Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


  Trip Reports - Trip report for 21 May 2006




- 4 FIRSTS of the season
- First Pintados and prions of the season
- 1 Wandering Albatross
- 1 Royal Albatross

After some viscious storms and a run of very bad luck, the weather finally
eased enough to venture on the first Cape Town Pelagics trip in 2 months! The trip was led by Ross Wanless and assisted by Patrick Cardwell and departed Simon's Town on Sunday 21 May 2006. We left with reports of a very heavy sea, although the bay was relatively calm and treated us to a spectacular display as thousands of Cape Cormorants flew in (somewhat broken) formation past us on their way to the point. We picked up our first Sooty Shearwater inside the bay, but soon found thousands more beyond the point. The seas were pretty rough at Cape Point, but skippers further out assured us that the conditions were ameliorating in the deep, so we pressed on. The amount of birdlife all the way out was really impressive, indicating that winter has indeed arrived, with the concomitant increase in the numbers of Southern Ocean species. The first species of real interest was two very late European Storm-Petrels. We were also treated to a close inspection by a very accommodating ANTARCTIC PRION, the first record for this season!

As we neared the only trawler in the vicinity we picked up the first PINTADO PETREL of the season, much to the delight of everyone. We noticed a long slick of birds that was stretching out behind the trawler, which was towing her nets and consequently had few birds around her. We headed towards the rafts of albatrosses and petrels and were able to get excellent views of all the regular species. A shout of "What's that?" had everyone going: it turned out to be the first WANDERING ALBATROSS of the year! It was a stage 2 juvenile, and we ended up with fabulous views of it as it repeatedly joined other birds and sat on the water feeding, allow close views and excellent photo-ops! While we were enjoying that, Patrick noticed another huge albatross zooming past - close enough to see a black cutting edge (although he only told me this after making us sweat for an ID). Although it didn't hang around, we were able to see that it had no white on the wings and no black on the head or tail - making it a clincher for the first NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS of the year! We were able to stay long enough to enjoy the spectacle as the nets were hauled, and we soon found ourselves in the midst of thousands of seabirds all urgently circling, plunging and squabbling for the spoils.

We missed out on possible Black-bellied Storm-Petrels, and besides the two very late Europeans stormies, there was no sign of any of the northern hemisphere migrants - perhaps they had been given the final push they needed to leave with the strong southerly winds of the preceeding few days? Whatever, we were not sorry for the winds which brought in such fabulous southern species. Bring on the winter!!!



  Pelagic birds seen and approximate numbers



Wandering Albatross 1
Northern Royal Albatross 1
Shy Albatross 500
Black-browed Albatross 200
Indian Yellow-nosed Alb 15
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Alb 1
Yellow-nosed Alb juveniles 1
Southern Giant Petrel sp. 3
Northern Giant Petrel 3
Giant Petrel sp. 3
White-chinned Petrel 500
Pintado Petrel 10
Antarctic Prion 10
Great Shearwater 50
Sooty Shearwater 50
Wilson's Storm Petrel 100
European Storm Petrel 2
Southern Skua 10

  Coastal species seen



African Penguin
Cape Gannet
Kelp Gull
Hartlaub's Gull
Swift Tern
White breasted Cormorant
Bank Cormorant
Cape Cormorant
Crowned Cormorant


Thanks to Patrick Cardwell and Chris and Monique Fallows for helping make such an enjoyable trip!