Trip Highlights: Northern and Southern Giant Petrel
On Friday morning a group of birders departed Simonstown harbour at 07h30 aboard a Cape Town Pelagics trip destined for the trawling grounds beyond Cape Point.
After the first high pressure of the season had passed by the peninsula we left Simonstown with the expectation of light winds and little swell. We were not disappointed and the trip to the Point was calm and pleasant. A short stop provided great views of a pair of Humpbacked Whales playing with a small raft of floating kelp. A Subantarctic Skua and a single White-chinned Petrel were the only pelagic birds seen.
Once outside Cape Point we were able to make good time across a fairly calm sea. Birds were in low numbers as a result of the south-east wind of the previous few days. We did however see numbers of Sooty Shearwaters and more White-chinned Petrels. Within in the first 5 miles we added Shy Albatross and Great Shearwater to the list. We were grateful for the good weather as the trip into the south-west proved to be a long one. We eventually saw and caught up to the hake trawler ‘Maria Marine’ at 33 miles. We arrived alongside as the ‘Maria’ hauled a 4 ton bag of hake aboard. Being the only fishing vessel in the area there was a substantial flock competing for the scraps. The flock was made up of at least 1500 Pintado Petrels, good numbers of whitechins as well as Black-browed and Shy Albatrosses. A good flock of Cape Gannets provided a diving spectacle as the net was hauled aboard. Although the vessel steamed south and out of our range we were able to spend a couple of hours in the melee at the point where the net was hauled. We added Southern Giant Petrel, more Great Shearwaters, Wilson’s Storm Petrel and had great views of Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, which have been elusive over the past few weeks.
The long trip back to Cape Point was interrupted at 25mls when a small school of Common Dolphins paid us a brief visit. Soon after that another Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross made a close pass. Closer to Cape Point a distant Humpbacked Whale made a single breach.
Lunch was enjoyed inside Cape Point before stopping at Partridge Point to take in the Bank Cormorant colony and Cape Fur Seal roost and heading back to Simonstown.
Shy Albatross – 200+
Black-browed Albatross – 250+
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Southern Giant Petrel – 4
Northern Giant Petrel – 1
White-chinned Petrel – ca 1000
Pintado Petrel – 1500+
Sooty Shearwater – 200+
Great Shearwater – 20
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 150+
Subantarctic Skua – 6
Cape Gannet – 200
Swift Tern – coastal and to 8mls
Kelp Gull – 25 and coastal
Cape Cormorant coastal and to 5mls
White-breasted Cormorant – coastal
Bank Cormorant – coastal
African Penguin – coastal
Humpbacked Whale – 4
Common Dolphin – 6
Cape Fur Seal – 100+
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 Barrie Rose.
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