Trip Highlights: 3 Albatross species, Long-tailed Jaeger, Great-winged Petrel, Great and Flesh-footed Shearwater, Spectacled Petrel, Parasitic and Pomarine Jaeger
A group of seven excited birders - including guide Cliff Dorse - bordered a Cape Town Pelagics trip departing Simon's Town on Sunday 18 January. Big oceanic swell on the Saturday had resulted in the trip running on the Sunday instead. We were soon speeding through False Bay enjoying the phenomenal scenery and the usual array of coastal birds.
We were soon at the iconic Cape Point where early morning sunlight really made for some great photographs. Shortly after the point, we encountered a Parasitic Jaeger and our first White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters for the day. As we progressed outwards toward the trawling grounds we started seeing Cory's Shearwaters. Our first Albatross was added shortly afterwards, a Shy Albatross. A good bout of unpredicted rain was a surprise and resulted in cameras being stowed away and rain jackets produced. However it was relatively short lived and the cameras soon reappeared.
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross
As we had had received information before the trip that there were very few fishing boats in the area, we were delighted to hear the news that two stern trawlers had been seen within striking range. We headed directly in that direction adding our first Great-winged Petrel for the day. The trawler, the Freesia, was not processing any fish and was still busy with her morning trawl. There were however a great number of birds in the area who were awaiting breakfast. We enjoyed great views of many Shy, Atlantic Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatross. We also had both European and Wilson's Storm Petrels as well as a few Great Shearwaters. A Flesh-footed Shearwater also put in a few flybys to the delight of all on board.
There was a second trawler heading in our direction so we decided to go and investigate that vessel. We slowly worked through the numerous birds sitting in big rafts on the water and were rewarded with a lovely Spectacled Petrel. The second trawler had fewer birds in attendance and we heard that the Freesia had started to retrieve her net. As such, we headed in that direction. It was a real spectacle to see the large numbers of birds around the trawler. It really felt like a winter trip rather than a summer one due to the very many birds in the vicinity. Additions to the day list were Sabine's Gull and Subantarctic Skua. A big highlight was a Long-tailed Jaeger (Skua) which was uncharacteristically very approachable as it sat on the water occasionally taking to the wing for a few meters. A second Spectacled Petrel was also found sitting on the water which allowed close and prolonged views.
Unfortunately the strong south easterly wind which was predicted was becoming evident and we had to turn and head home. A few miles from Cape Point we encountered two Pomarine Jaegers harassing some terns. In False Bay the mandatory stop at Partridge Point produced Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross c. 60
Black-browed Albatross c. 30
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross c. 50
Great-winged Petrel 8
White-chinned Petrel c. 800
Spectacled Petrel 2
Cory's Shearwater c. 100
Great Shearwater 10
Sooty Shearwater c. 20
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1
European Storm Petrel c. 20
Wilson's Storm Petrel c. 10
Arctic Jaeger 2
Pomarine Jaeger 2
Long-tailed Jaeger 1
Subantarctic Skua 5
Sabine's Gull c. 10
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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