Trip Highlights: Five species albatross including a rare Grey-headed Albatross, both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, Antarctic Prions and a single Manx Shearwater.
Grey-headed Albatross (immature)
Six excited birders gathered on the still dark quay side in Simon's Town on Sunday 12 June for a mid-winter Cape Town Pelagics trip guided by Cliff Dorse. Our group included Arjan Dwarshuis who is on a mission to see 7000 birds in a calendar year! We were soon racing through a fairly choppy False Bay enjoying the spectacular scenery and the normal coastal birds. Before reaching the iconic Cape Point, we encountered a few distant White-chinned Petrels.
After a few photos of the scenic Point we headed out towards the trawling grounds. In amongst the first few White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters we encountered a single adult Black-browed Albatross sitting on the water. We continued outwards and added Shy Albatross and Wilson's Storm Petrel. Eventually we made out the distinctive outline of a trawler on the horizon. As we got closer we could see that there were actually two vessels working the area. The numbers of birds started to grow and we soon added Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Pintado Petrel and Subantarctic Skua. Both of the fishing vessels were still busy with their first trawl of the day and as such were not processing any fish. The birds had congregated in the vicinity waiting for the first net to surface. It was the 'Harvest Atlantic' which started to retrieve her nets first and we rushed across just as the net arrived at the surface. There was absolute mayhem as clouds of birds rallied for their share of the bounty. We worked through the mass of birds enjoying great views of all the species mentioned above. We worked the general area and then caught up to the Harvest Atlantic who had reset her nets and as she was now processing, had huge clouds of birds in attendance. We spent an extended time in her wake working through the birds. We enjoyed several good views of a Manx Shearwater and both Northern and Southern Giant Petrels. We were then rewarded with the bird of the day, an immature Grey-headed Albatross! The bird drifted within two meters of the boat and after we had saturated ourselves with great views, we tore ourselves away and continued to work through the wake. Unfortunately time was running out and we soon had to turn and start for home.
The run back was uneventful and in the calm of False Bay we enjoyed a satisfying late lunch. The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of Bank, White-breasted and Cape Cormorants.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Grey-headed Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross - c .800
Black-browed Albatross - c. 1000
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - c. 10
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 5
Southern Giant Petrel - 3
Pintado Petrel - c.100
White-chinned Petrel - c.1500
Sooty Shearwater - c. 250
Manx Shearwater - 1
Antarctic Prion - c. 50
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c. 50
Subantarctic Skua - c.10
Cape Fur Seal - Common
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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