Trip Highlights: African Penguin, Black-browed, Shy, Indian & Altantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Manx Shearwater, Sub-Antarctic Skua, Southern & Northern Giant Petrels, African Black Oystercatcher, Common Dolphin
The 7th February was a calm morning after a week of mild southerly winds. Six keen birders gathered on the Simon's Town jetty joined tour leader, Dalton Gibbs on board the Cape Town Pelagics boat departing at 07h15. Within the confines of the harbour were the usual Kelp Gulls, Hartlaub's Gulls and Cape Cormorant. Out in False Bay we saw African Penguins feeding in the waters off Boulders Beach. The trip across False Bay was very quiet, with only a few Cape Gannet to break up the trip. At Cape Point we took some scenery photos, checked out over the radio and headed out to the deep.
Just past Cape Point were numerous Cape Cormorants and it was a while before our first White-chinned Petrel showed up. Cape Gannets, Common and Swift Terns were about at Cape Point and after awhile a few Sooty Shearwaters showed up. A large pod of Common Dolphins accompanied us for some time on our journey south, leaping from the water alongside our boat. Cory's Shearwaters started to appear and the water changed from a cool 13 deg C and green in colour to transparent blue oceanic water. At the 15 N Mile mark we spotted a long liner in the distance and headed in her direction, with a few Wilsons' Storm-petrels and our first Shy Albatross turning up en route.
We met up with the long liner at the 20 N Mile mark; she was the "Sea Hawk" and was long lining sharks. There were not large amounts of chum in the water, but we stayed with her over the next few hours, finding many Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Great Shearwater, Cory's Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, Shy Albatross, Wilson's and European Storm-Petrels. It took some time before Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and Sub-Antarctic Skua made an appearance, but we eventually got good views of all species. Toward mid-day we had a light coloured sheawater fly right past us and much clicking of the cameras happened as it appeared to be a special like Balearic Shearwater ?. Alas an examination of the photos shows that this was merely an unusually pale Manx Shearwater. We had a normal" coloured Manx Shearwater fly past a short while later which showed very contrasting black and white and merely served to heighten our excitement.
Just after midday we spotted a trawler in the distance and decided to head toward her. She was a side trawler and although heading home she was still dropping some discards over the side. We couldn't stay with her long, but soon found both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels that had eluded us thus far. With the trawler heading for home and the conditions calm, we decided to have lunch out at sea. A bit of fish oil was spread on the water and we soon had several species fly around us whilst having lunch.
We headed back for land with a light wind behind us. Just short of Cape Point we found an Atlantic Blue Shark on the water surface and had it swim nearby several times. Once we entered False Bay we travelled along the sea cliffs and then toward the Castle Rock cormorant colony. Here we found White-breasted, Cape Cormorants, and Bank Cormorants, whilst the adjacent rocks held two African Black Oystercatchers. Cape Fur Seals lounged on the nearby rocks whilst back in Simon's Town harbour we found a pair of Crowned Cormorants.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Swift Tern - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Kelp Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant - coastal - 2
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal - 8
African Penguin - 20 - coastal
African Black Oystercatcher - coastal - 2
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 20
White-chinned Petrel - 120
Southern Giant Petrel - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 40
European Storm-Petrel - 10
Sooty Shearwater - 40
Great Shearwater - 10
Cory's Shearwater - 120
Manx Shearwater - 2
Shy Albatross - 30
Black-browed Albatross - 20
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 4
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 10
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 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 Dalton Gibbs.
To book, simply email
or phone us, or submit a
booking enquiry online.