Trip Highlights: 5 Albatross species including a Wandering Albatross, Soft-plumaged Giant Petrels and Southern Giant Petrels.
Some strong winds were predicted for the Saturday morning so the decision was taken to run the pelagic trip on Sunday instead. This proved to be an excellent decision as the conditions on Saturday were indeed not great for pelagic birding. However, as we boarded our boat, we were surprised by some unpredicted strong wind which appeared out of nowhere. Luckily it was very short-lived and after a few miles we were again enjoying nice calm conditions. We had to negotiate a second such windy patch at around Smitswinkelbaai after which we enjoyed almost windless conditions for the rest of the day.
False Bay was rather quiet from a birding perspective, but the incredible scenery kept all on board entertained. It was only after passing Cape Point that we encountered our first White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters of the day. This was soon followed by the first few Shy Albatross of the day. Although there was a fairly large swell running there was very little wind and the journey to the deep was relatively comfortable. In the almost windless conditions approximately 8 to 16 miles from Cape Point and somewhat unexpected we encountered four Soft-plumaged Petrels. At about 20 miles we passed through a large raft of birds roosting on the water. The majority were White-chinned Petrels but we also added our first Pintado Petrel, Wilson's Storm Petrel and Black-browed Albatross.
We could still not make out any fishing vessels in the distance but some expert work from our skipper, aided by some of his connections, gave us the possible position of a long liner which had been operating in the vicinity. We headed in that direction and were soon rewarded with a long liner which was busy retrieving its lines. There were a good number of birds about and we had great views of Subantarctic Skua, Southern Giant Petrel and both Indian and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. We also noticed a long liner operating to the north of our position and we decided to pay her a visit.
This boat had a far larger number of birds in attendance and as we approached a very large Albatross was seen sitting on the water. As we came nearer we could soon tell that it was a beautiful Wandering Albatross. We closed in cautiously hoping not to disturb the majestic bird. It worked and we were soon only a few meters from this iconic animal. We spent quite a bit of time with the bird before we moved off to enjoy some of the other birds in the vicinity. After spending some time working through the birds in the area we decided to have our lunch out in the deep. During lunch we were entertained with great views of most of the species mentioned above. The presence of a single Swift Tern at 27 Miles was significant as these coastal species very seldom visits the trawling grounds.
Unfortunately we were running out of time and we had to start heading home. Just inside Cape Point we made out the small but distinctive shape of a Peregrine Falcon conducting aerial manoeuvres near the upper lighthouse.
The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of Bank, Cape and White-breasted 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: 1
Shy Albatross: c.50
Black-browed Albatross: c.25
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross: 5
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross: 3
Pintado Petrel: c.50
White-chinned Petrel: c.250
Southern Giant Petrel: 5
Soft-plumaged Petrel: 4
Sooty Shearwater: c.200
Wilson's Storm Petrel: c.20
Subantarctic Skua: c.20
The following species were common close to the coast:
Cape Fur Seal: Common
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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