03 September 2011 – Another MEGA Salvin’s Albatross!
After several cancelled pelagic trips over the last few weeks due to inclement weather, it was great to finally get out on another Zest for Birds pelagic trip today (Trevor co-guiding with John Graham and Barrie Rose). Heading out into False Bay, the conditions were pretty much ideal with very little wind and no swell to speak off but, as we approached Cape Point, one could start to feel the swells increasing from the open ocean. Birding was pretty quiet heading down the bay with the odd Cape Gannets and White-chinned Petrels making appearances. Once around Cape Point, the large swell was immediately noticeable – some of the crests of the swells were in excess of 7m, but there were long periods between them and not much wind, so it was still a fairly comfortable ride.
As we continued to head further out, we were soon starting to pick out the usual suspects – Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters, Pintado Petrels, Subantarctic Skuas, etc. as well as a single Humpback Whale that broke the surface a couple of times near the boat.
At about 16 nautical miles offshore, we came across a couple of trawlers that had huge numbers of birds in their wakes. Unfortunately, these trawlers were not really processing their catches, so the birds were just wheeling around rather than sitting on the water right behind the trawlers. Nevertheless, there were still bucketloads of birds to work through and, within minutes of arriving at the first trawler, John picked up a cracking Salvin’s Albatross, almost certainly the same bird that we had seen just over a month ago. This is a serious rarity in Southern Africa with not too many confirmed records, so created huge excitement on board. It caught everyone so off guard that Trevor was the only one on board that was even able to get a few shots of the bird to record the sighting.
We spent the next few hours working between 2 trawlers and scanning through the flocks in their wakes to add things like Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels and Wilson’s Storm Petrels to our lists whilst we were also extremely lucky to find another rarity (or rarities actually!) – 2 Southern Royal Albatrosses (one being a juvenile and the other, an older immature). These are also incredibly rare birds in Southern Africa and it was a lifer for Per Holmen, one of our more regular customers who has done close to 20 trips with us already! Needless to say, he was very excited about this bird, one that he has wanted for a long time. In the excitement of trying to point this bird out to everybody, Trevor somehow managed to inadvertently change the settings on his camera and ended up taking the photos at 1/200 sec and F32 – not your prime bird photography settings! Fortunately, he was able to salvage a couple of shots where you can see what the bird is as opposed to the out of focus blur in most of the photos!
The trip back to the harbour was fairly uneventful and didn’t add anything new to the lists, but with 6 albatross species on the day, it was hardly a day that anyone could complain about…