Trip Highlights: Salvin's Albatross, Cape (Pintado) Petrel, Antarctic Prion.
We headed out of the quiet port of Simon's Town and into the open expanse of False Bay. As we passed Boulders beach, we picked up African Penguins heading out to sea. The remainder of the trip was dominated by resident coastal species like Cape and White-breasted Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls, Cape Gannets and Great Crested Terns.
As we approached Cape Point we picked up our first true pelagics, in the form of White-chinned Petrel and Sooty Shearwaters. As we moved offshore and into deeper waters, we picked up our first Shy Albatrosses.
We received news of a trawler operating 18 nautical miles offshore and we headed out to intercept it. On arrival we were struck by the huge volumes of Black-browed Albatrosses. The number of birds was conservatively estimated at least a 1000 birds. They were joined by an excellent variety of species including Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Cape (Pintado) Petrel, Wilsons/s Storm Petrel, Antarctic Prion and Brown Skua.
Everyone on board was treated to the spectacle of these massed seabirds clamouring to get a free meal as the trawler pulled up it's net. As we worked our way through the rafts of thousands of seabirds, a single Salvin's Albatross was picked up competing with other albatrosses for scraps. Frustratingly, it took off as we tried to close the distance on this highly sought-after bird.
With the morning slipping away we returned to the coast and stopped below the towering cliffs at Cape Point to enjoy a light lunch. As usual we finishes the trip with a stop at the Partridge Point Bank Cormorant colony. Here, we managed to pick up all four species of marine cormorant - Cape, Bank, White-breasted and Crowned Cormorant. The lower-lying rocks held a few foraging African Oystercatchers. The nearby Cape Fur Seal haul-out was packed with several dozen animals warming themselves in the winter sun. Our return leg, took us back past Boulders Beach, with a few more penguins picked up on the surface, before we docked back in port.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 50
Salvin's Albatross - 1 (not photographed)
Black-browed Albatross - 1000
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 5
Sooty Shearwater - 300
White-chinned Petrel - 100
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 500
Antarctic Prion - 500
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 50
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 15
African Penguin - 15
Cape Gannet - Common
White-breasted Cormorant - 19 breeding pairs
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 12
Bank Cormorant - 5 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common
Hartlaub's Gull - common
Great Crested Tern - common
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 4
Cape Fur Seal - abundant
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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