Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Albatross Encounter

We woke to another glorious day. Last night's stormy weather had passed. An early morning walk on the beach across the road from the motel gave a great view of the snow-capped Kaikoura Ranges.

Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-3, Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 @ 18mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/2000 (stitched panorama)

There was no time to really enjoy this view though as we were booked on the early morning Albatross Encounter trip. A quick bus ride to South Bay on the other side of the Kaikoura Peninsula to board the boat on dry land, a quick launch from the tractor and we were away.

Albatross Experience boat, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
(photo courtesy of Joanne Smissen)

It was almost immediately clear that there were birds around and they were aware that we were there. The first to tag along was a Northern Giant Petrel

Northern Giant Petrel, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/8 1/1600

soon to be joined by some others, larger and smaller.

White-capped Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Cape Petrel
Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/8 1/1000

Photographing birds in flight is always a challenge but from the back of a boat travelling and 20+ knots in choppy seas was about as much fun as you can have in public.

Albatross Encounter, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
(photo courtesy of Joanne Smissen)
Albatross Encounter, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 92.5mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/2000

Once we stopped, the birds quickly gathered around the boat waiting for a feed.

Wandering Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Cape Petrel
Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/1600

Northern Giant Petrel, Cape Petrel
Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/250

The Wandering Albatross were soon disputing dominance...

Wandering Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/1600

but they were nowhere near as cantankerous as the Northern Giant Petrels.

Northern Giant Petrel, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 115mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/400

Sitting relatively still in the water provided some great opportunities for shots of birds in flight.

Albatross Encounter, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
(photo courtesy of Joanne Smissen)
Wandering Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel
Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/1250
Wandering Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/3200
Wandering Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm,
ISO 400, f/8 1/800
Wandering Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/500
Northern Giant Petrel, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/400
Northern Giant Petrel, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 122.5mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/400
Cape Petrel, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/400
Cape Petrel, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/400
Cape Petrel, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/400
White-capped Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 107.5mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/1250
White-capped Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/800
White-capped Albatross, Cape Petrel
Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/800
Westland Petrel, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 107.5mm,
ISO 400, f/8 1/800

and of birds floating on the water.

Cape Petrel, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/320
Northern Giant Petrel, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/400
Westland Petrel, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 170mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/400

making it easier to tell the difference between similar species/sub-species of albatross with side-by-side comparisons.

Both sub-species of Shy Albatross were present. Salvin's Albatross has a grey head and neck, a yellowish bill with yellow along the length of the top of the upper bill and a  black spot on the tip of the mandible (lower bill).

Salvin's Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 170mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/400

The New Zealand White-capped Albatross has a pure white cap on the head, only a light grey patch around the face and back of the head, a yellow-grey bill with bright yellow tip and no black spot on the tip of the mandible.

White-capped Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/500

Royal Albatross and Wandering Albatross are also similar. The Southern Royal Albatross has a pure white head and neck and scalloping on the shoulders (top of the wings). They also have a dark line delineating the upper and lower bill.

Southern Royal Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/1600
Southern Royal Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/1600

The Wandering Albatross is variable in markings but typically has smudges of grey/black on the head and fine striations on the top of the wings.

Wandering Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/500

Older birds can be much whiter.

Wandering Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/1000

Being so close up and with rapid shutter release on the camera, I did manage to capture a view of the wing folding, which at normal speed looks like a magic trick. This photo shows the extremely long humerus (equivalent of a human upper arm) bone. Most birds have very short humerus bones so they can hardly be seen. The elongated humerus gives albatross a much longer, thinner wing than other birds but involves a complicated tri-fold to close the wings up.

Wandering Albatross, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 100mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/1000

When it was time to leave, the last of the 'chum' was tipped into the water creating a feeding frenzy providing a spectacular ending to a great morning on the water.

Wandering Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Cape Petrel
Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
(photo courtesy of Joanne Smissen)
Wandering Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel
Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/2000
Wandering Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel
Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ
Pentax K-5, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 400, f/8 1/400

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ian. What a fantastic trip too see all these birds. You got marvelous photos of them. I did a trip,like this in Aus. Once and would love to do another sometime.

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