Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update for January 2016
Welcome to the first update for 2016. It’s been another busy month, a huge increase in tourism combined with school holidays has enabled us to operate a staggering 70 tours this month. Again the weather has been highly variable with calm oceans and blistering hot weather, before quickly changing to southerlies and colder temperatures. However we have had very few cancelled trips and the drought conditions have not been appeased by the small amount of rain.
The weather is always a delicate balance with people often asking what’s the best time of day, or the best weather to see birds. The simple answer is that the birds love the wind, although there is a limit to the conditions in which Encounter II is able to operate for safety reasons and we’ve had to cancel the occasional tour due to bad weather.
Species of interest this month has included black-browed albatross, Arctic and brown skua, grey-faced petrel, fairy prion, and flesh-footed shearwater. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
Last month we had a visit from a banded northern royal albatross and sent images of the bird and its bands to the Department of Conservation ranger who works with these birds on the Otago Peninsula. We don’t often see banded royal albatrosses and the majority of the birds that we do see here are believed to come from the Chatham Islands where 99% of the total breeding population can be found. Dunedin birds have a series of 3 colour bands and it’s important to see all three and to capture the bands on camera, as our interpretation of colours can be different to the banding team. Fortunately, we managed to get a great shot of this bird taking off and most importantly, showing all three bands. LOK or lime-orange-black, is a new bird for us and he’s a male northern royal albatross. He is a breeding bird this year and when we saw him, he had left his mate in Dunedin incubating his egg. Luckily he made it safely back to Dunedin, I’m sure much to his mate’s relief to relieve her of her incubation duties.
The Department of Conservation have just launched “Royal Cam”, a live webcam filming a pair of royal albatross and their recently hatched chick. It’s a magnificent opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of albatross chick rearing behaviour. The camera is off at night, but they have some great highlights showing the ranger weighing a 2 day old chick, parents feeding the chick and parents swapping over on the nest. Check out this website if you’re keen to learn more about this magnificent species:-
Other banded birds this month have included both Red 73E and Orange 512. Red 73E is by far our most regularly sighted banded bird now with only the occasional visit from Orange 512, who was last seen here at the beginning of August 2015.
We’ve had several sightings of storm petrels this month, with 5 white-faced storm petrels seen on one tour and also the grey-backed storm petrel. Storm petrels have earnt themselves the nickname of the “Jesus Christ Birds” from the way they “walk on water”. Foraging over the continental shelf, we don’t often see them close inshore and it’s a treat to see one individual let alone five birds on one tour.
We were delighted to welcome some very well-known seabird experts aboard Albatross Encounter. Among them were these two illustrious gentlemen, Peter Harrison, author of the classic 'Seabirds of the World'. He is now working on another two-volume handbook to the world's seabirds. Peter has been involved with raising money for huge conservation projects as the restoration of Henderson Island and the eradication of rats from South Georgia. Robert Flood runs pelagic birding tours from the Isles of Scilly in the UK and authored the Multimedia Identification Guides to North Atlantic Seabirds. He was also instrumental in the rediscovery of the New Zealand Storm-petrel back in 2003.
So, that’s all our news for now.
Till next time……
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