Trip Highlights: 4 Albatross species, Great Shearwater, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, Parasitic Jaeger, Humpback Whales.
The pelagic scheduled for the 27th of August was slightly different in that there was a photographic focus for the clients. Murphy's Law got wind of this, and organised a thick fog that sat over the ocean. However, being veterans of the sport of birding, the clients knew that such things happen, and we set off from Simon's Town at 7am still excited to see what we could find.
African Penguins, Kelp Gulls, Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants, Swift Terns, and Sooty Shearwaters showed themselves before Cape Point, however we were none the wiser of our location as we could not see the shore from 200 m out. We headed out of the bay into the slightly eerie circumstances. Reports of trawler activity came through on the radio, the good news being that there was more than one about so our chances of finding one were decent, but the bad news was that they were quite a bit further out to sea than normal so we were in for a long transit. However, the birds kept our attention most of the way out, with us having the fortunate run of ticking all four common mollymawks before making it to the ships (Shy, Black-browed, Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses). White-chinned Petrel and Sooty Shearwaters were also abundant in the open water.
Getting to the trawlers we got stuck into the frenzy, and added Wilson's Storm Petrel, Subantarctic Skua and a single Northern Giant Petrel. The fog had lifted only slightly, but actually gave quite an even light so photography was not impossible and we could shoot successfully from most angles. We enjoyed this for a good while getting to grips with all the species through close encounters. Another trawler then burst out of the fog heading in our direction, so we moved on to see if we could find something new behind her. We did - spying a Southern Giant Petrel and a Great Shearwater in the slick. We enjoyed this trawler for some time before heading home. Astoundingly, an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross followed us from 25 nautical miles out until Cape Point, before finally wheeling off back into the fog towards the south. An early Parasitic Jaeger did a fly-by close to Cape Point, which was still shrouded in fog when we returned. We were also spoilt with a sighting of two Humpback Whales just inside the bay, along with the usual Bank and Cape Cormorants at Partridge Point, and the Cape Fur Seals at their regular haul-out spot nearby.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 600
Black-browed Albatross - 450
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 30
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 40
Sooty Shearwater - 300
Great Shearwater - 1
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 5
White-chinned Petrel - 3000
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Subantarctic Skua - 20
Parasitic Jaeger - 1
Humpback Whale - 2
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 Andrew de Blocq.
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