Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update April 2016
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter Update for April 2016.
Things have begun to slow down marginally as the summer season draws to a close with 29 tours, although we have been experiencing very warm temperatures which are somewhat unseasonal for this time of the year.
Species of interest haves included northern and southern royal albatross, short-tailed shearwater, common diving petrel, black-billed gull and Australasian gannet. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
The excitement for this month was a sighting of a white heron or kotuku as they are commonly known. Sightings of white heron are a rarity here in Kaikoura. A highly distinctive white bird with a yellow bill, this lone individual was sighted standing on top of Barney’s rock. This species is rated as nationally critical with a small population of 150-200 individuals. They have a sole breeding location on the West Coast of the South Island at Okarito Lagoon, but are commonly found throughout Australasia.
Another species that is rarely seen here are royal spoonbills. Easy to spot, the spoonbill has white plumage, long legs and an unmistakable black spoon shaped bill. They too can be found at Okarito Lagoon, alongside the white heron colony. It’s a strange coincidence to see two species from that area in the one month, but they also breed at colonies throughout the North and South Islands. Royal spoonbills feed in tidal flats sweeping their bills through shallow waters searching for small crustaceans and fish.
We had a busy month in March releasing newly fledged Hutton’s shearwaters which had crash landed in the township and while the majority of birds have now left, we are still releasing the occasional bird. Tracking studies have shown that these young birds head to Australia where they will spend the next 3-4 years before returning to Kaikoura as a breeding bird.
Another species which leaves the area for winter is the Salvin’s albatross and sightings of this species this month have definitely been few and far between. Salvin’s are one of the main species of lesser albatross (or mollymawks) sighted throughout the summer months. With the main breeding population down in the sub-Antarctic Bounty Islands, Kaikoura is a great foraging area for them. However, once breeding has concluded, they migrate to South America in waters off Peru and Chile.
As Salvin’s albatross leave the area, a similar species, the graceful Buller’s albatross takes its place. One of the smallest of the albatross species, it is fast becoming a favourite bird for some of our passengers due to its dark grey head and striking black and yellow bill. Numbers of black-browed albatross are on the rise too and we’ve been fortunate that one of the local commercial fishing vessels has been fishing right on the edge of the continental shelf, which has attracted a huge abundance and diversity of seabirds within a short distance of South Bay harbour.
So, that’s all our news for now.
Till next time……
Comments are closed.