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Albatross Encounter Update for July 2014
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update for July 2014.
We continue to be quiet at this time of the year, which isn’t surprising considering we’re in the depths of winter. Despite a number of southerly storms this month, we have been busier than June and have been able to operate 11 tours.
Despite fierce polar storms temporarily creating unsuitable operating conditions, the silver lining is that the stronger winds create the perfect flying conditions for albatross and other pelagic species. We’ve had an abundance of birds with species of interest this month ranging from black-browed and Buller’s albatross, southern royal albatross, fluttering shearwaters, fairy prions and Caspian tern. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
Northern giant petrels are the most abundant species of giant petrels that are seen year round in the Kaikoura area. Intermittent sightings of southern giant petrels is generally constrained to the winter months. Southern giant petrels breed further south in Antarctica compared to their northern counterparts, but during the winter months, they tend to forage further afield and are often seen in Kaikoura waters. Distinguished from the northern giant petrel by a greenish tip to the bill, about ten percent of the population have a highly distinctive “white morph” phase with the occasional black flecks. Due to their rarity, white morphs are not a common visitor to the area, being seen here about once a year. Irrespective of the white and dark phases, both species of giant petrels show as much aggression as one another and are frequently observed going into battle.
Black-browed and Buller’s albatross continue to be regular visitors, however they tend to be a little intimidated in the vicinity of the more domineering wandering albatross and giant petrels. These lesser albatross appear to be more in their element when food is discarded loosely rather than contained within a chum basket, as they can race in, seize some food and beat a very hasty retreat. Salvin’s albatross have started to make an appearance this month. They breed down in the Sub-Antarctic Bounty Islands and migrate to Peru and Chile for winter. It’s possible that the handful of Salvin’s have returned early from their winter holiday or that they never undertook a migration at all!
Fascinating feeding behaviour was recently witnessed when a whole squid was seen floating on the surface. Squid is the main diet for the albatross, but they have adapted over time to scavenging from fishing vessels for fisheries processing waste. Squid are not often encountered at the surface during the day and the albatross took full advantage of this large individual, with the wandering albatross appearing to show tolerance to the quick thinking Buller’s, who were able to seize smaller pieces.
For those of you planning on visiting New Zealand, one of our crew recently visited the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre. This centre provides help, treatment and rehabilitation for injured or ill native birds so that they can be returned to the wild. It’s run by a dedicated team of volunteers and over the years, they have been able to rehabilitate not only native birds like tui, kiwi and morepork, but also albatross and petrels. Recent intakes as a result of the Northland storms included common diving petrels and Australasian gannets. Check out their website for further information www.nbr.org.nz
Finally, we continue to offer our Icebreaker promotion for direct bookings until the end of August. For each full far paying passenger and a successful tour, passengers are entitled to a free pair of Icebreaker socks. It’s a great time of year to come and experience the mighty albatross and score a pair of socks to keep your feet warm throughout winter.
So, that’s all our news for now.....till next time.
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