I am sure that Trevor Hardaker won’t mind my copying his excellent report on the Flock at Sea, as it provides an interesting insight into an incredible event.
‘We are back from the Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017 cruise and there is only one thing that can really be said about it… if you were NOT on this cruise, you have almost certainly missed out on one of THE most amazing birding events ever to have taken place in Southern African birding history!!
I’m sure a full trip report will be published in due course which will include the long list of mouth-watering rarities that we were lucky enough to see on this trip but, without a doubt, the bird of the trip was Southern Africa’s 15th ever LIGHT-MANTLED ALBATROSS that was seen well by a large majority of the observers on board on Tuesday morning, a true mega indeed! This was so far removed from everyone’s radar that it wasn’t even included as a possibility on the list of outlandish rarities that we might stand a miniscule chance of seeing on this trip, so caused quite a bit of celebration on board! I can quite honestly say that the birding that we experienced on Tuesday morning was some of the best and most exciting birding that I have ever experienced anywhere in Southern Africa! Given where my list currently is, I would normally be very happy to be able to get 2 new birds for my list over the course of a year, so to be able to add 2 new birds to my list before 9am on the first morning of the cruise was completely insane indeed!
Yes, there may have been things that didn’t go completely as planned or things that could have been done differently but, overall, to pull off a trip of this scale so successfully is a massive feather in BirdLife South Africa’s cap! It’s always difficult to single out any particular person or people when congratulating a team but I think we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to, amongst others, Mark Anderson, Emma Askes, Gisela Ortner, Ross Wanless, Nini van der Merwe and all the others involved behind the scenes who pulled this trip off. I would also like to thank all my co-guides on board for doing your bit to find all the good birds and make sure that as many people as possible could get on to them. If I have left anyone else out, please accept my apologies, so also just a general big thank you to any and all who were involved in some big or small way to put this trip together.
There were some amazing birds seen, some great lectures presented and, of course, some wonderful socialising as well. It was fantastic to see many old friends as well as get to meet so many new ones and eventually put faces to names. It was also wonderful to see Mr SABAP himself, Prof Les Underhill, be honoured yesterday at the BLSA AGM by receiving the Gill Memorial Award, a testament to all the fantastic work that he has done over a lifetime of bird-related research.
There were also many listing milestones reached on this cruise and I’m sure that I will be busy for a long time still highlighting some of those on my Facebook group but, for now, two birders deserve special mention for cracking what is probably considered to be the ultimate birding milestone in Southern Africa, 900 species! Congratulations to Robin Gray and Jonathan Rossouw who both managed to reach this magical milestone on the cruise and, in doing so, took the total number of birders ever to have reached this milestone up to 9 birders. Who is going to be the 10th person to ever reach 900 species in Southern Africa? We’ll just have to wait and see…
The only thing that could have possibly made this trip even better was to disembark this morning and have all 1945 birders on board rush off to twitch a mega somewhere… and it almost happened too! A KING PENGUIN turned up on Hout Bay beach yesterday afternoon and, had it been left in place, it would quite easily have generated the largest twitch in SA birding history almost instantly. I’m still not sure of all the details as yet but have heard that the bird has been removed from the beach and moved to a rehabilitation centre. More details as and when I find them out.
I am sure that many of you will still be doing a lot of local birding on the upcoming long weekend but we are due for a major update of the various listing clubs hosted on www.zestforbirds.co.za so, when you get a chance, please do send your latest totals through for the various listing clubs to me by the end of next Friday at the latest, so that I can then include them in the next update.
Lastly, just thank you again to everyone involved in the Flock at Sea cruise and for allowing me to be a small part of it – it was an incredible trip! I will leave you with one of the most memorable views of the last few days… see you all again on the next one – I know that I will certainly be signing up as soon as it is announced!