15 September 2012 – birding with cetaceans…
Weather predictions had looked good throughout the week for today’s Zest for Birds pelagic trip and Trevor was, once again, on board as a guide (co-guiding with John Graham, Peter Ryan and Rob Leslie). The trip in False Bay down towards Cape Point was fairly quiet with the odd Cape Gannets and White-chinned Petrels putting in appearances whilst a distant Bryde’s Whale and a couple of Southern Right Whales were also welcome distractions.
Once around Cape Point, we could see that the predictions were not 100% correct. There was still some wind and the sea was rather lumpy meaning that we were bobbing around all over the place! Sooty Shearwaters started showing in numbers and the first Sabine’s Gulls and Arctic Skua of the season were also added to the list. However, it was a large school of several hundred Long-beaked Common Dolphins that really stole the show as they came over towards the boat and entertained the passengers on board for a good 10 minutes or so swimming alongside us and jumping out of the water.
After eventually leaving the dolphins and heading out further, we soon started picking up a few more species like Shy Albatross, Wilson’s Storm Petrel and Subantarctic Skua. Quite surprisingly, our second albatross species of the day was actually a Northern Royal Albatross, a highly sought after species for more serious listers, but at the time, my camera was still below in the cabin and by the time I had run down to get it, the bird was already distant and heading away from us, so I was unable to get any photos of it. We also bumped into a single Flesh-footed Shearwater which whizzed past the boat so quickly that it never gave anyone an opportunity to photograph it – another regional rarity without any photographic proof…:(
We continued out and by the time we reached the trawling grounds, there was not a single fishing vessel in sight. We scanned the radar carefully, but there was just nothing around unfortunately. We moved out a little further and, once we were over the 1000m contour, we scanned the radar again. Nothing at all! What a disappointment! Obviously, the poor weather of the previous few days had chased all the fishing boats off to other areas. Nevertheless, we put out some fish oil on the water and waited to see what birds would be attracted to it. Fortunately, we managed to attract things like Black-browed Albatross, Pintado Petrel and even a Great-winged Petrel to the slick along with many of the other species already seen earlier.
The trip back was reasonably quiet apart from picking out a single Manx Shearwater in amongst a group of Sooty Shearwaters and then finding two more vaguely friendly Bryde’s Whales close to Cape Point and a breaching Humpback Whale inside False Bay. A quiet day numberswise, but still some reasonable species in the bag…:)