Seablog: My feathered friends

Podcast scrapped today as I am out for the day with Bob, swinging about in some very boisteroous ‘sending us Eastward’ seas. Didn’t trust that the phone signal would behave!
We woke up to nasty-looking skies to the southwest, increasing winds from the same direction and a GPS fix showing we’d lost eight nauties overnight. I can’t say I was best pleased.

Having put Bob out to work his magic I looked up to be greeted by my third Sooty albatross of the trip. Definitely worth the eight nauties; I was more than best pleased now. He soared over us twice, so close that were I as tall as my brothers (six footers), I could have stroked the smooth dark feathers of his torpedo body. I couldn’t stop smiling for a long while afterwards – I have seen eight albies in all now (at least three different species) and am never disappointed, always spellbound by watching their mastery over the waves.

Wings locked out into two or three metre aerofoils they head up into the wind for lift, turn and soar down along the wave line, up again as they lose speed and so on, working along the furrows. It looks effortless. The birds always put us to shame out here – but the albatrosses are in a league of their own. They were made for these winds, whereas some of the smaller ones look like they’re careering about the sky kamikaze fashion, or in some time trial for a lunatic aerobatics racing team.

Before I came away I spent some time with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) learning about albatrosses – both their life histories and also their status as endangered species (plural – 22 species). They are long lived birds with long, slow reproductive cycles, meaning that they are vulnerable to external pressures on their population size. Long-line fishing is one such danger wreaking havoc on many seabird populations, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of deaths each year of birds caught on the hooks or becoming entangled in the gear of fishing boats. This is neither good for the birds, and therefore the balance of the ecosystem, nor the fishermen – a bird on the hook is one less fish, is reduced stock, is less money in their pocket and so on.

The work spearheaded by the RSPB and its partners is a beautiful example of a simple programme of change bringing about effective results in reducing this seabird bycatch. Exactly the sort of conservation action I like – where I see the feasibilty and promise of conducting it on a wider scale, and then tangible results. ‘Albatross Task Forces’ work out of various ports round the world, helping fisherman implement simple, cheap methods to deter feeding seabirds from chasing baited hooks or gathering around fishing gear. These include dying the bait blue, setting the lines at night and using ‘Tori lines’ (think flappy streamers at the back of the boat, just as a scarecrow keeps birds off your cabbages/purple carrots etc).

As I said, the methods are easy to implement and improve the haul of fish brought up through reducing the numbers of birds drowned on hooks. Perfect.

While chatting to RSPB scientists both about the distribution of albatrosses throughout the world’s oceans and the fact that all but a couple of the twenty two species are threatened to some greater or lesser degree, I ventured to ask if I would likely see any during my crossing. I left the RSPB HQ hopeful of perhaps one or two sightings if I was lucky. After many weeks spent as an observer on wildlife monitoring boats I know how serendipitous it is to encounter wildlife at sea. So super happy is an Outey who now has eight albies tallied in her sightings book, and truly truly priveleged to behold such a fine specimen of a bird. Thank you Serendipity…

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in finding out more about albatrosses, check out my Green & Blue page for links through to the RSPB sites. Check out the sweet little albatross soft toys too – my Alberto keeps me company on board and I know various readers of this blog have albies in their homes now too.

Here’s hoping for a change in the winds and some more miles to Mauritius…and some more albies…

S, D, Bob & Alberto. Better not leave out the others – and Charly and Spede and Arthur Bear x x

NB The soft Albies make great pets – very well mannered, easy to look after. Just requires hugging.

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20 Responses to Seablog: My feathered friends

  1. BPC and Albie says:

    Lovely to hear about your latest Albatross sighting! how serendipitous and to make up for those 8 nauties! I wonder how long albatrosses go without being near land, some research calling me now i think. my albie is guarding my southampton room this weekend whilst i am back in malvern. i will read the blog to him when i am back! much love, xxx

  2. BPC and Albie says:

    Staying at sea for 5 years!!! circumnavigating the globe in 46 days – woah!!!! thanks for the links ­čÖé im out in the garden at the moment and the birds have just started singing very loudly – i think it must be a message for their larger feahered friends! xx

  3. ian says:

    hi sarah,thanks for all the albatross info,so much i did not know!i’m pleased you’ve seen so many,must be a comfort,had a brief discussion with my cat buscuit about getting one as a pet,she was not keen and insisted that she would not share her favoured roost in the big arm chair,aah well……hope bob arrests your rearward journey soonest,off to ye olde cyder festival now to toast you dippers and bob!

  4. Grandma Barb says:

    Hello Sarah,
    Were just back from our cottage and we are covered with blackflie and
    mosquitoe bites,however much like youself i love swiming but the water is too cold for that at the moment.
    Question: Do you have blackflies and mosquitoes out in the ocean,or is there another form of annoyance.
    As always take care
    Grand Barb

  5. Pam Stocker says:

    Hi Outey! Are you sketching as well as writing? I know waves might not be interesting (or they might be difficult, though their formations are fascinating. Look for triangles…..), but albatrosses would be possible. Trying to draw makes you look more diligently – when you are not with both hands strapped to your oars. Gerard Manley Hopkins (he of my essay at present) spent hours sketching clouds. I wonder what images your brain is recording that will play in the coming months and years? He called his memories of his intense looking at the natural world his ‘treasury of beauty’. Wonderful phrase. Are you neglecting your fishy friends? Or are they finning alongside still? Good progress and fine fair winds to you! Well done you! Pull a few strokes for me today! Love, Pam

  6. David B. says:

    Telluride awaits.Last night was the North American premier of “Solo”, the film about Andrew Mcauley’s attempt to kayak the from Tasmania to New Zealand.It was very moving.Not all Telluride films need tragic endings.Bring it home in triumph and you can still have a film worth watching, and a personality worth getting to know.You’ve got the former and you seem up to the latter.

