On Saturday 6th November 2010 a group
of excited birders gathered at the wharf in Simon’s
Town to join a Cape Town Pelagic trip guided by Cape
Town Pelagics guide Cliff Dorse.
At the point, while enjoying the iconic
views of Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope we were
entertained by a very large Southern Right
Whale which gave very good views.
As we proceeded out towards Bellows and beyond we
started our list of pelagic birds. As usual, the first
to put in an appearance where White-chinned
Petrels, closely followed by Sooty
Shearwaters and Parasitic Jaeger.
As we headed out a bit further we added our first
Great Shearwater and Shy
Albatross. At about 18 miles we picked up
one of the highlights of the day, a single Red
Phalarope. This bird was unusually obliging
for a Phalarope at sea and remained on the water allowing
a few photos to be taken. With no fishing vessels
yet evident on the horizon we continued out towards
the canyon. Just as we passed through the wake of
a large ship heading towards the north, a juvenile
Wandering Albatross suddenly appeared.
The bird did a few circles around the boat getting
ever closer, until it ultimately flew right over the
back of the boat to the delight of all on board. Again
we focused on trying to find a trawler and continued
on our way to the deep. We had a brief view of another
three Red Phalarope and some excitement
with a very large whale with an impressive “blow”.
We made a detour to see if we could get a good view
of this cetacean. Unfortunately, we were only given
a brief view before the animal disappeared. From what
we could see, we were fairly confident that this was
a Sperm Whale.
Eventually we picked up two stern trawlers and headed
straight towards them. The trawlers were deeper than
usually at 32 miles from the point. As we neared we
added Wilson’s Storm Petrel,
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Pintado
Petrel and Black-browed Albatross
to the list. At the trawler we had views of Southern
and Northern Giant Petrel, Indian
Yellow-nosed Albatross and European
Storm Petrel. After some time we picked up
our only Subantartic Skua of the
day and Sabine’s Gull. Despite the lack of wind
we encountered a single Great-winged Petrel
as we were about to leave for home.
The highlight on the way home was a single Hump-backed
Whale at the point and a Bryde’s
Whale off Buffels Bay. The mandatory stop
at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony
at Partridge Point was as always a highlight.
Bird species seen - the numbers reflected
can be considered as rough estimations only:
Shy Albatross c. 50
Black-browed Albatross c. 25
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 15
Wandering Albatross 1 juv
Southern Giant Petrel 4
Northern Giant Petrel 1
Giant Petrel sp. 5
Pintado Petrel c. 20
White-chinned Petrel c. 200
Great Shearwater c. 500
Sooty Shearwater c. 30
Great-winged Petrel 1
Wilson’s Storm Petrel c. 20
European Storm-Petrel 3
Subantarctic Skua 1
Parasitic Jaeger 5
Sabine’s Gull 5
Red Phalarope 4
Bird species common close to the
African Black Oystercatcer
Cape Fur Seal
Southern Right Whale 1
Humpbacked Whale 1
Bryde’s Whale 1
Sperm Whale 1
A message from Cape Town Pelagics: A huge thank
you to our experienced skippers who are able to safely
lead us to the best birding areas and skillfully manoeuvre
the boat into just the best position while all on
board are busy concentrating on the birds! Coordinating
a pelagic trip over a year in advance with guests
from all across South Africa and different countries
around the world requires an organised office team.
We thank them for their special eye for detail - and
for the sometimes last-minute rearrangements and frustration
if the weather delays the trip to another day! Our
biggest thank-you is to our Cape Town Pelagics guides
who take time out of their work, often involving seabirds
and conservation, and time away from their families,
to provide our guests with a world-class birding experience.
Cape Town Pelagics donates all it profits to seabirds,
and so all the participants who join the trip make
a contribution towards bird research and conservation
a big thank you from all of us.
Trip report by Cape Town Pelagics guide Cliff Dorse.
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