Trip Highlights: Shy and Black-browed Albatross, African Penguin, Northern and Southern Giant Petrel, thousands of White-chinned Petrels, Pintado Petrel, Spectacled Petrel, Wilson's Storm Petrel, Humpback Whale
Our trip south along the coast of False Bay was relatively quiet to previous winter trip. We however did pick up several coastal species: African Penguins, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gull, and Great Crested (Swift) Tern.
During our stop at Cape Point, we encountered our first Cape Gannets, White-chinned Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters and a lone Northern Giant Petrel.
Once out in the open ocean, the first of many Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses were seen. The northward flowing Benguela Current was very strong, adding a bit of unwanted surface chop. Otherwise there was almost no wind or swell. In contrast to several previous trips, the ocean was very busy with commercial marine traffic.
We located a potential fishing vessel on the radar. It turned out to be a stern trawler at 22 nautical mile from Cape Point. As we arrived they had already pulled their net, but were busy processing the catch. This activity attracted thousands of birds, mostly White-chinned Petrels, with hundreds of Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses, Pintado Petrels, Kelp Gulls, Cape Gannets and Sooty Shearwaters in attendance. In amongst this mass of birds were a few Brown (Subantarctic) Skuas and Wilson's Storm Petrels. There was a single, early Great Shearwater, and a frustratingly brief view of a Spectacled Petrel.
We headed back in the late morning, in advance of a forecast strong midday wind. On the trip back to the coast we got a few brief glimpses of a breaching Humpback Whale, with several more blows closer to the shore.
Once back in the bay, we headed over to the cormorant colony at Partridge Point. There were several pairs of breeding Bank and White-breasted Cormorants, with a large number of roosting Cape Cormorants. A few Crowned Cormorants and an African Oystercatcher were spotted on the lower rocks of the Cape Fur Seal haul-out.
Once back in port, we disembarked with the proceedings watched closely by one of the tame Grey Herons frequenting the public jetty.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 250-300
Black-browed Albatross - 400-500
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 100-200
Great Shearwater - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 8000-10000
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 250-300
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 5
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 10-15
African Penguin - 20-25
Cape Gannet - 50-100 (coastal); 200-250 (pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - 15-20 pairs (breeding)
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 5
Bank Cormorant - 25-30 pairs (breeding)
Kelp Gull - common (coastal); 150-200 (pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - 15-20
Great Crested Tern - 5-10
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 3
Grey Heron - 1
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal); 30-40 (pelagic)
Humpback 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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