Trip Highlights: Four species of albatrosses, four species of cormorant, Oceanic Sunfish, Bryde's Whale.
We started our trip at the False Bay Yacht Club. The harbour itself held several of the more common coastal species like Kelp, and Hartlaub's Gull, and Cape, White-breasted and Crowned Cormorants. As we ventured out into False Bay and past the Boulders Beach penguin colony, several large groups of African Penguins were seen bathing and preening on the surface.
The trip down to Cape Point was punctuated by sightings of Greater Crested Terns, some being harassed by Parasitic Jaegers. We had additional sightings of jaegers, but they were substantially farther away, with one potential Pomarine Jaeger, but the distance made identification difficult. The other highlight was an equally distant Bryde's Whale.
Closer to Cape Point, we sighted the first Brown Skuas, Sooty, and Cory's Shearwaters, as well as White-chinned Petrels.
We made our customary photographic stop at the base of Cape Point. This opportunity was used to release a rehabilitated Cape Gannet back to sea. It quickly flew off to join several other gannets feeding nearby.
News was received of a hake trawler working 25 nautical miles to our south-west in an area known as the Cape canyon. The outward journey was busy with numerous close sightings of Great, Sooty, and Cory's Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrels, Wilson's Storm Petrels, Common and Arctic Terns as well as Brown Skuas. There were several very distant jaegers, but we were not able to confidently identify them. Other notable highlights were frustratingly brief sightings of both Ocean Sunfish and Atlantic Blue Shark.
As we approached the trawler, we quickly added four species of albatross, starting with Shy, then Black-browed, and finally both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses. The scene behind the trawler was the classic scene of thousands of seabirds, and dozens of Cape Fur Seals competing for discards. The melee of birds also included several European Storm Petrels and a single Northern Giant Petrel. After a couple of hours behind the trawler, we turned back to the coast, and back into False Bay, for a welcome light lunch.
The trip took in the Bank and White-breasted Cormorant colonies at Partridge Point, which also had several roosting Cape and Crowned Cormorants, as well as two pairs of African Oystercatchers. The nearby Cape Fur Seal haul-out was also very busy. With a good species count in hand, we headed back into port.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 15-20
Black-browed Albatross - 75-100
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 7-10
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5-7
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 75-100
Great Shearwater - 75-100
Cory's Shearwater - 250-300
White-chinned Petrel - 1500-2000
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 150-200
European Storm Petrel - 40-50
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 10-15
Parasitic Jaeger - 7
Jaeger spp. - 15-20
Arctic Tern - 5
African Penguin - 50-60
Cape Gannet - common (coastal and pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - 15 breeding pairs
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 3
Bank Cormorant - 5 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common
Hartlaub's Gull - 2
Great Crested Tern - common
Common Tern - 2
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 4
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal and pelagic)
Bryde's Whale - 1
Oceanic Sunfish - 1
Atlantic Blue Shark - 1
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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