Highlights: Soft-plumaged Petrel and Black-bellied Storm Petrel, Southern Right Whales and breaching Humpbacked Whales!
Friday morning saw a group of serious French birders boarding a Cape Town Pelagics trip which departed from Simon’s Town at 07h30. We were soon running through the scenic False Bay while being entertained by the usual coastal species and the spectacular scenery. Just before Cape Point, we encountered a few Southern Right Whales, one of which was particularly friendly and treated us with great views.
Shortly after the point we saw our first White-chinned Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters and a single Southern Giant Petrel. Before the Bellow’s we came across a Humpback Whale which was repeatedly breaching – about two thirds of the massive animal clearing the water each time! We saw five breaches to the awe of all on board. After the Bellows we encountered our first Shy Albatross and Great Shearwaters of the day. We continued out towards the trawling grounds and added a Sub-antarctic Skua, Wilson’s Storm Petrel and another Humpback Whale.
At about 24 miles from Cape Point there was still no sign of any fishing vessels on the horizon or on the radar. We decided to try a bit of chumming. The mashed up bait fish and anchovy oil was very effective and we soon had good numbers of birds behind the boat. All the bird species encountered earlier came into the chum slick as well as Pintado Petrel, Black-browed Albatross and a single Northern Giant Petrel in amongst the more numerous Southern Giant Petrels. We were also rewarded with a single Soft-plumaged Petrel and three individual Black-bellied Storm Petrels.
After a good lunch in the deep we had to head for shore. On the way back we made a detour to intercept a tuna pole boat steaming from the south. While the vessel was not fishing, there were still a few birds in tow, including a single Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. The mandatory stop at the cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants.
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.
Shy Albatross c. 80
Black-browed Albatross 5
Southern Giant Petrel 4
Northern Giant Petrel 1
Pintado Petrel c. 20
White-chinned Petrel c. 200
Soft-plumaged Petrel c. 1
Sooty Shearwater c. 30
Great Shearwater 10
Wilson’s Storm Petrel 50
Black-bellied Storm Petrel 3
Subantarctic Skua 5
Arctic Tern 2
The following species were encountered close to the coast:
African Black Oyster-catcher
Cape Fur Seal
Humpback Whale 3
Southern Right Whale 3
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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