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Albatross Encounter Update for April 2014

Posted by Ed Nolan (0 Comments)
Tuesday, 6 May 2014 in Default

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update for April 2014.

April ceratinly didn't provide us with the normal autumn weather, in fact quite the contrary, with a big storm that closed the main highway for a short time and rainfall reaching record levels for this time of the year. We experienced torrential rain and gale force winds as we experienced the tail end of Cyclone Ita which kept everyone off the water for 3 days. Then at the end of the month, just to cap things off, yet another storm, this time from the south bringing vast quantities of rain and the inevitable snow on the mountain range. Winter for sure has arrived early!!!

Despite all this, we have been able to operate 32 tours this month with species of interest this month ranging from black-browed and Buller’s albatross, Wilson’s storm petrel, southern giant petrel, Campbell albatross, Arctic skua, Caspian tern and common diving petrels. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.

We’ve recently been fortunate with 2 commercial fishing vessels fishing on the edge of the Continental Shelf. Albatross are opportunists in that they seize the moment spying a fishing vessel and eating the any processing waste that’s discarded overboard. The advantage for us is that these vessels attract a lot of birds which potentially increases the diversity and abundance of birds encountered.

Winter species have started to arrive with sightings of black-browed and Buller’s albatross on the increase whilst Salvin’s and white-capped albatross are on the decline. Salvin’s have almost but disappeared, whilst we still encounter a few white-capped albatross.

Southern giant petrels are commonly sighted throughout the winter, but are seldom seen in the summer months. Breeding down south on islands such as Macquarie, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, they are distinguished from the northern giant petrel due to the colouration on the tip of beak being “greenish”. Approximately 10% of the southern giant population have a white morph phase and although observed only a few times a year in Kaikoura, this season, a white morph has been a frequent visitor, almost being encountered monthly. Giant petrels are aggressive in nature not only towards other seabirds, but also to each other and this individual was seen frequently engaging in battle with the northern giant petrels.

Orange 512, our favourite banded bird, frequently visited us in the last week of April, having last been seen in Kaikoura at the end of March. It’s great to see she’s still going well, but also due to her being banded, it provides us with a fantastic opportunity for our passengers to learn a little history about her. A regular question we’re often asked on the boat is around the age of the birds and unless they’re banded, we never know. Having a banded bird with a known age, gives us the opportunity to compare her plumage to other birds and be able to estimate the age of the other birds.

We’ve had a busy month releasing Hutton’s shearwaters. For some of these birds, as they fledge from their burrows high up in the Seaward Kaikoura mountain range, they sometimes become disorientated with the lighting in the Kaikoura Township. Accidentally crash landing on roads, pavements and backyards, the locals have been busy bringing them into Encounter Kaikoura where Lindsay Rowe from the Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust has been weighing, measuring and banding them. Once banded, these birds are ready for release and both the Albatross and Dolphin Encounter tours have been taking these extra passengers out to sea to release them for the first time. Once these birds have departed Kaikoura shores, they head off to Australia for up to 3 years before hopefully returning back to Kaikoura for the breeding season.

One such bird was found in Kaikoura on 25 March and released by Albatross Encounter the same day. It was found sick in New South Wales, Australia 6 days later and rehabilitated prior to being released once again on 22 April. Fingers crossed with a little intervention by both countries that this bird may well survive to return to Kaikoura in a few years’ time.

So, that’s all our news for now, keep up to date with latest happenings on our Facebook page.

Till next time.

Tour Photos
 Encounter II, our birdwatching boat.  © Albatross Encounter» Birdwatching Boat
 © Albatross Encounter» Watching the Birds
 A beautiful photo of a white-capped albatross (mollymawk).  © Albatross Encounter» White-capped Albatross
 © Albatross Encounter» Campbell Island Albatross
 © Albatross Encounter» 512
 Giant petrels have a reputation for being quite aggressive toward other birds when there is food to be had. Here a white morph and northern giant petrel are involved in a dispute over who is the boss!  © Albatross Encounter» White Morph and Northern Giant Petrel


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