Trip Highlights: Four albatross species, Long-tailed Jaeger, Sabine's Gull, Manx Shearwater, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Great Shearwater and Arctic Jaeger (Skua).
On Saturday 28 January, six excited birders boarded our boat from Simon's Town for a Cape Town Pelagics trip. We were soon underway enjoying the spectacular scenery and array of coastal birds. We had a single Sooty Shearwater shortly before Cape Point. We stopped to enjoy the iconic view of Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope bathed in great early morning light. After a few photos we were again on our way.
Soon after the point we had good views of Parasitic Jaegers, White-chinned Petrel, Cory's and Sooty Shearwater. Conditions were great with very little wind and we proceeded out at a good speed. At about 5 miles from the point there were good numbers of birds about, including at least 5 European Storm Petrels, a bit closer inshore then we usually encounter them. Shortly thereafter we encountered our first Albatross - an Indian Yellow-nosed. This was soon followed by an immature Shy Albatross. We proceeded out to about 17 miles searching for a trawler. We were starting to feel rather despondent when we suddenly made out the distinctive profile of a vessel in the distance. We started heading in her direction but as we got closer it became evident that she was moving at speed to the north. The stern trawler, the Forest Lily, had clearly just finished here final trawl before heading back to the Cape Town harbour and there were good numbers of birds in tow. We followed in her wake for some time adding Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Black-browned Albatross, Wilson's Storm Petrel, Great Shearwaters and Subantarctic Skua. We also managed to locate both Northern and Southern Giant Petrels and enjoyed good views of Sabine's Gulls and Arctic Terns. Unfortunately, the Forest Lily was moving at pace and we could not follow for long. As such we decided to drift down her wake enjoying the birds in the vicinity. We also put some anchovy oil out in an effort to attract some birds. It was at this point when we has a single flyby from a Long-tailed Jaeger.
Eventually we decided to start making for terra firma. However after a few miles we spotted another trawler heading up from the south. We decided to go and investigate. While there were lots of birds scattered around, the boat was trawling but was not actively processing. We decided to wait around for a short while and were soon rewarded when she started to retrieve her nets. As soon as the net arrived at the surface all the birds in the vicinity congregated and allowed for a wonderful spectacle. We worked through the mass of birds for some time but were not able to locate anything different. However, it really was a great experience to be so close to so many pelagic birds!
We then really had to start running for home, the trip back punctuated only by a brief Manx Shearwater. We enjoyed a great lunch once back in the comfort of False Bay. The mandatory stop at Partridge Point produced Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants. The last of the marine cormorants, Crowned was located in the Simon's Town harbour.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c. 100
Black-browed Albatross - c. 20
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - c. 50
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Southern Giant Petrel - 2
White-chinned Petrel - c. 800
Cory's Shearwater - c. 100
Great Shearwater - 5
Sooty Shearwater - c. 30
Manx Shearwater - 1
European Storm Petrel - c. 200
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c. 25
Arctic Jaeger - 2
Long-tailed Jaeger - 1
Subantarctic Skua - 5
Sabine's Gull - c. 10
Arctic Tern - c. 10
African Black Oystercatcher
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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