Trip Highlights: FOUR species of albatross, Spectacled Petrel, Cape (Pintado) Petrel, Pomarine Jaeger, Sabine's Gull, , four species of cormorant.
Our trip departed from the Simon's Town Harbour, where we had great views of both Cape and Crowned Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls, and a few Great Crested (Swift) Terns.
The calm conditions in False Bay allowed us to spot feeding groups of African Penguins, between their colony at Boulders Beach and Smitswinkel Bay. Our other sightings were of other common coastal species like Cape Gannet, Cape and White-breasted Cormorant, Great Crested (Swift) and Sandwich Terns. Cape Fur Seals were also abundant, many of whom were resting on the surface.
After a quick trip down to Cape Point, we stopped to view the twin lighthouses, before heading into the open ocean. The stretch of ocean out to the trawling grounds offered plenty of good sea-birding, with numerous sightings of White-chinned Petrels, Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters, Cape Gannets and Sabine's Gulls. Parasitic Jaeger was common, and we saw several cases of them harassing and stealing fish from Arctic Terns, as did a single Pomarine Jaeger.
At 17 nautical miles off the coast, we found the Freesia, hauling up a catch of hake. This brought in a large number of hungry seabirds, mostly White-chinned Petrels, but also four species of mollymawk albatrosses: Shy/White-capped, Black-browed and both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses. There were also larger than usual numbers Northern Giant Petrels, with a few Southerns in attendance. There were good numbers of European Storm-petrels, with two Wilson's making quick flybys. Surprise sighting included a Cape (Pintado) Petrel, a common winter visitor, but very rare in mid-summer, and a Great Shearwater (a spring passage migrant). These birds were quickly overshadowed by a Spectacled Petrel, a rare and very sought-after pelagic species. Photographs later revealed this to be a different bird from those seen to the previous two weekends.
After several hours of enjoyable sea-birding, we headed back to the shelter of False Bay. The trip afforded us additional sightings of the same species seem on the way out, with the addition of two juvenile African Penguins a few kilometres out in the open ocean.
Once back in False Bay, we continued up to the cormorant colonies at Partridge Point. These granite outcrops hold both breeding White-breasted and Bank Cormorants, as well as large numbers of roosting Cape, and a few Crowned Cormorants. We made a brief stop at the Cape Fur Seal haul-out before heading back to port.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 75-100
Black-browed Albatross - 10-15
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 10-15
Northern Giant Petrel - 15-20
Southern Giant Petrel - 2
Sooty Shearwater - 200-300
Great Shearwater - 1
Cory's Shearwater - 50-75
White-chinned Petrel - 400-500
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 1
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 2
European Storm Petrel - 40-50
Parasitic Jaeger - 10-15
Pomarine Jaeger - 1
Sabine's Gull - 4-5
Arctic Tern - 30-40
African Penguin - 30-40 (coastal); 2 juveniles (pelagic)
Cape Gannet - common (coastal); 1 (pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - 35-40 breeding pairs
Cape Cormorant - abundant (coastal)
Crowned Cormorant - 10
Bank Cormorant - 13 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - abundant (coastal); 20-30 (pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - 3-5 (coastal)
Great Crested Tern - abundant (coastal)
Sandwich Tern - 15-20
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal); 20-30 (pelagic)
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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