Amazing Flight of the Albatross – Part – III

Posted in Wildlife A-Z | March 19, 2010 | Comment Now

Campbell Island is the nesting place of the southern royal albatross. It lies 400 miles south of New Zealand. The island has fantastic waves and birds. The birds include giant petrels, shearwaters, and our very own albatross. The markings of the pintado petrels give them the appearance of flying dominoes. The tall cliffs obscure the island’s loneliness. There is a constant blowing of chilly winds. The Campbell albatross is unique to the island, with a grey head and light mantle. The brows are jet black in color.

There are no vehicles on Campbell Island. The rhythm of the legs determines the time and distance covered. A 45-minute walk is the most direct route at leads to the birds. I have spotted many birds in the broad alley. I seem to misjudge their size from a distance. However, as it comes closer I am convinced that the wings are longer than the tallest person of the planet. The southern royal albatross has the longest wings among all bird species. They stretch for nearly eleven and a half feet. The movement resembles the whooshing of small jets. They resemble porcelain statues while on the ground.

Some of the birds doze on the grassy nests, while others incubate eggs. Their dense plumage blows in the wind. I apply the leg bands very carefully, even as they sit over their eggs. The birds nibble at my fingers with their hooked bills. The loneliness of the island is obscured once the albatross makes its presence felt.

The 1800s saw the arrival of rats with seal hunters in the island. The farmers made it by 1900. Unfortunately, whatever they brought with them proved disastrous for the albatross. Their objects included grass, sheep, cattle, dogs, and fires. The eggs of albatross were considered a delicacy. There were fewer than 650 pairs of albatrosses left in 1930 as the settlers left. Rats destroyed the remaining. With the 2001 rat eradication in progress, several seabirds, snipes, Campbell Island teal, and insects have returned to the island. By the 1990s the number of albatrosses has touched 13,000 breeding pairs. However, many factors have restricted them to that number. The cause for abandoning eggs in the nest remains unknown.

The sheer beauty of the bird has taken me to some of the most exotic and lonely locales of the planet. Today, the impending gale seems to dash my hopes of seeing the albatross. The wind gusts threaten our proposed hike to the northern end of the island. The wind that blows is powerful enough to sweep you off your feet. The blowing gusts flatten all my hopes. As I plant my walking stick into the ground, I am catapulted over it by the sheer force of the wind. But the albatross thrives in windy conditions and I love albatrosses. So there is no question of quitting the place.

Part – I

Part – II

Part – IV

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