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Albatross Encounter Update for October 2014

Posted by Ed Nolan (0 Comments)
Thursday, 20 November 2014 in Default

Welcome to the first Albatross Encounter Update for October 2014.

Unpredictable weather has occurred throughout the month with strong winds from almost every direction. Although this can cause havoc with the operational status of our tours, it’s great for birds such as the albatross who utilise the technique of dynamic soaring to glide on the wind currents.

We’ve had a busy month with 34 tours operating. Species of interest this month has included grey-faced petrel, royal spoonbill, southern giant petrel, reef heron, Buller’s shearwater and black-browed albatross. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.

Our species diversity continues to wide ranging this month incorporating summer and winter species and it’s always hard to predict exactly what we’re likely to see on each of our tours, as they vary, not only day by day, but also between the tours throughout the day. On one tour, a gentleman commented that they’d really like to see an Antarctic fulmar, to which the response was “oh that’s highly unlikely at this time of year”! On arriving at our first stop on the edge of the Kaikoura Canyon system, an Antarctic fulmar arrived and not only landed right next to the boat, but proceeded to follow the boat for almost the entire duration of the tour. So, you always have to be ready for the unexpected!!

Other winter species this month have included sightings of black-browed albatross, Buller’s albatross and southern giant petrels. Up to 3 southern giant petrels have been seen on one tour alone including a highly distinctive white morph that put in an appearance over the month. White morphs are a southern giant petrel with only approximately 10% of the population having a white morph phase. They are typically aggressive to other giant petrels and put up a good fight to scavenge around food.

We’ve been fortunate to have several commercial fishing vessels operating on the edge of the continental shelf and it’s always a great place to stop and watch the feeding frenzy as large numbers of birds seize an opportunistic moment to scavenge from scraps being discarded overboard. Juvenile black-browed albatross have been seen following these vessels although they haven’t investigated the chum bag beside Encounter II.

Species returning to the area from winter migrations have included sightings of Buller’s shearwaters, sooty shearwaters and short-tailed shearwaters, as well as white-chinned petrels. The endemic Westland petrel, a winter breeder in the Paparoa ranges on the West Coast of the South Island have also been making a regular appearance.

Large bait balls of kahawai have been observed together with a feeding frenzy of red-billed gulls and Hutton’s shearwaters. The latter being observed in rafts of up to 2,000 individuals. 

Red 73E, our banded Gibson’s albatross visited on 3 occasions this month. It’s always exciting to see a banded bird and great when you know the individual concerned as its good to see he’s still going strong. We can only wonder if he’s finding enough food to take back to his chick with the hope that his chick is going to fledge successfully. 

Gary and Lynette also took a brief trip to Australia to represent the business at the new Australasian Bird Fair in Sydney this month. Their aim is “to seek to connect birders and nature lovers from across the region with resources, information and inspiration from around the world” and we hope in the near future to welcome a few more birders from across the ditch. The Bird Fair is returning next year hoping to be bigger and better. For more information, check out their website

So, that’s all our news for now.Till next time....

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