Albatross Lands Off Course - in the Carpark!!

During the summertime this year, a young albatross returns from a year away and accidently touches down in the public carpark at Taiaroa Head.

- A Guides Perspective -

One evening in February this year, I was manning the reception desk of the Royal Albatross Centre when a special visitor arrived in the carpark out front.

I had just finished speaking with a family new to living in Dunedin, about how best to see the Northern Royal Albatross. The family had been debating the merits of taking a tour, since it was dead calm outside, and they really wanted to see albatross flying. I had explained that on tour we could show them 3-4 adult birds sitting on their eggs but even we could not guarantee they would see flying during this time. I had assured them that even though there was not much wind, there was always still a chance to see albatross flying nearby at anytime.

They opted not to take a tour and had a good look around the information gallery. Upon leaving the kids inside, the parents headed out the door to try their luck at the cliff top viewing area. Seconds later the father came back in shouting for the kids, saying ‘come out quick, one of those big white birds has just landed outside!!’ Some guides may have just laughed, ignored the comment and assumed they were talking about a black backed gull. But not me – I have been lucky enough to see albatross land in the carpark twice before!!

What a sight, they are truly mesmerising. You forget how big these seabirds really are until you see one strolling towards you. It can sometimes happen in the summer months, especially with adolescents returning back to the headland for the first time. Birds can become disoriented in thick sea mist also or misjudge the wind currents on occasion and have to make an emergency landing in the carpark.

As you can imagine the family I had spoken with, and a few other lucky visitors in the carpark at the time, had a truly amazing experience. My colleague and I had to do a little crowd control work to make sure all the visitors kept an appropriate distance from the albatross so as not to stress it. Whilst the albatross paced the carpark looking for lift off, we made a call to our local ranger for assistance.

After a few magical minutes to observe this beautiful bird on the ground, the ranger arrived to assess the situation. It was determined the albatross would not be able to take off on the carpark side of the headland, so it was relocated into the safety of the reserve. This whole experience must have been a bit of a shock to the system for the young albatross returning to the colony after a year away.

An amazingly lucky encounter. But as I always say - you never know what you might see during you time at the Albatross Centre!.
 

Shantelle Jackson - Albatross Guide

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