Year in the Wild Blog

Trip to Malgas Island – West Coast National Park

I need to give marine ranger William Brink and field rangers Debbie Winterton and Andile Manana an extra mention…

They took me out yesterday on the SANParks law enforcement rubber duck to Malgas Island to see the Cape Gannets. Even though its not peak season for the birds, there must have been several thousand on the small island, which is probably about the size of two rugby fields. Malgas is a very important part of the Gannet’s survival, as more than 60 000 birds breed here every year, or roughly 25% of the world’s population.

There is no jetty to use, so we had to jump off the boat onto the rocks – amid a sizeable winter swell. Debbie accommpanied me onto the island, but managed to fall off into the sea…drenched. So thanks Debbie for hanging around, even though you were probably freezing. I hope the pics I got of the birds did justice to your cold swim!

The gannets are pretty relaxed…you can get within touch distance, although the birds may give you a strong peck if you get too close. Each have their own nest, and they are taking off and landing all the time…it’s like Heathrow airport on a busy day. The noise of the cackling birds and the stench of the bird poo takes a while to get used to, but soon you do, and then you notice the beauty in the quagmire. The beautiful blue eye-liner of the birds, the long, slender beaks the neatly painted webbed feet, the long tear-line from the eye down the neck…and their flying skills.

They skim over the swell of the open ocean, their wing-tips almost touching the water, but never in danger of getting wet. And coming into land, they hover for a few seconds, then drop down either onto their own nest, or onto a nearby neighbour who inevitably gives them a few welcoming pecks to the head.

Debbie told me how researchers have studied a relatively new phenomenon – that of pelicans eating the gannet chicks, then flying back to their nests and regurgitating the chicks to their own chicks. No one knows for sure why this is happening, but it may have something to do with the reduction in fish stocks due to overfishing. There were no pelicans around when I was there, but ja, that’s quite a sight I am sure…

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

West Coast National Park - South Africa - Gannets on Malgas Island

3 comments

  • Almost too perfectly beautiful – unreal pics

  • I am jealous already!!! Love the pictures and your writings, Scott!!

  • They sure do look a lot like the blue footed boobies in the Galapagos Islands.

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