21 April 2013 – dolphins rule…
A boatload of eager birders left Simon’s Town harbour this morning on another day of brilliant conditions for a Zest for Birds pelagic trip. (Trevor was co-guiding with John Graham, Alvin Cope, Rob Leslie and Peter Ryan). False Bay was typically quiet with just a few Cape Gannets and a handful of White-chinned Petrels keeping us awake, but as we rounded Cape Point, we soon started picking up more species. The first ones to be added to our list included Sooty and Cory’s Shearwaters and then eventually, our first Shy Albatross of the day.
At around 12 miles offshore, we picked up some activity in the water and could see that it appeared to be a big pod of dolphins. We headed over in their direction and, pretty soon, our boat was surrounded by a pod of 500+ Dusky Dolphins. The dolphins stayed with us for close on 30 minutes bow-riding with the boat and jumping clear out of the water on many occasions and, for that short period, all the passengers forgot that they were actually on a birding trip and were just totally engrossed with the dolphins. It was a simply incredible experience!
Eventually pulling ourselves away from the dolphins, we headed further out into the deep picking up our first Subantarctic Skuas and Great Shearwaters along the way as well as a brief Manx Shearwater. We eventually picked up a longliner on the radar (apparently, the only fishing vessel that was working in the entire area) and headed off in her direction.
Approaching the vessel, we could see that there were a few birds in her wake, but not the huge numbers that we are normally used. However, once we arrived at the vessel, we found lots of birds just sitting on the water around the boat. With the lack of wind, they were obviously not wanting to expend too much energy, so were not moving around. We spent the next few hours in the area carefully working through all the birds there and enjoyed the likes of Northern Giant Petrel, Wilson’s and European Storm Petrels and Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses.
Despite intensive scanning, we were unable to find anything out of the ordinary, but it was still a happy bunch of birders that eventually turned and headed for home. The trip back was pretty uneventful providing more views of all the same species and just a single distant Pomarine Skua being the only new addition to the list. Very unfriendly Long-beaked Common Dolphins in False Bay and a fleeting Bryde’s Whale just outside the Simon’s Town harbour ended another great day at sea off.