Trip Highlights: African Penguin, four species of albatrosses, Wilson's Storm-petrel, Cape (Pintado) Petrel, Humpback and Southern Right Whales.
We began our Monday trip out of the False Bay Yacht Club, Simon's Town and headed south on beautifully flat conditions in False Bay. As we travelled towards Cape Point, we encountered several groups of foraging African Penguins and more typical coastal species, including Kelp and Hartlaub's Gull, Great Crested Terns, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants. Further south, we were passed by flocks of Cape Gannets heading out to feed in the open sea.
At Cape Point, the sea was very busy with very large numbers of Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels, with a single Shy Albatross, and an unidentified species of Giant Petrel amongst the melee.
As we headed out into choppy oceanic waters and towards the fishing grounds, there were more sightings of Shy, and the first Black-browed Albatrosses, along with lots of the petrels and shearwaters, mentioned above.
A stationery longliner was spotted at 17 nautical miles. The fishing boat was surrounded by lots of White-chinned Petrels, Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses, smaller numbers of Cape (Pintado) Petrels, Brown (Subantarctic) Skuas, Sooty Shearwaters, Cape Gannets and Kelp Gulls. A few Wilson's Storm Petrels made some a close approaches before disappearing into the masses of seabirds. Several Cape Fur Seals swam about competing with the seabirds for any fish scraps.
At mid-morning, the crews started to pick up their lines, and process their catch. This activity attracted very large numbers of pelagic seabirds, creating the famed spectacle of massed seabirds.
Just before midday, we left the fishing grounds and headed back to shore. The trip back, included a very fast fly-by from a Northern Giant Petrel. Closer to shore, we encountered a flock of Cape Gannets, plunge-diving from a dizzying height towards prey in the sea below. Within a few miles of the shore, we began to encounter other coastal species: Great Crested (Swift) Terns, Hartlaub's Gull and Cape Cormorants.
Safely back in False Bay, we had a quick lunch, which was happily interrupted by three, very close Humpback Whales near Buffels Bay.
At the rocky outcrops at Partridge Point, we spotted all four local species of marine cormorant. The highlight was several breeding pairs of Bank and White-breasted Cormorants, along with roosts of Cape and Crowned Cormorants.
Closer to Simon's Town, we spotted a pair of Southern Right Whales. One of the whales had a large patch of white skin, which was visible even as the animal swam below the surface. Offshore of Boulders Beach, we saw several more groups of African Penguins returning to shore.
As we ended off our trip back in the harbour, we had several more sightings of both Crowned Cormorants and African Oystercatchers.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy / White-capped Albatross - 150-200
Black-browed Albatross - 75-100
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Giant Petrel spp - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 350-400
Cape (Pintado) Petrel
White-chinned Petrel - 750-800
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 3
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 7-10
African Penguin - 100-150
Cape Gannet - 150-200
White-breasted Cormorant - 30-40
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 3
Bank Cormorant - 25-30
Kelp Gull - common (coastal); 25-30 (pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - 2
Great Crested (Swift) Tern - 15-20
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 5
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal); 7-10 (pelagic)
Humpback Whale - 3
Southern Right Whale - 2
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 Vincent Ward.
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