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Albatross Encounter Update for March 2015

Posted by Ed Nolan (0 Comments)
Friday, 17 April 2015 in Default

Albatross Encounter Update for March 2015

Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update for March 2015.

Another great month, although we encountered extreme weather at times during the month. With Kaikoura experiencing the tail end of Cyclone Pam, we encountered storm force northerly and north east winds with wind speeds exceeding 55 knots. Such conditions were clearly not conducive to albatross tours and in fact the weather kept everyone, even the commercial fishermen, off the water for at least four days.

Despite this spate of bad weather, we’ve been able to operate 53 tours this month. Species of interest this month included northern and southern royal albatross, Buller’s shearwater, Caspian tern, reef heron and black-fronted terns. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.

This extreme weather event caused chaos with the fledging of the Hutton’s shearwaters, Kaikoura’s endemic bird. These birds fledge in March and head off to Australia for 3-4 years before returning to Kaikoura to begin breeding. Each year, many Hutton’s chicks crash land throughout the Kaikoura Township becoming disorientated by the street lighting, and volunteers throughout the community pick these birds up bringing them into Encounter Kaikoura or Department of Conservation to weigh and band them prior to release.  We’ve had a busy month with over 200 birds brought in. It’s given passengers on our albatross trips a great opportunity to see these birds up close and observe the bird’s first experience of touching the ocean for the first time. For some birds, they take to it straight away and it’s only a matter of minutes before they take their first dive under water. For other birds, it takes a little adjustment being in such an unfamiliar surroundings. 

With darker mornings, we’ve had to push back check-in to 7am, however the first trip of the day has given photographers the perfect opportunity to take photos of birds in flight as the sun emerges on the horizon with its rays casting a beautiful light on the birds.

We’ve also welcomed some keen passengers who’ve travelled long distances to join our tours, including one gentleman on holiday with his family in Australia, who flew to New Zealand purely to do our albatross tour, how about that!! The albatross didn’t let him down and he returned back to Melbourne a happy man having had the opportunity to get so close and personal to the wandering albatross and the abundance of other pelagic species.....a dream come true for him!

We continue to see the odd black-browed and Buller’s albatross, but as for the Salvin's, their numbers are now in decline as they head to South America on their winter migration. Numbers of white-capped albatross have increased dramatically, with over 100 individuals sighted on one tour. These birds were observed in large rafts feeding offshore, but unfortunately, we couldn’t work out just what had caused such a big feeding frenzy, although white-capped albatross have been seen feeding on squid at the surface recently.

So, that’s all our news.

Till next time.

Tour Photos
 © Albatross Encounter» Albatross At Dawn
 © Albatross Encounter» Fishing Trawler at Dawn
 © Albatross Encounter» White-chinned Petrel
 One of our favourite regular visiotrs, banded Red 73E. 
» Red 73E
 © Albatross Encounter» A Raft of Hutton's
 Gary taking a fledged Hutton's that had landed on the streets of Kaikoura, out of its cage. 
© Albatross Encounter» Hutton's Release
 The newly fledged Hutton's about to get its first feel of the ocean. 
© Albatross Encounter» Free
 © Albatross Encounter» Boat and Birds
 © Albatross Encounter» White-capped Albatross Feeding on Squid

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