Ian’s Stamp of the Week – Antipodean Albatrosses ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 9/13/14
The reference to Stamp of the Week in the subject line isn’t a typo: I’m celebrating the issue of a stamp set by New Zealand Post on 3 September which includes a photo of mine in the design of one of the stamps.
Here is the original photo, taken north of Macquarie Island when we were returning to Hobart at the end of a Subantarctic Islands trip in November 2011 that started in Dunedin. This was the same trip on which I photographed the Fiordland Penguins that featured as last week’s bird.
If you’re not familiar with Antipodean Albatrosses and think it looks like a Wandering Albatross, you may be relieved to hear that it’s all a matter of taxonomy and reflects the recent split of the Wandering Albatross into four species, one of which is the Antipodean. In fact this same taxon, for want of a better word, was bird of the week in November 2006 as Wandering Albatross after I’d photographed some on a pelagic trip off Wollongong south of Sydney. If we follow this split, and BirdLife Australia does, then most of the erstwhile Wandering Albatrosses in Australian waters are Antipodean and breed on the islands south of New Zealand, mainly Antipodes Island, Campbell Island and Adams Island in the Auckland Islands.
The Antipodean is one of the smaller of the Wandering Albatross group but they are still enormous: up to 117cm/46in in length with a wing span to 3.3m/11ft and weighing up to 8.6kg/19lbs. Look carefully at the second Albatross photo and you’ll see a grey and black Broad-billed Prion completely dwarfed by the Antipodean Albatross. The prion is about 30cm/12in in length with a wingspan of 60cm/2ft. You can get an impression of the size in the third photo taken on that Wollongong trip – look at the bow wave!
The Antipodean Albatross itself comes in two varieties, the nominate Antipodean which breeds on Antipodes and Campbell Island and ‘Gibson’s Albatross’ which breeds in the Auckland Islands Group. The various Wandering Albatross species all look rather similar and are difficult to identify in the field. They vary in size and they differ in the rate and extent of development of white plumage in adult birds – juveniles are mainly brown. The ones in the first two photos are very white and are probably older males of the race gibsoni. The bird swimming in the third photo shows less development of white plumage – not the darkish cap and the dark vermiculations on the neck, breast and shoulder and may be a younger male or female and could be either nominate Antipodes or Gibson’s: all too hard.
Here is the complete set of stamps. New Zealand Post wanted to pay me to use the albatross photo, but I so like the idea of having one of mine used in a stamp that they agreed to send me first day covers and a presentation pack instead and that arrived yesterday. Antipodean Albatrosses rate as Vulnerable/Endangered because of their few nesting sites and long-line fishing which leads to the death of adult birds as by-catch. The total population is perhaps 16,000 pairs but there is hope that the population has stabilised after significant declines at the end of the 20th century.
Anyway, I’m off to Dublin via Dubai on Monday to visit family and friends. I’m spending 3 nights in Dubai having found it, to my complete astonishment, ranked as #75 in a book on the top 100 places in the world to go birding. Because of its location at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, it’s an important staging post for birds migrating from Asia to Africa in the northern spring and autumn migrations (i.e. now). I have two target species: the Crab Plover and the Cream-coloured Courser. The first because it’s an unusual and beautiful black and white wader in a family all to itself and the unusual looking and named Courser – a member of the Pratincole family – because it caught my eye in my Field Guide to the Birds of Britain in Europe when I was a teenager in Ireland half a century ago, below. So, I need your spiritual energy and goodwill to help me. You haven’t failed me in the past!
This was supposed to be a short bird of the week as I really should be packing but I almost forgot to mention that Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland is now available through Kobo Books. I really like the Kobo ebook reader: I have it on both my Mac computer and my iPad/iPhone but Kobo reader software is also for Android tablets and phones, Blackberries and Windows computers and phone. A friend of mine has expressed concern over the complexity of ebook software/apps, devices/computers and methods of purchase/download etc. so I’m preparing a page to add to the existing one on publications on the website: http://www.birdway.com.au/publications.htm which already has links to Apple, Google Play and Kobo Books and a little bit about the differences. Something to do on the plane.
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au
Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. (Isaiah 52:13 NASB)
Wow! Our Ian is famous. That is quite an honor! I was thinking of Ian as well as the Albatrosses when I picked the verse.
The Albatrosses are a members of the Diomedeidae – Albatrosses Family. There are 21 species in the family. (From CreationWiki) “Albatrosses have very long wings and large bodies. Their bills are hooked and they possess separate raised tubular nostrils. Their bodies range from sizes between 76 and 122 centimeters long (2.5 to 4 feet); and their wingspan ranges from 3 to 6 meters across(9.8 to 19.7 feet). The wings are usually darkly colored on the upper side and are pale colors or white on the underside. Albatross wings allow it to take advantage of the abundant winds across the surface of the sea. The birds make use of the fact that friction with the sea slows some of the wind down so that right above the surface of the water, the wind is relatively weak and slow. Then, as the bird climbs up from the surface, the speed and strength of the wind increases as well (around 50 feet or 15 meters above the surface of the water the albatrosses will reach their full flight speed).
Albatrosses’ wings are designed for a specified type of gliding. Being very long and somewhat thin in width, the wings are used best in the albatrosses’ cycle of flight. This cycle allows the bird to move great distances without once flapping it wings. What a great Creator!
Antipodean Albatross – Ian’s
Ian’s Diomedeidae Family
Albatross – CreationWiki
Diomedeidae – Albatrosses Family
Ian’s Pratincole Family.