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Albatross Encounter Update for June 2014

Posted by Dennis Buurman (0 Comments)
Thursday, 24 July 2014 in Default

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter Update for June 2014.

We have been exceptionally quiet this month, which is expected at this time of year and have operated only 5 tours this month. Species of interest this month have ranged from black-browed and Buller’s albatross, southern giant petrel, Antarctic fulmar, fluttering shearwaters and Cook’s petrel. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.

The Kaikoura Canyon system encompasses a wide area, but starts just a few kilometres from South Bay harbour. We’re fortunate not only with the close proximity of the canyon system, but also with a local commercial fishing vessels that fish off the edge of the canyon and relatively close to shore.  A wide diversity of albatrosses, petrels and other seabirds scavenge from offal discarded by fishing vessels and this is always a great place to start our tours, if the fishing vessels are not too far offshore.   

Our typical winter albatross species, the black-browed and Buller’s albatross have increased in numbers this month with high records of white-capped albatross still being reported. 

Another regular visitor to Kaikoura during winter is a medium sized fulmarine petrel, the Antarctic fulmar. Breeding around Antarctica in places such as South Sandwich, South Shetland and South Orkney Islands, it forages close to the pack ice during summer months. Being a colonial breeder it nests on rocky ledges with both adults sharing incubation and feeding duties.  They have a varied diet ranging from krill, fish and squid to scavenging around fishing vessels and food is usually obtained by surface-seizing. Dispersing once the chick has fledged, they range north of Antarctica and are a frequent visitor to the Kaikoura area during the winter time.   

Southern giant petrels have made a few appearances aggressively fighting with the similarly looking northern giant petrel. These two species can sometimes be difficult to distinguish as juveniles with the most distinctive feature being the coloration at the tip of the bill which is “greenish” in southern giant petrels. We don’t often see southern giant petrels during the summer months due to them breeding further south around Antarctica. Like the Antarctic fulmar, they forage further afield after concluding the breeding season. By comparison, the northern giant petrel is by far the more abundant of the two species being seen here year round.    

Orange 512, our frequently sighted banded bird paid a visit this month. She hasn’t been seen for over two months now, but the exciting news we received from the research team working down on Adam's Island in the Sub-Antarctic Auckland Island's, is that they have finally discovered her breeding site just outside their study area. The last time she was encountered on land was back in 2007 and it has been a real mission for the researchers to try and locate her breeding location. It was assumed that she had probably perished, not having been seen for such a long time. However, due to frequent sightings and reports from Albatross Encounter back to the researchers, they’ve been making a determined effort to find her and we’re thrilled they’ve managed to track her down. Hopefully, we can now keep a track of her breeding status and learn more about her as time progresses.   

Finally, for direct bookings until the end of August, we‘re running a great winter Icebreaker promotion. For each successful tour, passengers are entitled to a free pair of Icebreaker socks, so it’s a great time of year to come and experience the mighty albatross and score a pair of socks to keep your feet warm throughout winter.

So, as things quieten down, that’s all our news for now.

Till next time.

Tour Photos
 © Albatross Encounter» Watching the Birds
 © Albatross Encounter» Buller's Albatross
 © Albatross Encounter» Antarctic Fulmar
 Thanks to updated information from the researchers, we now know more about 512's location during the breeding season.  © Albatross Encounter» Orange 512


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