Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update August 2014
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter Update for August 2014.
We’ve had a particularly mild winter this year with glorious sunny days with the occasional rough weather day. This has been great in terms of being able to operate our tours and we’ve had 12 tours operating this month.
Species of interest this month has included grey-faced petrel, fairy prions, fluttering shearwater, black-fronted tern, black-billed gull, Buller’s and black-browed albatross. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
We’re still seeing a nice diversity of albatross with frequent sightings of wandering and southern royal albatross. Lesser albatross species continue to include both our winter and summer species with sightings of Salvin’s and white-capped albatross on the rise, whilst the photogenic Buller’s and black-browed albatross numbers decline. This is a typical seasonal change for this time of year.
After almost 6 months of no sightings, Red 73E, our banded male wandering albatross visited us on several occasions this month. He was last seen back in February this year and a common question we get from passengers is “are these the same birds we see on each tour”. It’s a hard question to answer and the only real response is the knowledge obtained by distinctive birds such as Red 73E with his colourful stand out band. Red 73E is a real Kaikoura bird with recent geolocator studies showing that the Kaikoura area is his favourite haunt. Although Kaikoura is clearly a hotspot for him, his foraging area is massive, full of an abundance of food and that’s no doubt the reason that we still do not encounter him on a regular basis. Our update from the research team this year is that he was breeding on the Auckland Islands once again last summer, so maybe he’s foraging closer to home and is extending his feeding trips as his chick matures.
On each visit to Barney’s Rock, the abundance of birds is increasing with the arrival of white-fronted terns, red-billed gulls and black-blacked gulls all starting to exhibit courtship behaviour, a sure sign that spring is definitely on its way. White-fronted terns have begun to congregate on “Little Barney’s” rock and have been frequently sighted flying around with small fish firmly secured in their beaks. Over the years we’ve seen a change with these birds as they’ve moved their breeding location from Barney’s Rock to other rocky outcrops nearby. Nationally, the white-fronted tern is believed to be declining and locally, the reason could well be attributed to the increasing presence of the New Zealand fur seals that utilise Barney’s as a small breeding location. These seals have been witnessed over time unwittingly crushing eggs and chicks as they move around Barney’s searching for a comfortable haul out site. It will be interesting this year to see where they establish their breeding colony.
Once again Albatross Encounter sent two delegates (Lynette Buurman and Gary Melville) to the British Bird Fair in Rutland, England. The event was another resounding success with around 20,000 visitors attending the Fair over 3 days.
So, that’s all our news for now, till next time.......
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