Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yellow Nosed Albatross!

On the 30th of September, 1st and 2nd of October a Yellow-nosed albatross was sighted on our tours. This is an uncommon visitor to this area and as such was a great chance to get a close look at an unusual species! Some great shots were taken by our skippers and customers on board.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tui de Roy and Mark Jones presentation September 25th

Hi all

On Thursday the 25th of Septmber wildlife photographers and authors Tui de Roy and Mark jones are giving a presentation on their adventures and passion exploring the world of albatross. Their action packed project culminted in the writing of their beautirully illustrated book: Albatross: Their world their ways.

The presentation begins at 7pm at the Kaikoura Memorial Hall supper rooms, no entry fee, light refreshments available.

Hope to see you then, it will prove to be a very interesting evening.



Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spring is here!

The arrival of spring has also seen the arrival of large numbers of Kaikoura's special seabird, the endemic Huttons shearwater (Puffinus huttoni). They have returned from their winter holiday off the coast of Australia, and are waiting for the snow to clear off their alpine nesting sites in the Seaward Kaikoura mountains behind the township of Kaikoura. They can sometimes be seen in their thousands over the spring and summer as they feed in the rich waters of Kaikoura.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Black Shag

Howdy all

We had our first tour out this morning after the very rough seas at the end of last week. The sea was still a bit lumpy this morning but more than calm enough for Gary to handle with keen birders. It proved well worth going this morning as we saw a black shag, we are lucky if we see this species more than once a year, so a very successful tour. We are hoping the strong winds of the weekend have blown even more unusual species our way and we are looking forward to seeing what is around over the next week or so (especially when we head offshore on Saturday).

We will keep you posted....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Explorer Tour Rescheduled to the 2nd August

Hi all

Strong southerly winds have been battering the Kaikoura coast for the last couple of days and they are forecast to continue well into Sunday (the 27th July) so we have decided to reschedule our all day Explorer Tour for next weekend (Saturday the 2nd August).
Hopefully the strong southerlies will blow some interesting species our way for next weekend!

(Here are some pictures of the sea taken from South Bay and the seal colony at Kaikoura)

Hope to see you then


Monday, July 21, 2008

Grey Petrel

Hello All

On Friday the 4th of July we were out with a film crew who were filming albatross here in Kaikoura, both in flight and they got some good underwater footage of the albatross feeding, and we spotted a pretty rare visitor..

It was NW wind conditions and we were only 8 miles offshore, we had huge numbers of southern royal albatross and black browed and Buller's when we spotted a grey petrel. This was an exciting spot as it is not a species we see here very often and surprising that we did not have to go very far offshore to see it.

It is going to be very interesting to see what species are going to be around when we run our offshore 'Explorer Tour' this saturday especially as we are headed quite a bit further offshore,
See you then.........


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fiordland-crested Penguin rescued by concerned family

Hi all

On the 10th of July we had a family from Australia drop by and they told us they had found an injured penguin on the beach just north of Kaikoura. They brought the penguin in wrapped in a towel and we duely reported it to DOC who sent an officer (Paul Mccahon) who collected it. Paul has since updated us and confirmed that it is a Fiordland-crested penguin and it is very weak and dehydrated but still pretty fiesty and he thinks it has a good chance of making it back to full health.

A very rare visitor to Kaikoura and due to their low numbers we will be hoping that this individual makes a full recovery, we will keep you posted.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

3 Weeks to go Until Explorer Tour

Hi All

Only three weeks to go until our Explorer Tour on Saturday the 26th July, there has been some keen birders book on already and there are still a few seats left so email info@dolphin.co.nz or free phone 0800733365. Followers of the blog will have seen we have had a few rarities in Kaikoura recently including a Light-mantled sooty albatross so we are pretty excited about what we may see on the 26th.

Hope to see you in 3 weeks time


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Light-mantled Sooty Albatross!

Hi All

Yesterday (the 1st of July) we had a very good day of birding, Alastair and Alex were with a BBC film crew who were filming albatross for an upcoming documentary about the wildlife of the South Pacific. The cameraman was filming albatross feeding and we had a good variety of species around the boat (Gibson's, antipodean, southern royal, black-browed, Buller's and Salvin's) when Al spotted a Light-mantled sooty flying at the back of the feeding group, the rest of the boat looked up to see the albatross do another fly-by at the back of the group and then it was off again, not before we had a good look at its very distinctive plumage. It is only the second time we have seen a Light-mantled sooty on our albatross encounter

Whilst this was happening Gary was about 5miles south on a different tour and he spotted an entire flock of antarctic fulmars about 25-30 birds, a very rare sighting here where we usually see the species in ones or twos.

A good day birding and as both vessels were a little further offshore than usual, hopefully an indication of what we can expect to see on our longer explorer tours.

Until then, good birding...........

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fairy Prions!

Just a quick update of some of the species seen lately. Good numbers of Fairy prions have been sighted along our coastline in the last two weeks. They have sometimes been seen in quite large flocks either resting in rafts or feeding on current lines where plankton accumulates. They also come over to our vessel to offer some great photo opportunities.

