Karitane's Birdlife

Mollymauks and Royal Albatrosses off the Otago Coast

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The 'Sea Slave', a 28ft fibreglass jetboat. Owner Allan Anderson onboard on port side.
Karitane is a large estuary about half an hour north of Dunedin. Seventy years ago we used to holiday in a "crib" here, row out to sea in a 14ft lap-strake dinghy and catch cod by the bucketful. Now there is a small town, the bay is pretty well silted up and the tide on the make rips in at 6 knots. When Allan Anderson read that we had been refused permission to photograph the Royals at Taiaroa, he offered to take us out! His boat is a 28ft FG with a 6 cyl Cummins diesel, well silenced with a soft ride on the chop.

Heading out to sea at 20 Knots.

A determined photographer eyes his prey!

A pod of altogether about a hundred dolphins slap the water with their tails to herd barracuda. This shot is a montage made up from a digicam move. These Dusky dolphins move too rapidly for normal photography.
Coming to a halt and tossing some fish offal overboard soon brings the first Buller's Mollymauks planing in. Soon there were about fifty.
Their manners are deplorable. There are only two classes, the quick-and-aggressive and the hungry!
Buller's Albatross.
Easily distinguished by the bright orange-yellow upper bill and light grey neck.
We have spent quite a few years at sea sailing round the world in our 50ft ketch "Pelorus Jack" but cannot recall seeing one before.
This shot shows the light grey neck well, rather similar to the Salvin's.
Within fifteen minutes, the White Capped Albatrosses arrive and soon outnumber the Buller's. White Caps are common around Oban in Stewart Island and apparently nest on Solander Island. There seems to be no information available on these other than "They nest on Sub-antarctic islands".
A little more eye shadow and he would be indistinguishable from a "Black-browed Albatross", which according to Allan may also be seen hereabouts.
A demonstration of wingspans - and of tenacity.

Alberts are not at all backward when there is a bit of tucker going.

Notice the two petrels also approaching.

A close-up of underarm plumage. The primary pinna are overlapped by secondary feathers which run fore and aft.
A Royal Albatross arrives and quietly assumes dominance over the herd. After two years of trying this is our first pic. White Caps move aside!
A barracuda shoal comes up and one is soon boated,
Excitement after barracuda is thrown in amongst the birds.
The Royal Albatross steals the prize. The White Cap on the left actually got it first, but the Royal calmly took it away
Preparing to eat the barracuda. Notice the peck mark just behind the Royal Albatross's eye.

The barracuda slid down the Royal's gullet in one gulp spines-and-all, though it is at least 2ft long.

The Royal Albatross departs using undercarriage to aid takeoff with heavy load!

Not shown are the smaller Pintados, (Mother Carey's Chicks) and Petrels (of the Mutton Bird type) which also gathered round.

Spotted shags on Caversham Sandstone cliffs north of Karitane.