Trip Highlights: Three Albatross species; Antarctic Prion, Manx Shearwater.
Our group met at 07:00 on Sunday morning at the Simon's Town Yacht Club before setting off on our pelagic tour. It was a relatively wind-free, mostly cloudy day and False Bay was as flat as a lake. After we set off from Simon's Town harbour towards Cape Point, we soon began to tally up coastal seabird species such as Great Crested (Swift) Tern, Cape Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls.
Whilst checking in at Cape Point, we encountered large numbers of Cape Cormorants, Great Crested (Swift) Tern and a few Common Terns and soon afterwards started seeing our first true pelagic species in the form of White-chinned Petrels and Cape Gannets. A single Northern Giant Petrel flew past, and a Bryde's Whale put in a brief appearance shortly afterwards. 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 handful of Shy Albatross for the day.
Upon reaching the fishing grounds around the Cape Canyon no fishing vessels were found to be present although, in addition to a steady flow of species already seen at that point, our first Black-browed Albatross and a few Wilson's Storm Petrels were added to the day list.
Although the automatic identification system (AIS) couldn't pick up any fishing boats, we eventually spotted a distant trawler and headed in its direction. Unfortunately, it wasn't actively fishing and therefore not followed by the usual assemblage of pelagic bird species. Both bird numbers and bird species did, however, pick up and we added Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Sabines Gull, Brown Skua and our bird of the day, Manx Shearwater.
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. We returned to the Simon's Town harbour after a wonderful day of birding out at sea, and where we were met by two small Humpback Whales!
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 50-80
Black-browed Albatross - 8-10
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 5
Cape Petrel - 5
Antarctic Prion - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 500-800
Sooty Shearwater - 2
Manx Shearwater - 1
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 30-50
Cape Gannet - 300
Brown Skua - 2
Sabine's Gull - 5
Arctic Tern - 1
Hartlaub's Gull - 10
Kelp Gull - 300
African Oystercatcher - 5
White-breasted Cormorant - 10
Bank Cormorant 20 - 30
Crowned Cormorant - 10
Cape Cormorant - 800
African Penguin - 50
Great Crested Tern - 100 - 200
Common Tern - 50
Egyptian Goose - 5
Cape Fur Seal - 150
Humpback Whale - 2
Bryde's Whale - 1
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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