We are also seeing Southern Giant petrels on a regular basis. They can be separated from the Northerns by having a greenish tip to the bill compared to the orange/brown of the Northern. More Southerns are seen in winter as they migrate north from their summer range on or close to the Antarctic mainland.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

4 hour tour for keen birders! 12.5.08

On the 12th of May there was an extended four hour pelagic bird tour which left South Bay harbour at 9am and returned at 1pm. On board were New Zealanders Mia Jessen, Shane McPherson, Rob Lawrance, Russell Cannings and two English couples. The skipper was Gary Melville.
The sea conditions were a little rough with a 1.5m southerly swell and 10-15 knt southerly winds. It was decided to take our larger 13m catamaran Lissodelphis which cut through the swell with ease. The first destination was the edge of the Kaikoura canyon with some great looks at Common Diving petrel (Pelecanoides urinatrix) as they buzzed passed the vessel. A wide variety of other species came to the vessel, attracted by a small block of frozen fish liver in a mesh cage. These included endemic species such as Buller's albatross (Thalassarche [bulleri] bulleri) and Westland petrel (Procellaria westlandica).
The next stop was out to a sea mount which rises from depths over 1000m up to 300m. More species were encountered here with great views of both Gibsons (Diomedea exulnas gibsoni) and Antipodean (Diomedea exulnas antipodenis)Wandering albatross as well as both Northern (Macronectes halli)and Southern (Macronectes giganteus) Giant petrel.
The final stop was further off shore where conditions were challenging for those on board but not for the birds who were definitely in their chosen element with spectacular display of aeronautics. It was here that 3 Southern Royal albatross (Diomedea [epomophora] epomophora) made their presence known. At this point seasickness was raising it's ugly head so the vessel cruised back inshore to Barney's rock and calmer waters before returning to the Harbour. The trip was a great success with many species seen, but with the conditions suiting the hardy!
Below is a list of birds seen on the tour.

Southern Royal albatross
Gibsons Wandering albatross
Antipodean Wandering albatross
Black-browed albatross
New Zealand White-capped albatross
Southern Bullers albatross
Northern Giant petrel
Southern Giant petrel
Westland petrel
Cape petrel
Common Diving petrel
Fairy prion
Huttons shearwater
Bullers shearwater
Sooty shearwater
Spotted shag
White-fronted tern
Black-fronted tern
Black-billed gull
Red-billed gull
Black-backed gull
Australasian gannet
Little Blue penguin

So a thanks goes out to those on board who made the trip a success. Having such enthusiastic customers really makes the trip enjoyable to all involved! We look foward to seeing more birders on this and our other pelagic bird tours.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Humpbacks on the March

Just a quick post to let you know that a large number of humpback whales migrating up the Kaikoura coast on their way north to the tropics where they will spend the winter mating and giving birth.

Over the last week or so our Dolphin Encounter tours have seen several humpbacks, often in the middle of a pod of dusky dolphins (quite a sight). This is the most humpbacks we have seen in autumn for a long time, which bodes well for the whales.

An Atmospheric Evening Tour

Hi all

On Saturday the 14th of June Gary took out some birders late in the afternoon, just as the sun was setting behind the Seaward Kaikouras, and at first he wasn't sure if the birds were going to be around "Albert isn't used to seeing me in the evening" said Gary. But after a few minutes of nothing showing Gary and his passengers were treated to a very good selection of albatross and other pelagics set against a stunning sunset turning the sky red.

We have long theorized that the albatross feed at night on upwellings and Gary has seen it once during his fishing days, but it was still nice to see it in action, and lead to a very different kind of bird tour.

Just to top it off there was a huge burn-off happening on one of the hills which looked as though it was setting the clouds on fire.... very cool.

hope you enjoy the pics.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Explorer Tour - 26th July 2008

We have a deep sea pelagic tour operating on the 26th July 2008, please email us at info@albatrossencounter.co.nz or call on 033196777 (see poster fo more details) there are a huge number of albatross and other pelagics off the coast of Kaikoura and this is the perfect opportunity to see some rarer species along with some of the regulars.

Official OSNZ Trips a Blast!

As well as Gary running his 'unofficial' commando tour a great many Ornithological Society New Zealand members joined us on pre-arranged pelagic tours. And what a great time we had! we only had to travel 25 minutes from the South Bay harbour, before we were over the depths of the Kaikoura Canyon and deep into pelagic territory. We threw out our 'albatross ice cream' consisting of frozen fish liver and waited...

The first visitors of the day were Cape Petrels in their ones and twos at first but rapidly increasing in numbers, the Cape Petrels acted as advertisers to the albatross and before long we had species after species flying in to the rear of the boat (at one point we had 5 or 6 different species around us). And on the morning tours, just as we were about to leave and head for home a Salvins Albatross flew in (a 'shy' albatross with a distinctive grey head), this was an unusual species to see this time of year and as an extra bonus it was a species not seen by Gary and the commando birders!

