Highlights: 3 Humpbacked Whales, 3 Southern Right Whales, Red Phalarope, Southern Giant Petrel and Manx Shearwater.
A small gap in the weather this Saturday allowed this pelagic trip to run, led by Cape Town Pelagics guide Cliff Dorse. However, strong winds the evening before dictated that the trip leave slightly later than normal.
We boarded and headed out of Simon's Town harbour at 08h30. The day started with some unforeseen difficulties as one of the engines had an electric fault and we had to return to the harbour where we were met by a mechanic who made the necessary repairs. We took the opportunity to use the facilities at the Yacht Club and we even managed to see a Jackal Buzzard moving along the mountain ridge above Simon’s Town for the day list.
We were soon en route again. The strong overnight winds had died down completely but the after effects were still evident by the uncomfortable chop on the water. The great scenery and array of coastal birds was highlighted by some spectacular whale sightings. Our first Humpbacked Whale appeared to be a very young individual as it playfully frolicked within a few pieces of kelp. In doing so it gave us excellent views at close range. We then had three Southern Right Whales and another two Humpbacked Whales before we reached Cape Point. We also saw our first pelagic bird, White-chinned Petrel, at the Point.
After enjoying the remarkable views of Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, we headed out towards the trawling grounds. There were good numbers of Sooty Shearwaters, Cape Gannet, Swift and Common Terns feeding on shoaling pelagic fish after the Bellows. We picked out a single Manx Shearwater in the medley of feeding birds. As we ventured out further we added Shy Albatross and Wilson’s Storm-petrel to the list. We also briefly had a single Red Phalarope which did not allow good views. There were unfortunately very few birds around as we entered the trawling grounds. We slowly continued further out to about 24 miles and added a Subantarctic Skua for our efforts. We could not see any sign of fishing vessels in the area and another Cape Town Pelagics boat to the north of our position also reported no fishing boats. We had very little choice but to slowly head back to the Point. The trip back delivered Pintado Petrel, Black-browed Albatross and another Manx Shearwater. Just before Cape Point we saw our only Giant Petrel for the day, which was a Southern Giant Petrel.
The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of three species of cormorant.
The following is a list of the species seen during the course of the day. The numbers reflected can be considered as rough estimations only.
Shy Albatross c. 50
Black-browed Albatross 1
Southern Giant Petrel 1
Pintado Petrel 3
White-chinned Petrel c. 100
Sooty Shearwater c. 250
Manx Shearwater 1
Wilson’s Storm Petrel 10
Subantarctic Skua 1
Red Phalarope 1
The following species were encountered close to the coast:
African Black Oyster-catcher
Cape Fur Seal
Humpbacked Whale 3
Southern Right Whale 3
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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