Trip Highlights: Three Albatross species; Antarctic Prion.
Our group met at 07:00 on Saturday morning at the Simon's Town Yacht Club before setting off on our Cape Town Pelagics trip. It was a relatively wind-free, mostly sunny day with small but frequent swells. As we set off from Simon's Town harbour, we soon began to tally up coastal seabird species such as Great Crested (Swift) Tern, Cape Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls.
Heading out to sea
As we passed Boulders beach, we encountered a smallish raft consisting of approximately 15 foraging African Penguins. A brief sighting of a Humpback Whale caused a frisson of excitement, but it dived and wasn't sighted again, therefore we started making our way further towards Cape Point where we picked up our first pelagic species in the form of three Cape Gannets.
After checking in at Cape Point, we soon started seeing good numbers of Sooty Shearwaters and a few White-chinned Petrels. We also spotted a distant Giant Petrel which was unfortunately just too far to identify at species level. The remainder of the trip to the Cape Canyon was relatively uneventful, although we encountered a couple of individual Antarctic Prions and the first Shy Albatrosses for the day.
Upon reaching the fishing grounds around the Cape Canyon no fishing vessels were located although a few more Shy Albatross made an appearance and our first Black-browed Albatross were seen in addition to several more Antarctic Prions. We decided to put out anchovy oil to tempt more seabirds to come in for close-up views. Almost immediately our bird count started picking up and in addition to increased numbers of the species already seen on the day, we were soon able to add Wilson's Storm Petrels, both Southern and Northern Giant Petrel, a few Brown Skuas, a Common Tern and a single Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross.
Northern Giant Petrel
After enjoying the birds around the boat for a couple of hours, it was time to head northwards again with a quick stop for the second Humpback Whale of the day. En route back to Simon's Town we enjoyed lunch and cold drinks in a relatively wind-sheltered spot overlooking the Cape of Good Hope National Reserve. Our last stop was at Partridge Point where we visited the Bank Cormorant colony and the Cape Fur Seal hang-out, after which we returned to the Simon's Town harbour having enjoyed a wonderful day of birding out at sea.
Cape Fur Seals
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 50-80
Black-browed Albatross - 15-20
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Southern Giant Petrel - 5
Northern Giant Petrel - 5
Sooty Shearwater - 200-300
White-chinned Petrel - 500-800
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 10
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 5
Cape Gannet - 10
Kelp Gull - 500
Hartlaub's Gull - 30-50
Common Tern - 1
Swift Tern - 20-30
Cape Cormorant - 300-500
White-breasted Cormorant - 5
Bank Cormorant - 20-30
African Penguin - 50
African Black Oystercatcher - 1
Cape Fur Seal - 150
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 David Swanepoel.
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