Trip Highlights: Humpback Whale, Sooty Shearwater, Subantarctic Skua, Indian Yellow-nosed and Shy Albatross. An unexpected pair of Cape Clawless Otters!
Cape Clawless Otter
The sunrise on the 31st August was greeted by light southerly winds after the preceding night which had been quite blustery in Simon's Town. Six birders boarded one of two Cape Town Pelagic boats with Dalton Gibbs the tour leader on board. We set out from Simon's Town harbour, passing the usual Kelp Gulls and Hartlaub's Gulls, with lines of Cape Cormorant on the harbour buoy lines. A small group of African Penguins were hunting in the waters near Boulders, whilst Humpback Whales greeted us further out. The trip across False Bay was against a southerly swell and was quiet, with only a few Swift Terns and Cape Gannet. At Cape Point we took in the early morning view and checked in over the radio.
We continued out in these conditions for some time but eventually at the 11 N Mile mark we decided, together with the other Cape Town Pelagics boat that was travelling with us, to lay down some fish oil in the water to attract more birds. The oil quickly brought in Shy Albatross, White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater and an Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross that circled us several times in the hope of some easy pickings.
Given the unexpected windy conditions we reluctantly had to head back toward land, picking up a Sub-Antarctic Skua that flew with us for a while. Back in False Bay we worked through the cormorants along the rocks below the cliffs at Cape Point. We stopped for lunch and had a surprise visit from two Cape Clawless Otters that swam up to our boat, circled us several times and then disappeared in the kelp beds!
After lunch we crossed the Bay to see the Castle Rock cormorant colony, where we found White-breasted, Cape Cormorants and Bank Cormorants, whilst the adjacent rocks held Cape Fur Seals in different age classes. Back on to Simon's Town harbour where we picked up a Crowned Cormorant on a moored boat to complete this group for the day.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Swift Tern - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Cape Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant - 3 - coastal
African Penguin - 10 - coastal
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 70
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 40
Sooty Shearwater - 40
Shy Albatross - 12
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Cape Fur Seal
Humpback Whale - 4
Cape Clawless Otter - 2
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 Dalton Gibbs.
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