Trip Highlights: Manx Shearwater, four species of albatross, four species of cormorants and Humpback Whale.
Our boat departed the Simon's Town Yacht Club in fantastic conditions. We had an especially beautiful spring sunrise as we travelled down the western shoreline of False Bay. The trip down to Cape Point was dominated by coastal sea and shorebirds, and our sightings included - African Oystercatchers, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls; Cape, Crowned and White-breasted Cormorants, Great Crested (Swift) Terns and African Penguins.
The waters around Cape Point were teeming with seabirds, preying on the abundant shoals of small fish. Large flocks of Cape Cormorants, Kelp Gulls, Great Crested Terns and Cape Gannets were actively diving or dipping for prey. They were joined by large numbers of Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels, as well as lone Manx Shearwater. This hive of activity attracted several Brown Skuas and a newly arrived Parasitic Jaeger trying to steal a fish from the terns.
After enjoying this amazing sight, we continued towards a distant hake trawler. En-route we encountered the first of the day's Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses.
We arrived at the trawler just as it began hauling its catch. As the net began to break the surface, the number of birds quickly grew from an initial few hundred to well over a thousand individuals. Within this chaotic mass of birdlife, we found four species of albatrosses - Shy, Black-browed; and both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, innumerable White-chinned Petrels, Kelp Gulls and Cape Gannets, as well as smaller numbers of Cape (Pintado) Petrels, Sooty and Great Shearwaters, Brown Skuas and a pair of Arctic Terns.
After several enjoyable hours of enjoying the seabird spectacle behind the trawler, we sadly began our return to the coast. The trip saw us pick up two very distant Humpback Whales blowing near Cape Point.
After a much-needed lunch below the sea-cliffs just inside False Bay, we continued north to the Bank and White-breasted Cormorant colonies at Partridge Point. As always, we stopped at the nearby Cape Fur Seal haul-out, before heading back to Simon's Town harbour.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 50-75
Black-browed Albatross - 50-75
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 7
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Southern Giant Petrel - 5
Sooty Shearwater - 400-500
Great Shearwater - 5
Manx Shearwater - 1
Parasitic Jaeger - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 750-1000
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 10-15
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 12-15
Arctic Tern - 2
African Penguin - 30-40
Cape Gannet - Common (coastal and pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - 9 breeding pair
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 8
Bank Cormorant - 22 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common (coastal and pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - 3
Great Crested Tern - 10-15
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 4
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal and 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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