Trip Highlights: Three species of albatross, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, the four species of coastal cormorants, Bryde Whale.
It was a calm morning in Hout Bay harbour as a small group of keen birders gathered to board the Cape Town Pelagics boat departing at 7am. The conditions were calm as we boarded and set off in the early morning light under a pink sunrise. In the harbour and bay we passed Kelp Gulls, Hartlaub's Gulls and Cape Cormorant, with the occasional Cape Fur Seal lounging on the large floating buoys.
Further out to sea Cape Gannet appeared and we came across a Bryde's Whale which gave brief views before disappearing into the ocean depths. A few miles off shore we had Swift Tern and Sooty Shearwaters who showed off their silvery under wings in the early morning light. White-chinned Petrels soon followed as we headed out further from land.
At about 7 N Miles we came across our first Shy Albatross, who flew past and followed in our wake for a while. We headed further out toward a trawler which was known from marine traffic information. We found the trawler, the Lincoln, but this was unfortunately steaming back to Cape Town at the end of her voyage. We put out some fish oil onto the water in this area and threw out some chum pieces. We soon had a few Pintado Petrels making an appearance, along with distant views of Wilson's Storm-petrels. After a short while a fishing vessel appeared on our information system and we headed further out to sea to find it. It turned out to be a stern trawler called Harvest Mzanzi from Saldanha Bay, who was working the 400m sea bed contour and ready to pull in her nets.
On approaching the trawler we found Black-browed Albatross and lots of Cape Gannets. Cape Fur Seals were also out here waiting for the net to be pulled in. Sub-Antarctic Skua turned up as soon as the net was hauled in; joined by a frenzy of activity as Shy and Black-browed Albatross , White-chinned and Pintado Petrels mixed it up to get to any fish which may have fallen out of the net. We had excellent views of all the species over the next hour as they came past us while the trawler processed its catch and discharged offal. Toward the end of that time we had an Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross appear and perform a good fly past to add this to the list of albatross species seen. A Northern Giant Petrel turned up and gave us a fly by in the mixed flock of birds.
Two long liner fishing vessels appeared on our ship's information system and we saw them on the horizon. We headed over, finding a similar array of birds as at the trawler. An Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross gave us good views and after a while we had views of a Southern Giant Petrel and a small flock of Wilson's Storm-petrels. A Northern Giant Petrel alighted on the water near us and gave superb views. Under these conditions and with a variety of brilliant sea birds around us we had lunch before setting off back to land. Our trip back was fairly uneventful until we reached the Seal Island rocks near Hout Bay. Here we had good views of the hundred odd Cape Fur Seals lounging on the rocks. Nearby was a pair of African Black Oystercatchers, along with Crowned and Bank Cormorants. With these sightings we headed back to the harbour after a great trip!
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
White-chinned Petrel - 300
Pintado Petrel - 75
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 15
Sooty Shearwater - 100
Shy Albatross - 75
Black-browed Albatross - 100
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 8
Crowned Cormorant - 4White-breasted Cormorant
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 200
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 Dalton Gibbs.
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