Birds, Whales, Dolphins and Lots more birds!
By Jake Keeton

Friday, 29th January 2021
Thanks to Gerrie Pretorius from kykNET's "Leef Jou Reis" we found ourselves heading to Bird Island yesterday morning with a boat full of excited guests. With blue skies and light winds it was setting to be a perfect day in the Bay. Despite the perfect conditions we have learnt not to get our hopes too high in terms of expected sightings as this can often lead to disappointment. It is key to approach any trip to sea with an open mind this way you find a deeper appreciation for sightings big and small. A light hearted joke amongst the crew is that you cant have perfect conditions and good sightings on the same day, a myth that was soon to be shattered!
We ran into the first bit of feeding action just 5 miles out side the harbour. A small pod of Long-Beaked Common Dolphins had rounded up a shoal of baitfish and pushed them to the surface to feed. This allowed Terns, Cormorants and Cape Gannets to join the onslaught from above. The bait-ball was over as fast as it started and the dolphins turned their attention to our boat. They proceeded to swim slow circles around and beneath our boat in the clear water, surfacing occasionally to take a breath and inspect the boats occupants. Counting our lucky stars we packed away our cameras and continued towards Bird Island.
We had just arrived at Bird Island when fellow skipper, Warren Tarboton, informed me that there were a lot of birds hanging high in the air off of our port side, a tell tail sign of a large bait-ball. A few moments later we saw the first misty blow from a Bryde's whale beneath the Gannets, then another before the Gannets proceeded to rain down in their hundreds. The Gannets hit the water with precise dives in close proximity to each other leaving a patching of water glowing blue and white from bubbles catching the sun bellow the surface. A large pod of Common Dolphins, around 1000 strong were the ones to be thanked for the spectacle. They raced around the surface after individual fish between the splashes from the Gannets.
We found it unusual that the dolphins had rounded up fish so close to the island, as Common Dolphins are usually found further off shore. The second last picture shows the large pod heading even shallower into the channel between Black Rocks and Stag and Seal islands once the feeding was over. We took some time to appreciate what we had just witnessed and had something to eat in the lee of the Island. This sheltered spot provides the best view of the some 250 000 Cape Gannets that nest of Bird Island.
With the weather still good we left the island and took a shallow route home along the Alexandria Dune field. Here we encountered a large pod of Indo Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins swimming slowly behind the backline and a juvenile White Shark. Due to the number of small White Sharks (less than 1.5m) that we have seen in this area we believe that White Sharks could be using the shallow waters of Algoa Bay as a Nursery.
All in all we could not have asked for a better day in the Bay. We look forward to spending more time at Bird Island with the Sardine Run and White Shark season fast approaching!

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