16 March 2013 – a 5 albatross day…
Another calm day, another pelagic trip for Zest for Birds. (Trevor was co-guiding with Alvin Cope and Cliff Dorse). Heading out into False Bay, it was exceptionally flat with no wind. In fact, we were concerned that the weather was almost too good for the pelagic birds. The first part of the trip was really quiet with just a handful of Cape Gannets making appearances, but eventually, just before Cape Point, a few White-chinned Petrels showed themselves as well.
Once around Cape Point, we soon started picking up more birds with our first Sooty and Cory’s Shearwaters showing initially and then, a little bit later, our first Wilson’s Storm Petrel and Shy Albatross. The first few miles offshore were actually fairly quiet birdwise, but an Oceanic Sunfish was a good distraction as it wallowed in the water next to the boat and a little bit later, 2 Sperm Whales were seen floating on the surface, but unfortunately sounded as we got within decent photographic range of them.
We continued on our way out picking up things like Great Shearwater and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, but generally, the birds were extremely quiet. A brief Great-winged Petrel was missed by many on board and a small flock of Sabine’s Gulls were added to the list too.
Eventually, we picked up a couple of longliners on the radar way out in the deep and headed off in their direction. As we neared them, we could see that there were reasonable numbers of birds hanging around them and so the excitement levels started to rise. As we reached the first vessel, we were quickly surrounded by birds and new species were soon added to the list. Our group enjoyed the likes of Black-browed and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, European Storm Petrel and Subantarctic Skua as we carefully scanned through all the birds there.
Once we had worked through all the birds, we moved across to the second longliner. Most of the same species were present, but after careful scanning, we eventually picked out a fine adult Northern Royal Albatross, an unexpected vagrant at this time of the year and very much appreciated by all on board. It was also our 5th species of albatross for the day!
Finally, it was time to turn for home and we reluctantly left the longliners. The trip back produced most of the same species again and, unfortunately, nothing out of the ordinary, but it was a satisfied bunch of birders that returned back to Simon’s Town in the afternoon after another great day out at sea.