Trip Highlights: Bryde's Whale, 4 Albatross species, Northern Giant Petrel, Subantarctic Skua, Cory's, Sooty and Great Shearwaters. All 4 marine cormorants species, African Penguin and African Black Oystercatcher on the coast.
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross
Saturday 11 April was a perfect day to go to sea on board a Cape Town Pelagics trip. There was little swell to speak of and the predicted winds were very light throughout the day. The thick mist did however result in us tentatively leaving Simon's Town and heading southwards. The mist also kept the very scenic Cape Peninsula hidden until just after Partridge Point when it began to lift. By the time we reached the tip of the Cape Peninsula it was all but gone and we managed to get classic views of the iconic Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. In False Bay we also had our first views of both White-chinned Petrel and Sooty Shearwater.
We continued out towards the trawling grounds and soon added Cory's Shearwater and enjoyed ever increasingly improved views of the White-chinned Petrel and Sooty Shearwater. Before long we saw our first Shy Albatross and Great Shearwaters. We were entertained by the above mentioned species as we headed on outwards. By about 20 miles, we had added our first Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Wilson's Storm-Petrels.
A blow dead ahead gave away the presence of a whale. We had good views of a small baleen whale and managed to get some photos. The animal appeared to be far less shy then the Bryde's Whales that we normally see and the blow appeared to be far more distinctive. In addition, we usually encounter them in False Bay or close to shore. As such, Whale expert Dr Peter Best was asked to comment on the pictures and he said that the animal was indeed a Bryde's Whale. It is interesting to note that there are distinct inshore and offshore populations of this species and while the location of this animal would point to an animal from the offshore population, the lack of any oval white scarring is and indication that this animal was indeed from the inshore population.
We could see vast numbers of smaller vessels in the distance and we headed towards them. It appeared that everything that could float was out in the deep catching tuna - fishing had apparently been very good over the last few days. We heard from one of our skipper's contacts that they had seen a stern trawler to the north west and we went off in search of it. Eventually we found her and as luck would have it, she started to bring in her net as we arrived. Up till then there had been very few birds in attendance. However things changed as soon as the net arrived at the surface. We had great views of Shy, Indian Yellow-nose and Black-browed Albatross. We also added Subantarctic Skua, Atlantic Yellow-nose, Arctic Tern and what must be the first Pintado Petrel of the season. We spent a great deal of time in the wake of the vessel as she trawled and processed the morning catch.
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross (and White-chinned Petrel).
After a great lunch we had to start heading for home. The trip back was uneventful but the mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point delivered both Bank and the other three species of marine cormorant.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross c. 200
Black-browed Albatross c. 100
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross c. 20
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 4
Northern Giant Petrel 1
White-chinned Petrel c. 1000
Pintado Petrel 1
Cory's Shearwater 3
Great Shearwater c. 50
Sooty Shearwater c. 40
Wilson's Storm-Petrel c. 400
Subantarctic Skua c. 4
Sabine's Gull 1
Arctic Tern 2
African Black Oyster-catcher
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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