04 August 2012 – finally out to sea
At last, we were finally able to get out on another Zest for Birds pelagic trip today with Trevor co-guiding with John Graham and Alvin Cope. We had been nailed by the weather in the last couple of months and had not managed to get a single trip out, so it was fantastic to be heading out into a very calm False Bay this morning.
Early birds in the bay included large groups of Cape Gannets with a handful of Subantarctic Skuas and White-chinned Petrels as well. Once around Cape Point and out into the open ocean, we soon started encountering a few Sooty Shearwaters as well and careful scanning through them also produced a single Manx Shearwater which everyone on board managed to get on to. Just a few miles further on, our first albatross of the day, a Shy Albatross, made an appearance as did a distant Giant Petrel just a little too far to identify conclusively.
We continued on our journey south-westwards seeing more of the same species as well as our first Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses and a single late Antarctic Prion. We eventually picked up a trawler on the radar and headed off in her direction. As we neared her, the numbers of birds increased dramatically and we were soon enjoying the likes of Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Northern Giant Petrel and Pintado Petrel amongst many that we had already seen before. We waited until the trawler pulled her nets and were treated to an absolute spectacle when a cloud of Cape Gannets filled the sky above us and then started diving on the net grabbing fish as they fell out of it. All the other species just sat on the water not knowing exactly what was going on and didn’t really know what to do. One poor young Black-browed Albatross looked totally shocked as these gannets just hit the water all around it and eventually swam off to a quieter patch of water.
We spent the next few hours working our way up and down the wake of the trawler scanning through the flocks of birds to see what else we could find. Most of the same species were encountered with the addition of a few Southern Giant Petrels, Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and, eventually, a cracking Northern Royal Albatross, our 5th species for the day and a rarity to boot!
The ride home was pretty uneventful apart from a large mixed flock of Northern and Southern Giant Petrels close to Cape Point that were feeding on a dead Cape Fur Seal and fighting amongst themselves for their “piece of the pie”, but it was a rather happy group of birders that returned to Simon’s Town harbour after another great day at sea.