Highlights: Pintado Petrel, Northern Giant Petrel and Wilson's Storm-Petrel.
The morning dawned with very calm conditions and a pink sunrise. There had been three cold fronts in the preceding week, but we were experiencing a welcome gap in the weather. We set off a little later than usual, departing from Hout Bay harbour at 08h30 with Cape Town Pelagics guide Dalton Gibbs.
In the harbour we saw Cape and Hartlaub’s Gulls, as well as a few Cape Cormorants among the moored boats. Out of the harbour, we found small terns with the characteristic face mask of Antarctic Terns; still around before they move off to their summer breeding grounds. The sea was flat and broken only by a brief view of Common Dolphin as we headed toward Kommetjie and the open ocean.
Headed out past Cape Point and open water we found Cape Gannets, soon followed by Swift Tern. White-chinned Petrels and then Sooty Shearwaters soon followed in low numbers, before our first Shy Albatross appeared at the 10 Mile mark.
As we headed further out we came across some Sub-Antarctic Skuas. Spotting a vessel in the distance we set out for her, but were disappointed to find that this was only a tanker. At 20 Miles we put down some fish oil and Black-browed Albatross turned up in low numbers. We contacted the skipper on our second pelagic boat, which had set out the same time that morning from Simonstown, but he also had not found a trawler, so at the 25 Mile mark we stopped to lay down some fish oil in the water. This brought in Pintado Petrel and Northern Giant Petrel curious about the interesting fishy smell.
A lone Great Shearwater turned up and then groups of Wilson’s Storm-petrels. We stayed out in the deep for a few hours, moving slowly about and seeing more examples of the same species, but no additional species before we had to head back home. Closer to land we went across to Duiker Island outside of Hout Bay where we had lunch whilst watching the masses of Cape Fur Seals on the islands.
We travelled back into Hout bay, not having found a trawler, but nevertheless having found a selection of the deep water pelagic bird species.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Swift tern – coastal
Hartlaub’s Gull – coastal
Cape Gull – coastal
Cape Cormorant – coastal
White-breasted cormorant – coastal
Cape Gannet – coastal & pelagic – 200
Sub-Antarctic Skua – 5
White-chinned Petrel – 250
Pintado Petrel - 8
Northern Giant Petrel – 3
Sooty Shearwater – 20
Great Shearwater - 2
Shy Albatross – 30
Black-browed Albatross – 10
Wilson’s Storm Petrel – 30
Antarctic Tern – 10
Arctic tern - 15
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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