Albatross Encounter

I’ve posted bird photos on this blog before, but I’m really not a serious birdwatcher (yet).  If anything is going to kickstart this hobby, it must be the boat trip that I took in New Zealand with a group from Encounter Kaikoura.

A small boat, a sunny morning, calm seas, a pod of dusky dolphins, and lots of birds, all in the friendly company of “proper” birdwatchers, led by the excellent Captain Gary.

Cafe Encounter Kaikoura

This first bird is a Giant Petrel, or perhaps one of Tolkien’s Nazgul.


Apparently the best way to distinguish the Southern and Northern giant petrels is to look for a brown tip to the beak on the Northern species.  Here’s another shot of the same bird, with a better view of its beak.  Your guess is as good as mine!

Giant petrel beak

[UPDATE] Actually, we don’t need to rely on anyone’s guess now, because a few days after posting this, I found my checklist from the boat trip, as completed by Captain Gary.  Here is the list of species recorded for that trip:

Royal Albatross (1), Gibson’s Wandering Albatross (2), New Zealand White-capped Albatross (6), Salvin’s Albatross (4),

Northern Giant Petrel (10), Westland Petrel (12), White-chinned Petrel (1), Grey-faced Petrel (2), Cape Petrel (14),  Hutton’s Shearwater (6), Fluttering Shearwater (1), White-fronted Tern (10),

Black-backed Gull (30), Black-billed Gull (1), Red-billed Gull (25).

After puzzling over the petrels, we spotted the bird that always knows it’s cool – Salvin’s Albatross.

We albatrosses know we're cool

Maybe by “cool” I mean aloof and grumpy.

seivins albatross on water

Even when it’s in the background of a shot of a rather dopey-looking Gibson’s Wandering Albatross.

wandering albatross on water

Here is a link to the Encounter Kaikoura website.  I could recommend the albatross tour as the best thing in Kaikoura, but the savoury muffins in the Encounter cafe might just beat it.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. How fab! I just spent the other evening hanging out on a friend’s terrace watching three young kites play in their nest. Course I’m completely incapable of capturing the activity but it was something to see!


    1. Karolyn Cooper says:

      That must have been great. Kites will always remind me of India. In fact the sky seemed strangely empty of big soaring birds when I got back to the UK.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kim in Fiji says:

    What a bizarre beak that one dude has! And after so many failures to capture birds in flight, I just have to ask: What kind of camera do you have? How do you get these photos???


    1. Karolyn Cooper says:

      It was early morning, on a calm day, without much movement on the boat. The camera was a Panasonic Lumix G3 with a 100-300mm lens. The camera is small, and ideal for travelling, but the lens is exceptionally good. This is the bit of technology that I don’t understand: the camera is “Micro Four Thirds” so the 100-300mm lens is the equivalent of a longer lens on a standard camera.
      The lens was a present from my husband, and I started using it in January 2013, as I proudly presented bananas on the blog for the first time.
      Since then, I’ve had a lot of practice. I took 300 photos on the albatross boat trip, and considered only about 10% of them any good. But even during that trip I improved, so that there are more good ones taken later in the morning. I got the hang of following the birds; I knew that they looked great soaring in the sky or against the background of the Kaikoura coastline. I ignored the choices of the other passengers. Most of them were keen on observing all the different species, so they were looking at the birds that came closest to the boat. I looked in the other directions to see the birds approaching us. I wasn’t keeping a bird list so I didn’t mind if I missed a shearwater or ten (although I got a list anyway – the captain provided all of us with a species list from the trip).
      Anyway, to state the obvious: we all get better with practice. I can see my own improvement over the past two years – and I should write a whole blog post about this!


  3. Wow, how amazing to see albatross photos – I’ve never actually looked them up to see what they really look like.
    How big were they?


    1. Karolyn Cooper says:

      That Salvin’s albatross isn’t the biggest. The giant petrels and wandering albatrosses have a huge wingpsan, and look gorgeous in flight. They just look a bit dopey when they sit on the water.

      Liked by 1 person

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