Trip Highlights: Parasitic Jaeger, Great Shearwater, Sabine's Gull, Subantarctic Skua, Southern & Northern Giant Petrels, Spectacled Petrel and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross.
On Saturday, 7 November 2015 a group of birders from, England, France and South Africa met on the quayside in Simon's Town. We boarded the boat with Cliff Dorse the leader for the day; and were soon steaming through False Bay. We made a short detour to investigate a good number of commercial snoek boats off Buffel's Bay but could find no interesting birds in their midst.
Shortly after Cape Point we saw our first White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters as well as a Parasitic Jaeger harassing the Common Terns. We continued out towards the Canyon making our way through a rather bumpy sea. As we progressed we started to see ever increasing numbers of Shy Albatross. Eventually we could make out the distinctive silhouette of stern trawler in the distance and we headed in her direction. As we approached we could see that there were in fact three trawlers all heading in the same direction. All were busy with their first trawl of the day and none were processing any fish. However, there were good numbers of birds in the vicinity and we decided to put out a bit of fish oil and chum while we waited for the trawlers to retrieve their nets. We soon added Black-browed Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Pintado Petrel and European Storm-Petrel. We also had a single Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and a Great Shearwater which briefly came to investigate the chum as well as a few Sabine's Gulls which wandered passed.
Suddenly the nearest trawler started to retrieve her nets and we enjoyed the spectacle of vast numbers of birds converging to feed. Unfortunately the trawler turned and ran to the south to reset her nets. We followed in her wake, along with the vast numbers of birds. We enjoyed great views of all the species mentioned above as well as adding Wilson's Storm Petrel, Subantarctic Skua and Southern Giant Petrel. Eventually we abandoned the pursuit and drifted in the wake. We were rewarded with a flyby of a single Spectacled Petrel - bird of the day for some!
In the meantime, the other two trawlers had retrieved their nets and were busy trawling towards us. We headed in their direction. There were a lot less birds in attendance but we had great views of an adult Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross on the water and witnessed the spectacle of another net being retrieved. We enjoyed lunch in the deep but were unable to pick out anything out of the ordinary. We then had to start making our way back to terra firma. The highlight of the return trip was the vast flocks of Common Terns and the accompanying Parasitic Jaegers just off the point.
The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of all four species of marine cormorant - Bank, Cape, White-breasted and Crowned. Here, we also saw our only cetacean of the day, a small Humpback Whale.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Black-browed Albatross c. 50
Shy Albatross c. 80
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 3
Northern Giant Petrel c. 30
Southern Giant Petrel c. 15
White-chinned Petrel c. 800
Spectacled Petrel 1
Sooty Shearwater c. 60
Great Shearwater 3
Wilson's Storm Petrel c.20
European Storm Petrel 2
Subantarctic Skua 3
Parasitic Jaeger 10
Sabine's Gull 8
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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