I have recently returned from Cape Town, South Africa which is a wonderful place for a holiday and a really special country to visit if you are a bird photographer and wildlife enthusiast like me. For the second time I enjoyed an amazing Pelagic Trip 20 miles out past Cape Point to look for pelagic seabirds. I had booked with Cape Town pelagics (just do a google search). It was, as previously a very rough and uncomfortable trip with lots of sea sickness - fortunately not me, but almost - but extremely fruitful and rewarding. I managed 3 "lifer species", Spectacled Petrel being the highlight if you don't count the 4 species of Albatross! A truly awesome adventure. The ideal scenario is to try and find a trawler hauling nets and if you are lucky then there will be thousands of birds and a feeding frenzy. We managed this and it lived up to expectations. With literally dozens and dozens of albatross amongst the other myriad of birds it was almost impossible to get good photographs what with very rough roll of the boat and strong winds but then there are so many opportunities and out of the hundreds of shots taken a small percentage of successful photographs will give you a few keepers for the day.
One of the Albatross species that was present in reasonable numbers were Indian Yellow Nosed which I saw and photographed on my previous trip but this time there seemed to be more adults present. Suddenly the guide called out that there was an Atlantic Yellow Nose which is a much scarcer bird in South African waters apparently and a really good bird to see. It was pointed out to us but I have to say that I found it hard to tell the difference and had decided when I looked through my photographs that I hadn't managed to get a shot of this species. Now that I have had the time I have studied my pictures really carefully and have come the conclusion that I did have some success after all but you can see how difficult it is to separate the two birds which some ornithologists still consider to be the same species any way I think! All very confusing. Apparently, Atlantic is a slightly larger bird and it has a slightly more shadowy grayish head and a dark patch - present in both species incidentally, but larger in Atlantic - in front of the eye. To be honest, in the light and conditions, any grayish on the head was missed by me and apparently because the grey is absent in juveniles and young adults individuals don't necessarily show this anyway. I have read an interesting article about separating the two which indicates that the best way to definitively separate them is the beak. Here is a quote from the article.
"The differences in bill pattern and structure between Indian Yellow- nosed Thalassarche c.carteri and Atlantic Yellow-nosedAlbatrosses T.c. chlororhynchos is the shape of the culminicorn, in particular above the nostrils This is a diagnostic feature that allows the two forms to be separated reliably. In Atlantic Yellow-nosed, the culminicorn broadens above the nostrils, but it begins to narrow at this point in Indian Yellow-nosed."
The crucial phrase here is " a diagnostic feature that allows the two forms to be separated reliably"
So now, if you compare some photographs below, you will see that there is definite differences in the images below.
This is a believed Atlantic Yellow nosed but it doesn't show the yellow culminicorn as clearly as the next image.
And if you compare this to the next image of an Indian you can clearly see the difference in shape.
It needs some careful study but the yellow ends in a sharp point in the Indian above and is more rounded in what I perceive to be Atlantic in the first 2 photographs. Quite a hard quandary to sort out.
I may have got this all wrong and if you don't agree with me then please feel free to either email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on here.