17 March 2012 – a 5 shearwater day…
After a long break, Trevor was once again a guide on board a Zest for Birds pelagic trip today (co-guiding with John Graham and Cliff Dorse). False Bay was pretty calm as we headed out with the odd Cape Gannet and White-chinned Petrel making appearance, but a small pod of Long-beaked Common Dolphins and a brief Bryde’s Whale were welcome distractions early on. Closer to Cape Point, Cory’s Shearwaters started appearing and, as we rounded the Point, we soon realized that it was going to be a fairly bumpy day. Although there was not much wind, the inclement weather of the previous days had battered the sea a bit and we found ourselves heading into a rather large and inconsistent swell with the boat bobbing backwards and forwards. Fortunately, all the passengers handled it rather well and not a single person got seasick throughout the entire day!
As we headed further out, we had sightings of Arctic, Pomarine and Subantarctic Skuas and the first Sooty and Great Shearwaters started making their appearances. Passengers were enjoying the close looks at the birds as they whizzed past the boat and the first Shy Albatross of the trip was a particularly popular find, a new bird for many who were doing their first ever pelagic trip. We continued out into the deep working through the various patches of birds adding things like Black-browed Albatross, Wilson’s Storm Petrel and Sabine’s Gull before picking up a small group of trawlers in the distance and heading over to them. The trawlers had quite a good number of birds in attendance over and above the normal groups of Cape Fur Seals that enjoy this easy food source and careful scanning through the myriad of birds in the wake of the trawlers added Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, European Storm Petrels in good numbers, a brief Giant Petrel species and lots more of those species already seen earlier. It was frustrating when a Flesh-footed Shearwater, a regional rarity, popped into view for a few seconds and then disappeared just as quickly before everyone could get on to it, but a Long-tailed Skua was a little more friendly coming in for a closer look before turning and heading off.
After spending a couple of hours working the general area and not being able to turn up anything more, we eventually had to turn for home. The ride home was a lot more comfortable with a following swell but didn’t provide any additional species until we got back quite close to Cape Point where a Manx Shearwater, our 5th species of Shearwater for the day, was spotted sitting on the water in amongst a group of Cory’s Shearwaters. It was then back into False Bay stopping off at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony so that some of the passengers could tick it off as a lifer (and also enjoy Cape, White-breasted and Crowned Cormorant on the same rock!) before arriving safely back in Simon’s Town after another enjoyable day at sea.