Thursday, January 16, 2014

14 January 2014: Royal Albatross over the Pacific Ocean

This morning I made my way to the Albatross Colony on the far east end of the Otago Peninsula for some bird watching.  The rest of our group spent time in Dunedin, including a visit to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, and some time on the 'Octagon', a prominent site in Dunedin.

Just like yesterday, the wind was blowing at gale force, except the winds were now out of the north, rather than the south. When I arrived in the car park of the Albatross Centre, I was immediately greeted by the local Red-billed Gulls.  Gulls the world-over are notorious for 'begging' food from humans, and these adults, sub-adults, and fledglings are no exception.  I don't choose to feed birds unless I have an experimental protocol in place, so these gulls were right out of luck.  While awaiting for non-existent donations, the gulls busied themselves with pecking a stumbling juvenile gull.  Because I didn't see the beginning of the taunting, I don't quite know why this young bird was receiving the wrath of these adults, but one thing was clear to me: abnormalities in wild animal populations are quickly rooted-out.  I watched for nearly 15 min as the adult gulls continued to peck, jump on, and harass the young gull before I stepped-in and scared away the adults.  The young gull walked under my van and that seemed to quell the beating, but I would learn later that it didn't seem to make a difference: the young gull died below my van.  Social life is very difficult for wild animals; we as humans have chosen to make life miserable for each other in different ways...

Without having access to the Albatross Colony, I spent my time looking east and south over the Pacific Ocean in search of albatross soaring over the seas in search of prey or just making their way back to the breeding colony nearby.  A short 15 min later, I spotted my first albatross, criss-crossing its way across the water at least .5 miles from shore.  It was difficult at first to recognize the albatross from other seabirds, particularly the large Southern Black-backed Gull, but when a Black-backed Gull crossed in front of my view while I was simultaneously watching an albatross, I quickly learned the difference between the two species!  The Royal Albatross, the species that nests on the Taiaroa Head (the east end of the Otago Peninsula), has a wingspan of nearly 4m (12 feet)!  The pictures I took do not do justice to seeing the albatross cruising this way and that over the ocean.  I was disappointed that I couldn't visit the Albatross Centre, but seeing the birds soaring was sweet as!

An albatross soaring above the Pacific Ocean, south of Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula.  The handrail in the foreground gives some insight into how far this bird was from the shore, given that the bird probably had a wingspan of at least 3m (~9 ft).

1 comment:

  1. Great Post !!!!!!
    Very nice information share on given article for studding in New Zealand.
    Grab your wings to success as studying in New Zealand,United Kingdom is now a surreal reality! study in new zealand