Trip Highlights: Six Albatross species including both Southern and Northern Royals, Black-bellied Storm-Petrel.
Our little private group met at 07:00 on Friday morning at the Simon's Town Yacht Club before setting off on our pelagic tour. It was a relatively wind-free, partly cloudy day with small, but frequent swells. After 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.
Soon after checking in at Cape Point, we encountered our first proper pelagic species in the form of Cape Gannets and White-chinned Petrels as well as hundreds of Common Terns and good numbers of Great Crested (Swift) Tern. An old, very pale Northern Giant Petrel also put in an appearance here. The remainder of the trip to the Cape Canyon was relatively uneventful, although we steadily encountered small groups of Cape Gannets and White-chinned Petrels in addition to our first Shy Albatross for the day.
Upon reaching the fishing grounds around the Cape Canyon, the automatic identification system (AIS) indicated that no fishing vessels were present in our vicinity. We decided to put out anchovy oil to tempt more seabirds in the area to come in for close-up views - this soon resulted in bird numbers around our vessel increasing tenfold. Then suddenly, after what felt like about an hour, a trawler popped up on our radar, approximately six miles further. We made a beeline across and as we drew closer bird numbers increased and we started seeing more species.
The first new bird en route to the fishing vessel was Black-bellied Storm Petrel, followed by an Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. We then found, at first one, then two, then hundreds of Wilson's Storm Petrels, followed by the first of a few hundred Cape Petrels. Brief views of a passing Northern Royal Albatross caused excitement, after which we added a few more Northern Giant Petrels, a single Southern Giant Petrel, a handful of Sabine's Gulls, a couple of Brown Skuas and an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. The exhilaration was not over yet, because our sixth Albatross species of the day, namely Southern Royal Albatross put in an appearance in order to treat us to short but delightful views.
After enjoying the birds around the boat for a couple of hours, it was time to head northwards again. 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 Park. 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 fantastic day of birding at sea.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Southern Royal Albatross - 1
Northern Royal Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross - 200-300
Black-browed Albatross - 20-50
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Northern Giant Petrel - 30-50
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Cape Petrel - 300-500
White-chinned Petrel - 800-1200
Sooty Shearwater - 5
Black-bellied Storm Petrel - 5
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 300-500
Cape Gannet - 50-80
Brown Skua - 5
Sabine's Gull - 10
Arctic Tern - 1
Hartlaub's Gull - 10
Kelp Gull - 300
African Oystercatcher - 5
White-breasted Cormorant - 3
Bank Cormorant - 20-30
Crowned Cormorant - 20
Cape Cormorant - 300-500
African Penguin - 50
Great Crested Tern - 100-200
Common Tern - 200-300
Cape Fur Seal - 150
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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