Trip Highlights: Four Albatross species, including a Northern Royal Albatross, several Manx Shearwaters, Subantarctic Skua, an Arctic Tern and approximately ten Humpback Whales!
It was with some excitement that 6 birders boarded the Destiny in Simon's Town harbour on Sunday 6 August 2017 for another Cape Town Pelagic trip. Conditions were great and we were soon speeding through False Bay enjoying the spectacular scenery and array of coastal birds. We also had a couple of White-chinned Petrels in the Bay. After a quick stop to photography the iconic Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, we started heading out towards the trawling grounds.
There was a lot of action just after the Point with very high numbers of Sooty Shearwaters and a good few White-chinned Petrels feeding of bait fish. We also had some Humpback Whales blowing, but they were shy and quietly disappeared without giving good views. As we continued on outwards we added out first albatross of the day, a juvenile Shy Albatross. We soon added Pintado Petrel and Subantarctic Skua before we made out the distinctive outline of a trawler to the south. On route we encountered our first of several Manx Shearwaters seen during the day.
As we got closer to the trawler, we could see that she, the Bluebell, was not actively fishing and was heading back to Cape Town Harbour at speed. There were still quite good numbers of birds in her wake and we had great views of Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel as well as more Shy Albatross, Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels; species seen earlier. We radioed the Bluebell to ask whether there were any other fishing boats in the vicinity. Unfortunately the response was negative. Apparently the entire hake fleet was working off Danger Point, way to the south.
We were at 16 miles from the point and we decided to continue out towards the 500m contour where we would put out some fish oil. A rather peculiar sighting at 16 miles was of four Egyptian Geese flying with purpose to the south west (and impending doom!). When we were in about 480m of water at the tip of the canyon, we stopped. While busy getting ready to put out some fish oil, a Northern Royal Albatross came past giving good views! We put oil out and spent some time enjoying the birds that came to investigate. While many species put in an appearance, the only addition to the day list was a Northern Giant Petrel.
We decided to enjoy our lunch closer to False Bay and we started heading back. On route we had several brief encounters with Humpback Whales. At about two miles we noted a large flock of Sooty Shearwaters roosting on the water and we made a small detour to the south to investigate. Conditions were spectacular so we decided to have lunch amongst the hundreds of Shearwaters. We also picked up at least five Manx Shearwaters, many giving really good views.
Aftre lunch we headed to the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point. Here we had good views of Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorant. Just before we entered Simon's Town harbour we encountered two small Humpback Whales. These two youngsters finally gave a good show, showing off there pectoral and tail flukes. In the harbour we managed to find the last remaining marine cormorant species of the region, Crowned Cormorant.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Northern Royal Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross - c.40
Black-browed Albatross - 10
Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1 (Species indeterminate)
Pintado Petrel - 10
White-chinned Petrel - 300
Southern Giant Petrel - 3
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - c.600
Manx Shearwater - 7
Subantarctic Skua - 8
Arctic Tern - 1
Egyptian Goose - 4 (at 16 miles!)
Cape Fur Seals - Common
Humback Whale - 10
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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