Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update for October 2015
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update for October 2015.
Despite erratic weather patterns this month, we’ve been able to operate 33 tours. Species of interest this month have included black-browed albatross, Antarctic fulmar, reef heron, white-chinned and Westland petrel. To see what was sighted this month, go to our sightings page.
The most exciting news for this month was the sighting of a grey-headed albatross. This is the first sighting of this species in the history of Albatross Encounter and created huge excitement for passengers and crew, with a little bit of “jealousy” for those who missed out!!
Initially called out by a passenger as a “Buller’s albatross”, a common mistake, Gary’s excellent identification skills quickly identified it as a grey-headed albatross. They are very similar to Buller’s albatross, but have a broader, dark leading edge to their underwing. They also have a striking black bill with yellow upper and lower ridges shading to pink-orange at the tip. This species is an oceanic forager with a circumpolar distribution that rarely follows boats. This bird landed amongst the Salvin’s albatross and appeared to attempt to engage with them, but sadly the Salvin’s showed no interest in such a marvellous bird. It’s pretty incredible that it chose to land in close proximity to Encounter II and enable Gary to obtain some great photos.
Breeding is on a biennial basis on 6 subantarctic islands including South Georgia, Crozet, Kerguelen, Macquarie, Prince Edward, and Campbell Islands. Approximately 50% of the global population occurs on South Georgia. Due to the majority of populations declining, this species has been elevated to endangered status. Unfortunately it was only sighted on one tour, despite everyone keeping an extra special eye out for us.
After this sighting, other sightings don’t appear to be anywhere near as exciting, however we’ve still been encountering winter species such as Antarctic fulmar, black-browed albatross and southern giant petrels. We even had a brief look at a brown skua.
A young southern giant petrel spent a few days visiting Encounter II. Gary gave him the nickname of Boris and he appeared to be quite keen on biting passengers. We always advise passengers not to dangle fingers over the side of the boat particularly with eager giant petrels and their sharp cutting beak, which are designed to cut through carcasses of whales and seals. It’s not often that we get to see southern giant petrels at this time of year with northern giant petrels being the most dominant species throughout the year.
So, that’s all our news for now. Till next time......
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