Mar 18, 2007

Albatrosses Take 2

Having been in New Zealand now for about 3ish months things I did when I first arrived are starting to slip into that "long ago" file of memory we all have. Among the big highlights of my initial adventures here in Dunedin was my trip to Albatross colony. In my first week here the head master of Salmond was nice enough to bring me along on a trip with his nephew.

Though it was an incredible experience, and saw many of the birds it lacked one key experience. You see the weather was amazing, and by any reckoning it was a great day for a field trip. That was the problem. Albatrosses are so big that they can not fly under their own power, and must have sufficient wind to pick them up for flight. So that first time I saw no flying Albatrosses.

Fortunately this weekend I was able to head out to the colony again, but this time in the worst weather imaginable!

I was accompanied by Scott and Shannon as we set out to do some research for our next kids book project.

Having attended a special presentation by both the Albatross Colony and Otago Aquarium that presented these two venues as great field trips for teachers, we had free passes to both. As the subject of our current project relates to both we were out on a fun fact finding mission.

First though we checked out the "disappearing gun" which is also at the Albatross Colony. On this tour you check out the naval fortifications of the Otago Peninsula. It was the construction and alteration of the landscape of these emplacements that modified this area to be a suitable and attractive site of Albatrosses in the first place.

The gun itself was of course really cool. It was designed to pop out of it's emplacement (a 12 meter cylindrical trench) to shot at a ship, and pop back into it's hidden bunker preventing the enemy from detecting the guns exact position.

my favorite factoid was that the Otago lighthouse being just in front of the whole military complex blocks 5 degrees of the guns arc. Those red arrows underneath that solid black line mark the lighthouses position so that when aligning the gun for combat the gunners didn't blow away the poor lighthouse!

Now of course our main purpose was to see Albatross. Despite the fact that the sky was falling with rain and the wind was impressive enough to force poor Shannon to grab a lamp post at one point, it was PERFECT Albatross weather!

After watching for only 10 minutes we had a bird fly into feed its chicks.

If that wasn't enough (cause really can you ever have enough of anything?) minutes later a second bird came in and flew RIGHT by our position in the observatory.

Looking at them just sit on their nests my first trip out here in Jan the immense size of these birds isn't made clear. Watching them fly is another story! This bird is actually BEHIND that fence. At one point (I didn't get it on film sadly) it dipped so that from our vantage point the fence was in front of it. That fence is a good 10 feet high!

The other fun bit (again sadly missed by my slow picture taking camera) was a New Zealand Harrier (aka Hawk) that had been hunting rabbits on the hillside flew by this same Albatross. It looked like a Sparrow in comparison!

We also popped into the Aquarium for a look around. It was a nice facility considering how small it was, but definitely not anything to write home about, and thus I won't. Besides Traumador is telling me that he is planning on post on HIS trip out there. So stay tuned on his blog.

So what project might require us to check out these exotic and fun marine related destinations. It isn't Sally related if that's what your wondering. Scott and myself have been a little too busy to get much done on publishing our first book, but we are getting around to it. I'll keep you posted of course.

This is the ONLY hint that I shall drop about this new project. No this is not a giant squid (I point to the size of the waves above this fellow as proof of that), but his tale shall be larger then anything kids nature books have ever seen before.

So that was this weekend in a nutshell. This upcoming week I have placement at George Street Normal School for the whole week... Tune in next time. Same batblog same batsite.

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