By Peter Ryan, onboard scientist, expert in general ornithology, seabird-fishery interactions, evolutionary ecology, marine debris, solid waste management, biology of oceanic islands.

ACE birders’ blog – Leg 1, Day 2

Instead of crossing into Subantarctic waters, the large swell (up to 16m according to the ship’s wave meter) forced the ship to head east, thus staying in the oligotrophic waters of the Agulhas Retroflection. As a result, there were relatively few birds about, with only one new species observed: Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. The most surprising record was a Spectacled Petrel at 24°E; they only breed at Inaccessible Island, and seldom venture into the Indian Ocean (although they may have bred at Amsterdam Island before predators arrived). An adult Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross also was rather surprising at nearly 25°E.

Cory’s Shearwater 45
Great-winged Petrel 31
White-chinned Petrel 25
Black-browed Albatross 2
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 1
Brown Skua 1
Northern Giant Petrel 1
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross +
Great Shearwater +
Spectacled Petrel +

[counts = birds counted in transects; + birds seen outside transects]

The rough seas made it hard to spot cetaceans; only one unidentified whale was seen. Flying fish were less common than yesterday, but their scarcity was more than made up for by the abundance of flying squid (at least 7 groups). The density of drifting debris was similar to Day 1: nine items in 225 km of transects. The first non-plastic debris was encountered: a piece of wood (with goose barnacles) and a fluorescent bulb – both almost certainly from shipping.

Pic of the day – A small part of a flotilla of flying squid; inset shows one animal.