Trip Highlights: Four Albatross species, Great-winged Petrel, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, Sabine's Gull, Parasitic Jaeger and Subantarctic Skua.
A Dutch couple and seven South African guests boarded the Cape Town Pelagics boat departing from Simon's Town early on Saturday morning. There were three pelagic 'virgins' in the mix. The weather was perfect - only a very light wind, warm, fine, and a calm sea.
Despite seemingly perfect conditions, the birdlife was muted until after passing Cape Point, with only Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls, Cape Cormorants, and Swift Terns putting in an appearance up to then. Soon after passing the point we had our first Cape Gannets, and some Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters. No trawlers were to be found, however there were plenty long liners out that morning. We ended up locating no fewer than five of these fishing vessels, but none were pulling in any birds as they were not processing a catch.
Eventually after lunch we found a boat just about to pull up it's lines, so we hung around to see what would happen with the birdlife. Our long morning of patient waiting was finally rewarded as the birds began to pick up on the smell of the offcuts being thrown overboard. First to arrive were the Kelp Gulls, and then a few Arctic and Common Terns. Next were the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, followed by a few of their Indian Ocean cousins. Subantarctic Skuas then joined the banquet, preferring to steal the catch of others rather than work for their own. Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses eventually trickled in in small numbers. My bird of the day was a Great-winged Petrel which swooped in and stayed around the boat until it was joined around 45 minutes later by two more. A few Sabine's Gulls got the tail end of the feast, but we were delighted to see them nonetheless. Giant Petrels came in and out, and we managed to positively ID multiple individuals of both Southern and Northern. White-chinned Petrels were the most abundant bird, but not in their usual numbers. Even a Blue Shark came by to sneak some hake heads, which got the general excitement levels up. We stayed a little later than usual out in the deep because of the slow start before heading back inshore. Along the way back a Parasitic Jaeger did a flyby, but only two passengers got eyes on before the bird disappeared.
Back in the bay we stopped off at Partridge Point for the Bank, Cape, Crowned, and White-breasted Cormorants, as well as plenty Cape Fur Seals. We stopped in close by Boulders Beach to spy the African Penguins, and we spotted the resident pair of African Black Oystercatchers when we returned to Simon's Town harbour.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 5
Black-browed Albatoss - 8
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 50
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 10
White-chinned Petrel - 300
Southern Giant Petrel - 4
Northern Giant Petrel - 10
Great-winged Petrel - 5
Cory's Shearwater - 12
Sooty Shearwater - 20
Sabine's Gull - 5
Arctic Tern - 3
Parasitic Jaeger - 1
Subantarctic Skua - 3
Cape Gannet - 20
African Black Oystercatcher
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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