale morph phase south polar skua.

Orange 512, our favourite banded wandering albatross graced us with her presence on 8 occasions this month.We still don’t know where she’s breeding  or even if she’s found a suitable mate, but it’s still great to see her and to know that she’s still going strong.

We’ve also had a surprising number of banded northern royal albatross this month. These birds have been banded at the albatross colony at Taiaroa Head and generally forage eastwards from the Otago Peninsula, rather than heading northwards to Kaikoura. It’s been a real treat to see a couple of adolescent birds who were just returning to Dunedin for the first time. One individual “LWR” was just visiting Taiaroa Head for the first time and was last seen down there back in February, before being spotted almost a month later up in Kaikoura after a fierce southerly storm. It was great to see this individual and to learn more about it, particularly as most of our sightings of northern royal albatross are assumed to originate from the main breeding grounds in the Chatham Islands. We’re hoping that maybe as these youngsters are beginning to explore Kaikoura and that they may well become more frequent visitors over the coming years.

Finally, after two years, The Million Dollar Mouse campaign has succeeded in raising $1 million dollars to eradicate carnivorous mice predating on native flora and fauna in the Antipodes Islands. The eradication programme is set for next winter. Thank you to all those who have supported and followed this campaign over the last few years.

So, that’s all our news for now, for the latest happenings don't forget to follow us on Facebook.

Till next time.

Tour Photos
 A juvenile Subantarctic black-browed albatross.  © Albatross Encounter» Juvenile Black-browed Albatross
 Two Gibson's albatross having a bit of a tussel.  © Albatross Encounter» Squabbling
 © Albatross Encounter» Watching the Seabirds
 Karra, our official coordinator who did a wonderful job taking all the particulars for every rescued Hutton's.  © Albatross Encounter» Karra
 Lindsay Rowe, who came in every day we had rescued Hutton's shearwaters, banding one of the birds.  © Albatross Encounter» Lindsay Banding Shearwater
 Our skipper Gary Melville releasing one of the Hutton's out at sea.  © Albatross Encounter» Release
 Our favourite banded Gibson's albatross.  © Albatross Encounter» 512
 One of the banded northern royal albatrosses from Taiaroa in Dunedin.  © Albatross Encounter» Banded Royal
 © Albatross Encounter» Juvenile Australasian Gannet

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