Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update January 2015
Welcome to the first Albatross Encounter update for 2015.
We’ve had an amazing start to the year, being much busier compared to this time last year due to a boost in tourism numbers across the whole of New Zealand this season. We’ve operated 66 tours this month introducing a wide diversity of passengers to the incredible world of the albatross and other pelagic birds.
The weather has settled and we’re finally into the warm summer that’s been predicted. This isn’t necessarily a good thing for the albatross who love the stormy skies, but we’ve done incredibly well with our bird diversity considering the warmer temperatures that have on occasion soared above 30°C.
Species of interest this month has included white-faced storm petrel, fairy prion, reef heron, Caspian tern, southern giant petrel, northern and southern royal albatross. To see what was sighted this month click on our sightings page.
We’ve had a fascinating selection of albatross feeding on a variety of prey this month including a feeding frenzy of white-capped albatross feasting on a bait ball of squid on the surface late in the afternoon. These birds tend to be in their element rushing in to seize food on the surface rather than taking chum from our chum bag. White-capped albatross have also been observed feeding on a bait ball of warehou, while a southern royal was seen eating ling no doubt fallen out of s fishing net.
The most unusual sighting for the month was of a Chatham’s albatross. We have around one sighting a year of this rare albatross, which usually forages to the west of the Chatham Islands. A highly distinctive bird with a dark grey crown and yellow bill, each sighting creates a high level of excitement, especially for those who are unable to make it to the Chatham Islands to see them. It’s endemic to New Zealand and as the name suggest, it only breeds on one rocky outcrop in the Chatham Islands known as The Pyramid. Current population estimates are around 16,000 individuals and this species is listed as “Vulnerable”. A chick translocation project is currently underway. It’s a new project and only in its second year. 40 chicks have just been recently translocated from The Pyramid to a private site where they’re fed daily until fledging with the hope that they’ll return in 4-7 years to establish a second breeding colony and ensure the survival of this species. Check out their web page for further information: http://www.taiko.org.nz/index_sp1.html
Red 73E has visited Encounter II on an astonishing 13 tours this month. We know of course that he’s a real Kaikoura bird, but we only tend to see him around every 3-4 months. This year, he should be spending a year out at sea after spending last season breeding, that’s if his partner survived the year at sea! He’s obviously realised he’s onto a good thing hanging out in Kaikoura and it’s always a pleasure to see him and know that he’s still doing well.
We had a surprising visit from a banded northern royal albatross this month. We rarely see banded birds from Taiaroa Head, with these albatross preferring to forage east of Dunedin rather than heading north, but it turns out that this individual was a male bird and the oldest breeding there this season. When he was first sighted, he had left the female incubating the egg for 15 days……getting up there in terms of leaving her on the nest! Sadly though, something happened to this male between here and Dunedin and he never made it back to the breeding grounds and unfortunately we’ll never know his fate!!
So, that’s all our news for now.....till next time.
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