On Sunday morning, the 7th
August, a Cape Town Pelagics trip headed out from
Simonstown harbour in beautifully calm conditions,
guided by Dalton Gibbs of Cape Town Pelagics. We had
recently experienced a cold front and the last of
the associated winds had died down. Inside 'Simonstown'
harbour we found White-breasted and Cape
Cormorants, Swift terns and a single Grey
Heron that flew over, along with the usual Cape
and Hartlaub's Gulls amongst the moored yachts.
On False Bay the flat waters allowed
us to make good time towards Cape Point, seeing large
flocks of Cape Cormorant on the off
shore rock stacks. Off the Boulders Beach a few African Penguin heads appearedin the water. Closer to Cape Point we found Swift Terns and Cape Gannets,
whilst a White-chinned Petrel made an appearance. The presence of this
pelagic species in the bay was an indication of the
recent strong winds and storm we had had, driving
deeper ocean birds towards the land.
With this hopeful development we
stopped at Cape Point to check out with the light
house keeper over the radio; during which time a few
made an appearance. We headed out to sea and had gone
about two miles when we came across hundreds of small
sardines that were dead on the surface of the water.
Their presence was revealed by Swift Terns,
Kelp Gulls, Cape Cormorant,
Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned
Petrels that were gorging themselves. We
assumed that this phenomenon was from these fish being
trapped in a pocket of water of rapidly changing temperature.
Amongst all the birds feeding on the fish we found
a single adult Black-browed
Albatross, a species usually encountered further
out to sea.
We left the patch of dead fish behind and headed further
out to the sea, soon picking up Shy
Albatross in low numbers. Alone Southern
Giant Petrel made a fly past as we headed toward
a long lining vessel in the distance. Wilson's
Storm-petrels were seen some distance away; whilst
Skua followed us in toward the long liner where
we found a tail of birds feeding on the offal discarded
by the boat. Pintado Petrels appeared as we entered the flock
of birds behind the boat. Amongst this were Shy and
Black-browed Albatross, Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned
Petrel. We did not wait long until we picked up an
Albatross which gave us good views behind the
We spent the following hour with this boat, getting
good views of the species there. A very interesting
young Shy Albatross made an appearance;
this individual had a deep grey head and chest and
compared favourably for a young Salvin's Albatross.
A close look at the photos taken however reveal it
to be a young Shy Albatross that
superficially resembled a Salvins' Albatross and made
its way across the southern oceans from Tasmania to
make us local birders excited (albeit briefly!).
We had a leisurely lunch and as
always whilst we are distracted with the task of tasty
food at hand, something interesting comes along. This
was an Indian
Yellow-nosed Albatross, which eventually alighted
on the water behind an Atlantic Yellow-nosed
Albatross to show off the features between
these species - a very considerate bird indeed. A
few Wilson's Storm Petrels came closer
for better views before we headed in the direction
of a trawler coming our way. She was the 'Saldanha'
Harvest, but unfortunately had relatively few birds
behind her as she had already processed her catch.
There was never the less Shy and
Black-browed Albatross, White-chinned
Petrels, Cape Gannet, Sooty
Shearwaters, Pintado Petrels
and Sub-antarctic Skua' behind her.
Cape Fur Seals were also out on these
trawling grounds and were shadowing the boat for when
the nets were next to be hauled up.
We headed back to the mainland,
picking up a better view of a Southern Giant
Petrel before reaching Cape Point. Here under
the cliffs we had a brief view of Bryde's Whale
as it sounded near our boat. We headed across False
Bay and at the Castle Rock cormorant colony found
White-breasted, Cape and Bank Cormorants.
On a near by rock a Bank and Crowned Cormorant
conveniently sat next to each other to provide a excellent
species comparison. The adjacent rocks were full of
Cape Fur Seals as we passed on along the coast,
seeing groups of African Penguins near Boulders Beach
before entering 'Simonstown' harbour. A final close
view of an African Black Oystercatcher and
Grey Heron on the harbour buoy line.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Grey Heron - 2
Swift tern - coastal
Cape Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
White-breasted cormorant - coastal
African Penguin - coastal
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 100
Africa Black Oystercatcher - coastal - 2
Sub-'antarctic' 'Skua' - 12
White-chinned Petrel - 200
Southern Giant Petrel - 2
Pintado Petrel - 300
Sooty Shearwater - 150
Shy Albatross - 100
Black-browed Albatross - 100
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross -1
AtlantincYellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 20'
Cape Fur Seal
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 Dalton Gibbs.
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