A groupof birding enthusiasts left Hout Bay at 07:30 in a biggish sea and, thankfully, little wind aboard the Extravagance led by Alvin Cope. We knew that there had been no trawlers or longliners seen by pelagic trips for the last week, so we did have a good amount of oil and chum. A few birds were seen as we set out on a south-westerly course including about 6 Giant Petrels close inshore.
With no fishing boats in sight, with a good few birds around, we and another pelagic boat started putting chum in the water at about 22 miles from the harbour. This strategy was fairly successful, attracting a good few birds. A vessel was seen approaching from the north, but it turned out to be a cargo ship. Excitement started mounting as a second boat
approached from the south which looked as though it could be a fishing boat and we left the slick and headed towards a trawler which, as to be expected at this time of the year, was surrounded by thousands of birds. As we went into the flock, a Whiteback was spotted in the throng with a black cutting edge on the bill, white leading edge on the wings and a pure white tail - a SOUTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS - not bad for a start. We spent the rest of the day with this boat, notching up no fewer than 6 WANDERING ALBATROSSES, both Southern & Northern Giant Petrels and both the INDIAN and ATLANTIC YELLOW-NOSED ALBATROSS besides the hundreds of SHY & BLACK-BROWED Albatross swirling around.
One could not go for longer than 10 minutes without seeing a Whiteback either far or close and my guess is that we did not get to see all that were available in the huge mass of birds - perhaps an examination of the many pictures taken, will produce birds which were similar but different.
I would hazard a guess and say that very few (if any) birders have seen that many Whitebacks behind one vessel on a Cape Town pelagic trip – Barrie Rose and I saw 11 (Wanderers?) behind a trawler on a fishing trip about 25 years ago. Apart from the Southern Royal Albatross, there were two classic adult Wanderers with quite different amounts of white in the central upperwing, one with a lot of pink in the face, one with a few brown blotches on its neck (likely to be the same bird I had seen at sea 10 days previously), one brownish bird with white face and one classic brown and white juvenile.
When we left for the harbour the trawler was no longer providing any food and the birds had dispersed, waiting for her next haul. The little bit of rain that we had did not act as a dampener and the only bit of excitement on the way back was a Southern Right Whale 3 miles from the harbour. Of interest, large numbers of Wilson's Storm-Petrels, an equal No of Black-Brows and Shys, 6 Whitebacks and 6 separate Albatross species behind one trawler.
Birds seen, although no Crowned or Bank Cormorants were seen.
A very big thanks to Skipper Sean and to Alvin for guiding a very MEMORABLE trip.
Future scheduled trip dates starting with October: 6/7 (2 places available), 13/14 (4 places) 20/21, 27/28 (1place). November several places available on all weekends, December 27/28/29 (a few places available)