  7. Ted Brinkworth says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Sorry to hear you had some rough weather lately. Perth had its first winter storms last week with ocean swells running at 8 metres. Thought of you constantly but have a lot of faith in Dippers. Loved your seablog about the albatross. Can’t believe you’re only 23. Young enough to be my grand daughter. Three is probabably enough for now though. Look out over the Indian Ocean every morning on the way to school (Ocean Reef SHS) and know you’re out there somewhere. Enjoy keeping tabs on your progress through tracker. Happy birthday for Tuesday Sarah. Will endeavour to get some of my students to drop you a line. Heard a travel agency radio advert when I went to bed last night describing Mauitius as beautiful Island. Keep strong. Love to you and Serindipity Poppa Ted

  8. Brian & Jules Hermann says:

    Many Happy Returns, Sarah! And in this case we mean it literally.
    You’re doing such an amazing job you deserve the biggest bestest birthday cake. Hope the weather is kind enough to let you enjoy whatever treats you’ve saved up for the special day.
    Just keep plugging away and you’ll get there without a doubt.
    Indomitabobble, that’s you!! Warmest love, Jules and Brian

  9. Geoff says:

    HI Sarah, Janet and I have just got back from a bush walking week in a 300million old rainforrest in Queensland (The Amazon is only 7mil y/o). I’m flattered that you appear to have waited till we got back before moving on from where you were a week ago, but really, we wouldn’t have minded – its easy for us to catch up afterall!

    I confess to be even more admiring of your effort – we walked all of 7 hours one day, bloody knackering that! Had to lie down and rest most of the next day. So I really don’t know how you do it day after day, but good on you.

    And you were never far from our thoughts as we were living on the same freeze dried meals you got in Perth. The Thai green curry was the fav, and the Mexican one with the separate sachet of corn-chips was surprisingly good, but the red lamb curry has too much pepper don’t you think. Doesn’t take long to crave for fresh fruit though – or shouldn’t we mention the f, f words?

    Anyhow, nice to be back, thanks for waiting, but time to get a wriggle on:) Cheers,

  10. Reverend Steve Watts says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Still praying for you. You are a brave girl. Thought of you last week when visiting Cornwall. Rough seas but spectacular. Shall be moving to Looe and Polperro in Sept. If you are ever there, love to see you.

    Rev Steve

  11. Patti says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Patti from the Afternoon program on ABC radio in Perth.
    I have often tried to contact you on your satellite phone but it always goes straight to message.
    Is there anywway I can get in contact with you so we can record an interview with Bernadette please?
    Your trip has been amazing.

    My mobile is 61 8 430 452 082


  12. Kirsten McWilliams says:

    Hello Sarah!

    Wow what an amazing trip so far. My mum has been keeping me updated and told me about your blog so firstly I have to apologise for not writing sooner and checking out your journey. It all must seem a long way since the days of the Ecuador meetings and CCF parades.
    I wish you every success and will keep up to date with your progress. Here’s to the rum punches in Mauritius and your safe return to little old Rutland.

    Love Kirsten xx

  13. Flick Rollings says:

    Happy birthday Outey-roo! I hope the weather behaves itself for your special day! Thinking of you lots. Keep up with the great progress, you’re doing so well! Can’t wait to hear you on Radio 2 again soon! Lots of love, Flickety-roo xxx

  14. margot says:

    Hey Sarah hope the preparation for your birthday party isn’t stopping you rowing in the right direction.Hope you have a very special day. We will all be thinking of you. May be we could train an albatross to be a homing one and deliver birthday cake to you. Happy Birthday love Margot, Richard, Em, Beth, Pedro(scardie cat)and all the horses.

  15. Tim Turnbull says:

    Happy birthday for tomorrow, Sarah.
    Love from all at Aquapac.

  16. Mike Pearce says:

    To Sarah,

    From one old sailor! to a young sailor.

    A Very Happy Birthday! Penblwydd Hapus! Joyeux Anniversaire! Janamdin mubaarak! Hertzlichen Gl├╝ckwunsch zum Geburtstag! To you.
    Have a wonderful day.
    With Best Wishes.


  17. Mum says:

    Hi there Patti,
    if you want to contact Sarah….to make an interview with her, then please just contact Amy Middleton at whisper P R ……
    Clock on the link “media” at the top of the page( Sarah’s page that is)
    and you will see a link to Amy . if you contact her she will help you to arrange it.
    Helen ( Sarah’s Mum)

  18. Ted Brinkworth says:

    happy Birthday Sarah, from Zoe, Jade, Jodie, Angelique, Jack, Shane, Chanei, Mona, Howard, Candice, Joshua, Matthew, Jemma, Sheridan, Scott, Danni, Elisa, Caitlin, Sanri, Chris, Luwin, Juliana, Andrew, Nicholas (Year 12 Design students, Ocean Reef SHS)

  19. Hi Sarah,Greetings from Ireland, Heard your interview on Radcliff & Marconi show, BBC radio 2. You are very brave sailor. Great you have all those beautiful feathered friends soaring overhead to keep you company.enjoy that fresh pineapple and melon when you arrive on shore. Hey BTW , Happy Birthday!!

  20. Ray Booth says:

    dear sarah,
    very envious of your ‘albie’ sitings as you put it…and a fascinating sea blog today. Thank you.
    I was finishing a back-water boat trip in kerala,Southern india when overhead there were perhaps a dozen sea eagles…and earlier in that same trip in Chomrung,Nepal we saw an eagle take off with a lamb in its impresive site unless you were the lamb.
    I hope you get many more albie sitings before you are done.
    Love ray,

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