Trip Highlights: Indian Yellow-nosed, Black-browed and Shy Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Great Shearwater, Subantarctic Skua and Humpback Whales.
Cape Town Pelagics had two boats running out of Simon's Town on Saturday 13 September with Cliff Dorse and Barrie Rose the guides on board. We were soon heading out of the harbour and through False Bay, with the iconic Cape Peninsula looking spectacular in the warm early morning light.
Just before Cape Point we encountered our first White-chinned Petrels of the day amongst the Swift Terns, Cape Cormorants and Cape Gannets. Soon after, some Sooty Shearwaters flew by, the first few individuals being fleeting and not allowing good views. At about 5 miles we encountered our first Albatross, a juvenile Shy. For the next 13 miles or so we had no additional species and it was with some relief that the skipper spotted the distinctive outline of a stern trawler on the horizon. We headed in her direction and soon added Wilson's Storm Petrel and Subantarctic Skua to the day list. It was only when we were really close to the trawler that we saw our first Black-browed Albatross and Pintado Petrels. The vessel was not processing any fish, as she was still busy with her first trawl of the day. However there were lots of birds in the area and we moved slowly about inspecting some of the big rafts of birds which were in the vicinity. While doing this, we had our only Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross.
There was a second trawler about 5 miles to the south and we decided to go spend time in this vessel's wake. The idea was that the two birding boats could join whichever trawler stated to retrieve her nets first. As luck would have it, both started to bring in their nets at the same time so each boat stayed with the respective trawlers. As the net came to the surface the number of birds around us increased dramatically. While enjoying the spectacle, we carefully searched for additional species. We found a single Great Shearwater sitting on the water and enjoyed several flybys from a Northern Giant Petrel. A couple of Common and a single Arctic Tern also put in an appearance. Despite spending a good amount of time with both trawlers working carefully through the birds in attendance, we were unable to pick out any other species.
Unfortunately, we eventually had to run back towards the comfort of False Bay. A highlight was the pair of Southern Right Whales encountered about one mile from the point. The mandatory stop at the Partridge Point cormorant colony produced good views of Bank Cormorants on their nests as well as numerous Cape Cormorants.
Summary of birds seen during the trip. Numbers are rough estimates only.
Shy Albatross c. 600
Black-browed Albatross c. 150
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 1
Northern Giant Petrel 1
Giant Petrel sp. 2
Pintado Petrel c. 500
White-chinned Petrel c.1000
Sooty Shearwater c.50
Great Shearwater 1
Wilson's Storm Petrel c.800
Subantarctic Skua c.20
Arctic Tern 1
The following species were seen close to the coast:
Southern Right Whale 2
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 Cliff Dorse.
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