Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update for February 2016
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update for February 2016.
It’s been another incredibly busy month with an amazing diversity of birds and 69 tours operating. The weather has been changeable with hot calm days, and in fact New Zealand has experienced the hottest February on record. Luckily for the albatross, we’ve had some strong winds with it coming not only from Antarctica, but we also experienced the tail end of a tropical cyclone bringing some very strong wind from the north too.
Species of interest this month has been wide ranging, included Campbell albatross, Arctic skua, common diving petrel, black-billed gulls, Caspian tern, flesh-footed and Buller’s shearwater. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
Seabird diversity has been outstanding with occasional visitors such as Cook's Petrel and Campbell albatross, through to our first few sightings of “typical” winter visitors such as Buller’s albatross, black-browed albatross and southern giant petrels.
Campbell albatross and Buller’s albatross have to be two of the most striking and photogenic albatross species. Sightings of Campbell albatross are scarce in Kaikoura waters and are difficult to identify at a distance at sea. Almost identical in appearance to the black-browed albatross, which we’ve also seen on several occasions this month, they can be distinguished by their honey coloured eyes. Endemic to the sub-Antarctic Campbell Islands, we might see them only a few times a year.
It was fantastic to welcome another well-known name from the British birding scene aboard. Keith Vinicombe is best known for authoring the Macmillan Guide to Bird Identification, which has been of enormous help to many a European birder over the years. Keith is a renowned expert in bird identification, and got a chance to test his seabird ID skills on a range of Kaikoura's albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters during his tour with us.
It has been an exceptional month for sightings of banded birds with sightings of Red 73E, Orange 512 and Yellow 278. Red 73E or “Errol” as he’s fondly nick-named is our most regular banded birds. He loves Kaikoura as tracking studies have shown, and we’ve seen him on 11 tours this month. He did arrive sporting a slightly new appearance with a rather distinctive blue dot on his head, a clear sign that he’s been down on the breeding islands in the Sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands and has come into contact with the research team down there. We’re hoping to get an update on his breeding status and it will be interesting to see if he reunites with his mate and has another successful breeding season this year.
Orange 512 is a female Gibson’s wandering albatross and visited on just one occasion last month. Prior to that, was last seen in August 2015. She’s been such an infrequent visitor over the last few years or so, but has been seen on a staggering 15 tours this month. Finally Yellow 278 hasn’t been seen here since February 2014 and is assumed to be a male Gibson’s albatross
So, that’s all our news for now.......till next time.
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