We departed Simon's Town harbour at 07:00 on a clear and breezy morning. Shortly after departing we came across a flotilla of African Penguins heading out to sea, and a single dolphin was seen too briefly to get an ID. As we reached Cape Point, we spotted our first pelagic seabird: the ubiquitous White-chinned Petrel. A big bait ball turned up Sooty Shearwater and a few young Shy Albatross, diving Cape Gannet, and an abundance of terns, including Swift and Common Terns. We settled in for the haul out to the trawling grounds on quite choppy seas, stopping once for a Parasitic Jaeger harrying some terns.
In the end we were unable to find a trawler, but we came across a long-liner idling close to its fishing buoys. A few birds were milling about expectantly, with the highlight being a single, very late Pintado Petrel putting on a good show. Alan had seen this ship a few days earlier and expected them to haul up at 11 am, and lo and behold they did. As activity picked up, we added three more albatross species - Indian, Atlantic Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatross), getting good views as they fed on floating scraps. A young Southern Giant Petrel gave us a close fly-by. Both Wilson's and Black-bellied Storm-Petrel were in evidence around the oil-slick spots. Other species present included Sub-antarctic Skua, Arctic Tern and Great Shearwater in large numbers.
After a tasty lunch we turned back to shore, stopping again briefly to admire Cape Point, and then at a small Bank Cormorant colony. At least one large, downy chick was seen well. On this and nearby rocks we also had Cape, White-breasted and Crowned Cormorants. We enjoyed the pungent aroma of a nearby Cape Fur Seal colony, before heading back to harbour.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Sooty Shearwater - 5
Great Shearwater - 200
White-chinned Petrel - 100
Pintado Petrel - 1
Southern Giant Petrel - 2
Giant Petrel sp. - 1
Shy Albatross - 20
Black-browed Albatross - 5
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 4
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel - 3
Parasitic Jaeger - 1
African Penguin - 12
Arctic Tern - 2
Common Tern - 30
Swift Tern - 20
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 Seth Musker.
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