Trip Highlights: Humpback Whales, Subantarctic Skua, all four cormorant species, Indian Yellow-nosed and Shy Albatross
Humpback Whale breaching in False Bay. This photo taken during a previous Cape Town Pelagics trip.
Early Sunday morning found a group of six birders representing four continents (North America, Europe, Australia and Africa) boarded one of two Cape Town Pelagics trip running out of Simon's Town harbour and heading for the trawling grounds south of Cape Point that day.
Shortly after leaving the harbour we were greeted by a very bumpy sea. However, the spectacular scenery and coastal birds kept us entertained as we made our way through the bay. Four Humpback Whales were a highlight while still in the bay.
At Cape Point we were greeted by a 15 knot wind which on top of the very lumpy sea made things a little uncomfortable. We however continued out and encountered our first Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels of the day. As we battered outwards towards the trawling grounds we were dismayed that the wind showed no sign of abating. We did however encounter a single Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross on the water.
Eventually, at about 13 miles from the Point, we decided to stop and throw some oil and chum out in an attempt to attract other birds. We were in the vicinity of the second Cape Town Pelagics boat so we decided to pool our collective fish oil reserves to increase the chances. We spent a long time in the oil slick intently watching the birds that came in to investigate. The White-chinned Petrels were the most obliging but a few Sooty Shearwaters, Shy Albatross and a single Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross all made an appearance. Unfortunately no other species were attracted. After some time and with the wind still blowing strongly, we decided to turn back.
After a few miles we had a very friendly Subantarctic Skua who came to ensure that we weren't fishermen with anything tasty to discard. The wind at the point had abated and we decided to eat our lunch a couple of miles off the point. After a good lunch, we briefly encountered a Giant Petrel which was flying away and did not allow a conclusive view of its bill tip for us to be able to clinch it's ID as either Northern or Southern.
Inside the bay the conditions were very pleasant and we visited the cormorant colony at Partridge Point where we encountered the four species of marine cormorant. Once back at Simon's Town harbour, a quick search around the moored boats yielded a solitary Crowned 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.10
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
White-chinned Petrel c.40
Giant Petrel sp. - 1
Sooty Shearwater c. 50
Subantarctic Skua - 1
African Black Oystercatcher
Humpback Whale - 4
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 Cliff Dorse.
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