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East London pelagic trip,
13 July 2002
“East London Port Control,
East London Port Control this is ELS 17, permission
to leave port, over”
“ Good morning ELS 17 you may go ahead”.
“Thank you Port Control, standing by on Channel
This was the communication that took place on Saturday,
13 July 2002, as 5 excited birders and skipper, Ron,
left the East London Harbour on what can only be described
as a pelagic trip of note. The birders were; Janet
Calder, Geoff Dickin, George Branford, Graham Winch
and Shaun Peard. The predicted conditions were a Northeasterly
wind of 10-15 knots with a 2 metre southwesterly swell.
We had a fairly quiet trip out with only a few Cape
Gannets diving for their meal just beyond
the western breakwater. Our first Albatross, a juvenile
Yellow-nosed Albatross, came in for
a look at about 5 miles out. We stopped briefly and
started chumming. However, only a few White-chinned
Petrels responded and we were soon on our
way again. We continued chumming at intervals to keep
the growing party of pelagic birds on our stern, hoping
that others would notice their movements. Success!
We stopped in the mighty Agulhas current, which was
running at a spectacular 3.5 knots, and the birding
really got going! The first birds to the boat were
Antarctic Prions, which gave incredible
views, coming to within 5 metres of us. White-chinned
Petrels and 4 species of Albatross soon joined them.
Juvenile Yellow-nosed Albatross were the most numerous,
followed by Indian Ocean Yellow-nosed Albatross.
In addition, we had great views of Black-browed,
Shy and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross.
The birds were so close that there was no need to
use binoculars at all.
Highlights of the day were still to come and they
arrived in the form of two magnificent Southern
Giant Petrels, one a juvenile and the other
a pale adult bird. In addition, a number of Soft-plumaged
Petrels arced their way above the waves,
giving excellent views. Before we drifted over the
edge of the shelf we also saw a lone Sooty
Shearwater and a singular Wilson’s
Storm Petrel. Both species usually occur
in fair numbers in our area. On our previous trip,
in mid-June we saw in excess of 40 Sooty Shearwaters.
By this time George had seen 10 lifers and the unanimous
decision of the crew was that he should walk home!
We were 14 nautical miles offshore - George just smiled!
During this period we had drifted some distance down
the coast and when we turned for home it was into
the wind. Needless to say it was fairly wet and we
retreated to the shelter of the cabin for the long
ride home. A wonderful morning of pelagic birding
and on our doorstep! We ended up with a species count
of 15, including coastal birds such as Cape
Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant,
Kelp Gull and Swift Tern.
Should you be interested in joining us for a pelagic
outing contact Graham Winch or me. We leave the harbour
at 07h00 and return at about 12h00, depending upon
Trip report by SHAUN PEARD
P.S. George is still smiling!
To book, simply email
Jeff Curnick, firstname.lastname@example.org.