A complete species list for the day runs as follows:

Southern Royal
Albatross (Mollymawks):
Black Browed
New Zealand Whitecapped
Giant (Nothern and Southern)
Cape (Snares)

hope you all enjoyed the tours, it was certainly a great day to be out on the water, with some spectacular views to be had.

We hope to see many of the OSNZ members back here again.

Good birding


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Deep Sea Comando Raid a Raging Success

Hello All

During the NZ Ornithological Society's AGM several pelagic bird tours were arranged through Albatross Encounter, one being a deep sea probe which was not fully sanctioned by the organisers and therefore considered unauthorised!

The trip (complete with 10 commando birders) left at 7.15am on the 1st of June with the expectation of seeing something unusual and maybe seeing a few lifers.

We headed straight out to 15miles off the Kaikoura Peninsula and stopped for 4 hours driving straight past lots of birds feeding on upwellings, but there was no stopping. We threw out a block of frozen fish liver (a delicacy for pelagics) and waited... it was slow to start with the first visitors being Southern Royal albatross and New Zealand White Capped albatross (shy).

After 2 hours we sighted a Grey-Faced petrel which lifted spirits and was a first for a couple of the guys. The pressure was building with pelagics arriving all the time although nothing different from the usual cast found here in Kaikoura.

4 hours into the tour there were several yelps from the rear of the boat, signifying the arrival of a White-Headed Petrel another first for many on the tour and a first for Albatross Encounter!

After all that excitement we settled for a delicious lunch and then it was time to move on.

We shifted camp twice more and travelling towards the third we sighted a raft of Cape Petrel and in amongst them was an Antarctic Fulmar yet another first for some.

It was an incredibly calm day and the views were spectacular looking back towards the mountains and we also noted 5 separate sperm whales.

We headed into the Amuri Bluffs and then back along the coastine toward the Kaikoura Peninsula to arrive home at 15:40.

A complete list of species spotted were as follows:


Northern Royal

Southern Royal



Albatross (Mollymawks):

Black Browed

New Zealand Whitecapped



Giant (Nothern and Southern)


White Chinned

Grey Faced

Cape (Snares and Sub-Antarctic)

Common Diving

White Headed






Fulmar Petrels:

Antarctic Fulmar





White Fronted

Black Fronted


Black Backed

Red Billed

Black Billed





I had an extremely enjoyable time with such enthusiastic and knowledgable people and the trip was a real success form my point of view, we are planning another deep sea pelagic trip in late July, depending on demand. If you are interested contact us at info@albatrossencounter.co.nz or give us a call on 033196777. Looking forward to the next adventure.

Regards and good birding, Gazza...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Zealand Birders Descend on Kaikoura

Well we are approaching the Queens Birthday weekend, when the New Zealand Ornithological Society are holding their annual conference in Kaikoura. Many of the conference delegates will be heading out on pelagic tours over the Sunday and Monday and we are hoping they will have a great opportunity to see many of our frequent pelagic visitors and hopefully some rare visitors :)

Hope to see you all this weekend, and we will be giving you a full update of how the weekend went and what species were seen.....

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fussy female (Gibson)

Over the last few weeks we have spotted a regular visitor to Kaikoura, a 13 year old female Gibson’s Albatross who was sighted on 10 different occasions; she is easily identified by the orange band around her right leg, sporting the number 512. She is the most frequently sighted banded albatross here in Kaikoura and is from the Mt Dick colony on Adam’s Island in the Auckland Island group, over 580 nautical miles south of Kaikoura.

Unfortunately, although she has been seen displaying with a number of different males, none of her potential suitors have been up to to scratch and to date she is still officially single. However, we are not concerned, as a bird of her beauty can afford to be fussy....

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mecca for albatross, beautiful Kaikoura. New Zealand

Hello all,
Welcolme to the first of many updates from the beautiful township of Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Kaikoura is famous for its whale watching and swimming with dolphins but one of its best kept secrets is its one of the best places in the world to see albatross and very close to the mainland.

Kaikoura is not an albatross colony, rather it is a fantastic place for albatross to come and feed. There is a huge underwater canyon here which is around 1650m deep (about a mile!) and this canyon runs in to just 600m from the shoreline. There are a lot of nutrients brought to the surface, close to land and they produce a highly productive food chain here, making Kaikoura a constant all-you-can-eat buffet for pelagic sea birds, including up to 13 of the worlds albatross species (there is around 24 species of albatross in the world).

One of our more common albatross is the wandering albatross which has an astounding wingspan of over 3.5m (nealy 12 feet!) and is in the Guiness Book of Records as having the largest wingspan of any bird on the planet

In this blog we will updating you on what birds we have been encountering on our daily Albatross Encounter tours and making special note of unusual visitors to the area, and showing the odd photo or video of what we have been up to.

So for now, happy birding, and here is a taste of the majestic albatross here in Kaikoura.