Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update September 2017
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter Update for Winter 2017.
It’s been a particularly quiet few months, but wih the regular road closures and difficulties accessing Kaikoura, it’s not surprising that the town is quieter than normal. For the tours that we have operated over the last few months, albatross species diversity has been high with four to seven species observed on each tour.
Species of interest has included fairy prions, grey-faced petrels, black-billed gull, southern giant petrel, common diving petrel and black-browed and Buller’s albatross.To see what has been sighted go to our sightings page.
Hutton’s shearwaters arrived slightly earlier than expected this year, which caused excitement with both customers and the Hutton’s Shearwater Trust. The Hutton’s suffered during the Kaikoura earthquake last year due to landslides at the colony where many birds would have been inside their burrows. How much the impact the quake has affected the population is yet to be determined, however the conservation status of Hutton’s has been upgraded to “Threatened-Nationally” vulnerable, a concerning decline meaning that this species is now under great threat.
We were especially priveleged to have legendary Geoff Harrow out with us on a special Hutton's tour. Geoff Harrow discovered the only two remaining colonies of Hutton's in the Kaikoura mountains in the 60's and is a strong and passionate advocate for the species.
In August, despite challenging seas, we were lucky to take out one very keen passenger who works with shearwaters in Europe and was interested in not only seeing albatross, but also Hutton’s shearwaters and of course anything else that might happen to turn up. Any other year, we would have been doubtful about seeing Hutton’s, but having already see a large raft earlier in the week we we’re lucky enough to see a small group fly past near the colony on the Kaikoura Peninsula. As well as the Hutton’s we managed to see seven different species of albatross, fairy prions and his first Pterodroma species, a grey-faced petrel. It was a great trip with Pep sending us some great images after the tour.
As we enter into spring, our photogenic albatross, the Buller’s and black-browed albatross return to their breeding colonies and other species such as Salvin’s and white-capped albatross increase. Sightings of Westland petrels have become more regular with the occasional sightings of grey-faced petrels and fairy prions.
Travel to Kaikoura still requires prior planning. Access continues to be restricted with State Highway 1 only open Friday-Monday between 7am-7pm with alternative access to and from Kaikoura via the Inland Road. The road north to Blenheim is not expected to open until Christmas time so some extra planning is required for those travelling to and from the north especially with ferry connections in Picton, allow 7-8 hours. Please make sure that you check the road status prior to travel. The following link will assist with planning http://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic-and-travel-information/travel-information-for-canterbury-and-marlborough-regions/ as well as the NZTA South Island Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nztasouthisland for current updates.
Work on the South Bay Marina continues and the end of this marathon project is now in sight. The task of digging out and dredging the channel and berthing facilities has been extremely challenging and the reconstructed facility is due to be reopened on the anniversary of the Kaikoura Earthquake, November 14th. Photos show work to date.
So, that’s all our news for now.
Till next time……..
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