Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update for December 2014
Welcome to the Final Albatross Encounter Update for 2014.
It’s been a tremendous year for birds and amazing how quickly the year has literally flown by. December has continued to be highly varied in terms of the weather with some wet and wild days, followed by much warmer weather with temperatures soaring to 27° by the end of the month. Obviously the birds enjoy the windier days being able to adapt their energy efficient dynamic soaring techniques to glide on the wind currents.
We’ve operated 54 tours this month and have encountered a huge diversity of birds. Species of interest this month has included bar-tailed godwit, Cooks petrel, Caspian tern, Artic skua, brown skua, Canadian geese, grey-faced petrel and grey-faced storm petrel. To see what was sighted this month go to sightings page.
Several cruise ships have stopped in Kaikoura for the day this month with lots of passengers taking the opportunity to come out and see the albatross. For some cruise ship passengers, they’re lucky enough to be making their way south to the Sub-Antarctic Islands to see the albatross breeding grounds and are able to get a very different perspective of the birds on the water.
We’ve had a distinct lack of cape petrels this month and we recalled a similar trend last year. We’re not sure why this species disappears during December, but we generally expect to see at least a small handful of them around the boat. On some tours we haven’t even encountered a single one. So, for now it remains a mystery, but I’m sure they’ve got somewhere more important to be!
Despite the lack of cape petrels, there’s been a huge increase in the numbers of royal albatross visiting the area. Sightings of royal albatross are always a bonus, but to have both southern and northern royal albatross, as well as the wandering albatross presents us with a great opportunity to compare the differences between the three species. Generally shy in their nature, no doubt due to the fact that the wandering albatross is the boss, we’ve encountered quite a few royals keen to get up close to the chum with the occasional fight between the royals and wanderers. Gary’s even made the comment that it’s the most royals he’s seen in a very long time. One royal albatross was sporting some lovely coloured darvic bands and after liaising with the Department of Conservation ranger, who works with them at Taiaroa Head on Otago Peninsula in Dunedin, it turns out that she’s a young adolescent 7 year old bird. It’s really great to see banded birds and to receive information from the people on the ground so that we can pass this information onto future passengers. This individual is a new banded bird for Kaikoura and we hope to see her in future years to come.
Finally, our last trip of the year was an incredible one with a huge diversity of birds, including seven different species of albatross with three species of great albatross and four species of mollymawks, including black-browed and Buller’s albatross. What a great way to finish off a fabulous year.
So, that’s all our news for now. We wish all our customers a very Happy New Year and a great birding year in 2015......Till next time.
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