Trip Highlights: Atlantic & Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Southern & Northern Giant Petrels, Pomarine Jaeger and 1000's of Sabine's Gulls
We departed Hout Bay harbour with a close eye on an approaching weather system. The poor weather prior to, and expected after, this trip meant that no large fishing vessels were operating close to the coastline. But the Atlantic Ocean did not disappoint.
Within Hout Bay itself, we began our day with several of the common coastal seabird species: White-breasted, Cape and Crowned Cormorants; Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls and Sandwich and Swift Terns.
Just beyond Hout Bay, we spotted our first pelagic species: White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters. A little further on, the first of the day's Shy Albatross were sighted. Cape Gannets and Common Terns were a common feature as well. The terns attracted a juvenile Pomarine Jaeger.
On arriving at the Benguela current line, we encountered several thousand Sabine's Gulls and Cory's Shearwaters. The number of Sabine's Gulls was staggering and represented a substantial proportion of the local over-summering population. As we ventured into more productive waters, the numbers of seabirds increased, with several very dense patches. Bait fish and predatory Yellowtail were visible below the ocean's surface.
On arriving at a particularly dense patch of birds, we stopped and began to chum. This drew in plenty of White-chinned Petrels and Kelp Gulls. The melee acted as a beacon to more exciting species. We had several Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross feeding next to the boat. We also had a few very close approaches by Northern Giant Petrels, Sub-antarctic Skuas and more Shy Albatross.
After a while, we moved off to a new patch of birds further south and added Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross to the day's list.
Our final search for birds yielded a Southern Giant Petrel, a Great Shearwater and an Arctic Tern.
The expected weather system was visible and fast approaching so we turned back to Hout Bay. The return trip was fortunately in a lull in the wind and we made good time in moderate seas. As we approached the entrance to the bay, the swell size started to increase.
These large swells meant that it was not possible to get close to the seal colony. So Bank Cormorant was not added to the day's list. As a conciliation, we got to see both Dusky and Heaviside's Dolphins. The Heaviside's made a few close approaches to the boat and spent a good few minutes jumping and playing in the boat's wake.
Seabird Species List
Cape Gannet - 100-150
Cape Cormorant - common coastal
Crowned Cormorant - common coastal
White-breasted Cormorant - common coastal
Shy Albatross - 10-15
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 7-10
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Southern Giant Petrel -1
White-chinned Petrel -150-200
Sooty Shearwater 5-10
Great Shearwater - 1
Cory's Shearwater - 1000-1500
Sub-antarctic/Brown Skua - 3-5
Pomarine Jaeger - 1
Kelp Gull - common coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - common coastal
Sabine's Gull - 1000-1500
Sandwich Tern - 5-10
Swift Tern - common coastal
Common Tern - 100-150
Arctic Tern - 1
Dusky Dolphin -3
Heaviside's Dolphin - 6
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 Vince Ward.
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