Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


  Trip Reports - Trip report for 23 September 2005





A Cape Town Pelagics trip left from Simons Town on Friday morning, 23 September. Bad weather had prevented our departure on Thursday, and although the predictions were for mild seas and light winds, the bay that greeted us was fairly choppy. The seas at cape Point were very lumpy, and after half an hour of very slow progress, we were still unsure if it would be worth our while persevering. Skipper Dave Christie suggested that things would improve in the deeper water, and indeed they did. The only ARCTIC SKUA of the trip gave great views and shortly thereafter a single Common Dolphin shot past in our wake – the only cetacean for the trip. Before too long we were moving at almost 20 kn, and at around 20 nm off Cape Point we sighted a couple of trawlers. On the way we had great views of no less than 5 Soft-plumaged Petrels. By the time we got to the trawlers the winds had dropped as predicted, and the seas became almost calm and absolutely stunning.

The trawler had an insane attendance, and before long we had picked up all the “regular” pelagic species. Then a white-backed albatross came in close, and it turned out to be a NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS. A few minutes later, another came past, possibly the same individual. Amidst the thousands of Pintado Petrels we were able to pick up at least two SOUTHERN FULMARS. After trailing in the wake of the trawler for a good long time, we decided to investigate some longliners nearby. On the way a BLACK-BELLIED STORM PETREL was seen, albeit briefly, as well as excellent views of a juvenile WANDERING ALBATROSS, which was sitting on the water with a couple of Shy Albatrosses and gave superb views. Another NORTHERN ROYAL was again seen flying past at pace. The numbers and diversity of birds behind the longliners were low, but a GREAT-WINGED PETREL proved more than adequate compensation! While lingering some distance behind the longliners, we had our unprecedented THIRD AND FOURTH NORTHERN ROYALS fly past, simultaneously, and giving such excellent views we could make out the black cutting edge on one of the bird’s bills! On the way home we stopped off at another trawler that was hauling its nets and enjoyed the spectacle of clouds of birds going frantic. The trip’s only Great Shearwater was seen, as well as a second BLACK-BELLIED STORMIE. Although it had been a long day, we struggled to leave the working ships when the going was so good. Our earlier perseverance in the face of roughish seas had paid handsome dividends, and we returned to Simons town elated after a magnificent day on the water , with 6 albatross species, including at least 4 Northern Royal Albatrosses, and a bunch of other specials, and a total of 18 pelagic species for the day!



  Pelagic birds seen and approximate numbers



Northern Royal Albatross 4
Wandering Albatross 1
Shy Albatross 1000 +
Black-browed Albatross 1000 +
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 10
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Alb. 5
Northern Giant Petrel 10
Southern Giant Petrel 10
Giant Petrel sp 10
White-chinned Petrel 1000 +
Pintado Petrel 1000 + Soft-plumaged Petrel 6
Great-winged Petrel 1
Great Shearwater 1
Sooty Shearwater 100
Wilson's Storm Petrel 300
Black-bellied Storm Petrel 2
Subantarctic Skua 20
Arctic Skua 1

  Cetacean sightings

Common Dolphin 1


Thanks to Dave Christie, the skipper, for helping make another great Cape Town Pelagics trip