Trip Highlights: 4 albatross species, Southern & Northern Giant Petrels, Great Shearwater, Subantarctic Skua, Humpback and Southern Right Whales
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
We departed on one of two Cape Town Pelagics boats running out of Simon's Town that morning in perfect conditions. High winds were predicted for the afternoon so we wanted to get to trawling grounds as soon as possible.
The run out to Cape Point yielded the expected variety of coastal seabirds including Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls, Swift Terns, White-breasted and Cape Cormorants. African Penguins were visible onshore at Boulders.We sighted a pair of Southern Right Whales playing in the shallows near the point.
Soon after turning south-west towards the open ocean we sighted our first pelagic species: White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters.
The run out to the Cape Canyon delivered four species of Albatross: Shy, Black-browed, Indian Yellow-nosed and Atlantic Yellow-nosed.
Unfortunately, the trawlers were working beyond our range, so we chummed at the 25 nautical mile mark. The activity attracted a variety of additional species including Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Pintado Petrels, both Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Sub-Antarctic Skuas and two early Great Shearwaters. The predicted strong winds began at noon, and we made for port. The trip back held as much excitement as the chumming. We crossed the path of a trawler returning to port with hundreds of pelagic seabirds in tow. This allowed everyone to get a feel for the spectacle that makes local pelagics a global must see.
Closer to Cape Point, we sighted a mass of Cape Gannets plunge-diving for bait fish alongside the boat. The vast numbers of fish also attracted a spectacular pod of Long-beaked Common Dolphins. These dolphins entertained us by following our boat for several minutes, and playing in our wake. To crown the excitement, a pair of Humpback Whales surfaced close to the boat as we rounded the point. A further trio of Humpbacks greeted us in the calm of False Bay.
We visited Castle Rock at Partridge Point. The outcrop was a hive of activity with at least 15 breeding pairs of Bank Cormorants. The small Cape Fur Seal colony was equally busy.
The strong north-westerly winds allowed us to spot two "honorary" seabirds. A Rock Kestrel and Rock Martin were both blown some distance out into the bay, and were battling to reach the shore.
In Simon's Town Harbour, we located an unused yacht with several Crowned Cormorants. A pair of African Black Oystercatchers were feeding on the floats near the yacht basin.
African Penguin - onshore at Boulders
Shy Albatross - 20-30
Black-browed Albatross - 5-10
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Northern Giant Petrel -2
Giant Petrel spp - 1
Pintado Petrel -75-100
White-chinned Petrel - 150-200
Sooty Shearwater - 5-10
Great Shearwater - 2
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 25-50
Cape Gannet - common coastal
White-breasted Cormorant - common coastal
Cape Cormorant - common coastal
Crowned Cormorant - common coastal
Bank Cormorant - 15 breeding pairs
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 10-15
Kelp Gull - common coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - common coastal
Swift Tern - common coastal
Rock Kestrel - 1
Rock Martin -1
African Black Oystercatchers -2
Cape Fur Seal - common coastal
Long-beaked Common Dolphins - 30-50+
Southern Right Whales - 2
Humpback Whales - 5
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 Vincent Ward.
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