Trip Highlights: 5 Wandering Albatross and Southern Royal Albatross
A group of excited birders gathered at Hout Bay Harbour for yet another one of Cape Town Pelagics famous trips, with Cape Town Pelagic guide Cliff Dorse. Recent information had led us to believe that there were very few trawlers operating in the trawling grounds within striking distance of the peninsula. As such we were prepared with good quantities of chum and fish oil.
We set off from Hout Bay and encountered rather bumpy conditions. Besides all the normal coastal species we had good numbers of Antarctic Terns as we left Hout Bay. We had a few unidentifiable Giant Petrels and soon added our first White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters of the day. As we continued out towards the deep we added Shy Albatross and Wilson’s Storm Petrel.
After some time, we arrived at the trawling grounds but could not make out any sign of any fishing vessels. The radar was also not giving us any hope of locating a trawler or long-liner. Our skipper then got to work preparing a delightful mix of sardines, water and fish oil. His dedication was very impressive and he used his hands and boots to mulch up the ingredients into an appetizing chum. As we drifted, he slowly poured buckets of the chum overboard. The results were almost immediate with all the birds mentioned above coming in to partake in the feast. We also added Great Shearwater, Black-browed Albatross, Pintado Petrel and a single Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. Our chum also caught that attention of a Mako Shark which came to investigate the possibility of an easy meal.
Unexpectedly, we made out the distinctive outline of a stern trawler to the west of us. We soon packed in the chumming and were off in pursuit. Our timing was perfect as while the vessel was busy trawling it was obviously busy processing the catch from the morning trawl. As such there were literally clouds of birds in attendance. We were still coming to terms with the sheer numbers of birds when a very large albatross was seen sitting on the water. It allowed very close approach as it competed for scraps with the smaller birds in attendance. The close views allowed us to see the distinctive black cutting edge to the bill; a Southern Royal Albatross! We were still getting to grips with this when the next call of “white-backed albatross” rang through the air. This time it was a Wandering Albatross. In the end we had no fewer than five individual Wandering Albatross in various plumages. Many individuals sat feeding on the water, allowing for great views! We also added both Southern and Northern Giant Petrel and encountered an additional two Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. We spent a great deal of time working through the remarkable spectacle before having to turn and head back towards Hout Bay.
The trip back was uneventful except for two Arctic Jaegers which gave poor views. Within the harbor we had great views of Cape Fur Seal as well as Crowned, White-breasted and Cape Cormorant.
The following is a list of the species seen during the course of the day. The numbers reflected can be considered as rough estimations only.
Wandering Albatross 5
Southern Royal Albatross 1
Shy Albatross c. 300
Black-browed Albatross c. 250
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 3
Southern Giant Petrel c. 10
Northern Giant Petrel 5
Giant Petrel species c. 10
Pintado Petrel c. 2000
White-chinned Petrel c. 400
Sooty Shearwater c. 40
Great Shearwater 3
Wilson’s Storm Petrel c. 100
Subantarctic Skua 4
The following species were encountered close to the coast:
African Black Oyster-catcher
Cape Fur Seal
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 Cliff Dorse.
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