Trip Highlights: 1000s of friendly Dusky Dolphins; breaching Humpback Whales, Shy and Black-browed Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Pintado Petrel, Bryde Whale
On Saturday morning the Destiny departed from Simon's Town on a Cape Town Pelagics tour. The weather was overcast and cool with a light breeze, but strong winds were forecast for the afternoon. On the trip across a calm False Bay we saw 4 groups of 15-20 African Penguins as well as groups of feeding Cape Cormorants and attendant gulls and terns, indicating the presence of shoals of small pelagic fish (probably anchovy). We also encountered our first Cape Gannets and White-chinned Petrel.
Once we rounded Cape Point the sea was really choppy through the current line then calmed down. There were numerous small fishing boats targeting yellowtail with plenty of bird activity, mainly Cape Cormorants, Kelp Gulls, Swift Terns, Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels. We stopped for the obligatory photo shoot of the spectacular Cape of Good Hope, Cape Maclear and Cape Point while the skipper made the safety check of registering our departure with the shore station. We also received the good news that there were two trawlers about 18.5 nautical miles (about 34 kms) away, near the Cape Canyon.
On route to the fishing grounds we came across a huge school of Dusky Dolphins, there were dolphins all around us, for over 500 m in all directions. A number of individuals, both near and far, were showing off with acrobatic leaps while a friendly group came to play with us and bow ride. The water was very clear enabling us to see the dolphins under the water alongside the Destiny enabling one to guess at where and when they would break the surface to breathe. One dolphin made a series or spectacular leaps and somersaults.
We continued on our way to the two I&J trawlers (Ferox and Fuschia). We spent a few pleasant hours watching the fantastic spectacle of hundreds of feeding in the wake of the two trawlers, including White-capped (Shy) & Black-browed Albatross, White-chinned & Pintado Petrels and Sooty & Great Shearwaters. There was a bit of excitement when a Shy-type Albatross with a full dark grey head was spotted sitting on the water – the head and neck were dove-grey, lacking the browner tones typical of 0-year old White-capped (Shy) Albatross. We spent some time with this albie which, unfortunately turned out to be a young White-capped. We were also entertained by a large flock of Wilson’s Storm Petrel walking on water in the calm conditions.
We headed back early to avoid the strong winds predicted for the afternoon. There was a pair of Humpback Whales near the point and a courting group of 3 Humpback Whales near the Bellows. One of the threesome made a series of spectacular breaches, almost as if trying to out-do the earlier show put on by the Dusky Dolphins.
We stopped for lunch in the shelter of False Bay off Buffels Bay. A scan of the rocks turned up 3 Chacma Baboons, an interesting addition to the pelagic list. After lunch we visited the Bank Cormorant breading colony and the Cape Fur Seal haul-out on route back to Simon's Town.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) - 200
Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) - 50
Northern Giant Petrel (Macronectes halli) - 3
Pintado Petrel (Daption capense) - 10
White-chinned Petrel (Procellaria aequinoctalis) - 1000
Sooty Shearwater (Ardenna grisea) - 200
Great shearwater (Ardenna gravis) - 2
Wilson's Storm Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus) - 100
Brown (Subantarctic) Skua (Stercorarius antarcticus) - 3
Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) - 2
Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) - 6
Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus vetula) - 10
Cape Gannet (Morus capensis) - 100
African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) - 50
Swift Tern (Thalasseus bergii)
Hartlaub's Gull (Chroicocephalus hartlaubii)
Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus vetula)
Cape Gannet (Morus capensis)
Cape Cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis)
Bank Cormorant (Phalacrocorax neglectus)
White-breasted Cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus)
Crowned Cormorant (Microcarbo coronatus)
African Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus moquini)
Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) - 1500
Bryde's Whale (Balaenoptera edeni) - 1
Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) - 5
Cape Fur Seal (Arctocephalus pusillus)
Chacma Baboon (Papio ursinus) - 3
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 Rob Leslie.
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