Trip Highlights: 5 species of albatross including a Wanderer, Black-bellied Storm-petrel, Southern & Northern Giant Petrels, Subantarctic Skua and Humpback Whale.
After the long weekend's inclement weather a 45 knot gale forced us to cancel the trip on the Monday, but as predicted the wind dropped to a state of calm overnight allowing us to head out on the backup day instead! With six birders on board and Barrie Rose our guide, we departed Simon's Town at 07h15 and travelled up False Bay over a large heaving swell. The trip up to Cape Point was uneventful as we passed huge rafts of kelp that had been smashed off the reefs by previous day's storm.
At Cape Point we eased our way passed Bellows Rock and started on a WSW course at a relatively slow speed with the comfort of our clients in mind. We soon encountered White-chinned Petrels and at 5 miles our first Shy Albatross. As a result of the southerly gales we had miles of cold green upwelled water and did not add another species to our list until we were 20 miles offshore. A Humpback Whale surprised us and provided an incredible view as it passed within meters of our boat.
As the water colour cleared, the swell dropped and the sea temperature rose we started to add new species to our list; Black-browed Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel and Subantarctic Skua.
At 29 miles it became obvious that there were no trawlers in our area, we went into drift mode and set up a chum slick. We soon had a substantial flock around us and over the next 90 minutes our slick produced 16 species of seabird; significantly 5 species of albatross. The highlight being an adult Wanderer which showed up at the end of our efforts and made 2 full circuits before disappearing. Both species of Yellow-nosed Albatross provided views from less than 10m and a couple of Black-bellied Storm-petrels were present for more than 30 minutes.
With the swell behind us our trip back to Cape Point was decidedly more comfortable than on the way out! We arrived back inside Cape Point to have a sheltered and relaxed lunch before making our way through a sea of floating kelp and carpets of floating dead Red-banded Jellyfish back to Simon's Town.
The trip was significant for the eyeball views of 5 species of albatross without the assistance of a trawler.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Wandering Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross - 30+
Black-browed Albatross - 20+
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Giant Petrel sp - 5
White-chinned Petrel - ca 250
Pintado Petrel - 20+
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel - 2
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel - 20+
Sooty Shearwater - 30+
Great Shearwater - 3
Subantarctic Skua - 3
Cape Gannet - 50+
Swift Tern - coastal and 1 at 29mls
Arctic Tern - 10
Common Tern - coastal and 4 at 29mls
Kelp Gull - 150 and coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal and to 5mls
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
African Penguin - coastal and 2 at 5mls
Humpback Whale - 1
Cape Fur Seal - 50+
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 Barrie Rose.
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