Trip Highlights: Four species of albatrosses, Cory's Shearwater, Sabine's Gull, Cape (Pintado) Petrel, Wilson's and European Storm Petrels.
We departed from Simon's Town harbour on the cool morning of Sunday 22 November, picking up several coastal species like Cape, White-breasted and Crowned Cormorants, Hartlaub's and Kelp Gulls, Great Crested and Sandwich Terns, and African Oystercatcher on the way out.
The trip down to Cape Point was a bit bumpy so we hugged the coast until the last minute. The seas around the point were very choppy and the sky was surprisingly quiet apart from a single distant Giant Petrel and a few Cape Gannets.
As we pushed out into deeper water, the rough conditions subsided and we had a smooth ride for the rest of the day. After passing the first White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters, we had a massive adult Humpback Whale breach close to the boat. This animal and a much smaller individual were very confiding and we watched them perform a few more jumps as well as some bouts of noisy pectoral / flipper-slapping.
As we pushed further out we picked up our first Cory's Shearwaters, and well as a Parasitic Jaeger. On the radio we received news of a distant longliner, and set a course to meet up with her. On our arrival at mid-morning, we quickly picked up decent numbers of Shy Albatrosses. Other immediate highlights were the close views of both Wilson's and European Storm Petrels.
As the vessel began to lift its lines and process its catch, both the number and diversity of birds quickly increased. Amongst the species drawn in, we had the following additions to the trip list: Black-browed, Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, Cape/Pintado Petrels, Sabine's Gulls, Arctic Tern and Brown Skuas. With a longish trip back to the coast we turned back at midday, making a few stops to investigate some larger concentrations of feeding birds.
Passing Cape Point we had good views of a few large flying fish breaking the surface and making some impressive glides!
After an excellent lunch under the cliffs at Cape Point, we headed back to port with a quick stop at the Bank Cormorant colony at Partridge Point. The last notable sighting was of a group of African Penguins resting on the surface near the entrance to the S.A. Navy yard.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 12
Black-browed Albatross - 4
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 10
Giant-petrel spp - 2
Sooty Shearwater - 150
White-chinned Petrel - 150
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 2
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 30
European Storm Petrel - 20
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 4
Parasitic Jaeger - 3
Arctic Tern - 1
African Penguin - 8
Cape Gannet - Common (coastal and pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - common
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 6
Bank Cormorant - 22 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common (coastal and pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - common
Great Crested Tern - common
Common Tern - common
Sandwich Tern - common
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 1
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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