Trip Highlights: several Humpback Whales breaching next to our boat! 4 albatross species, Southern & Northern Giant Petrels, Antarctic Prion and Subantarctic Skua.
On Sunday morning with a light breeze at Simon's Town harbour, six keen birders gathered to go out to sea with Cape Town Pelagics guide, Dalton Gibbs. We left in the early morning light, with the usual Kelp Gulls, Hartlaub's Gulls and Cape Cormorant in the harbour. We saw African Penguins forming up on the beach at Boulders ready to head out into False Bay and a few Cape Gannet and Cape Cormorants as we headed toward Cape Point. At the Point we took some scenery photos in the stunning early morning light and checked out over the radio before heading out into the deep.
We found our first White-chinned Petrels just past Cape Point which were soon joined by a few Swift Terns. Sooty Shearwaters appeared a bit further out as we passed the white waters of Bellow's Rock. A cry went up of "whale" and then "Humpback Whale" as the unmistakable shape of their pectoral fins rose up to slap on the water. Two of the beasts fed near us, slapping the water with their fins and then launching themselves out of the sea to crash down in a mass of white water. Another fed some distance off, creating huge waves which rivalled those in the choppy sea. These amazing creatures moved on past us and we continued our journey out to the deep; finding our first Shy Albatross soon thereafter.
Our journey to the 20 N mile mark was quiet, interrupted only by a Bryde's Whale that we chanced upon; it soon sounded before we could get a good look at it and was gone into the depths. A few Wilson's Storm-petrels appeared as we headed toward a report of fishing vessels. These turned out to be a collection of a dozen pole fishing tuna boats which were unfortunately not processing fish and as a result had few birds around them. We never-the-less soon picked up fair numbers of Black-browed Albatross, Pintado Petrel, Antarctic Prion and a few Sub-Antarctic Skua.
The birds were slow in coming so we put a bit of fish oil in the water which did not produce too much and it was a while before we found an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and a Northern Giant Petrel. A few Cape Gannet, Antarctic Terns and the other six pelagic bird species were around our boat from time to time as we decided to have lunch after midday before heading back to land. Once we had finished eating and pointed our boat toward land we noticed a trawler in the distance and headed over toward her. She was the "Levian" and was dragging a trawl net but more importantly was processing her last catch, which meant plenty of birds behind her!
No sooner had we reached the trawler than we picked up Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, followed soon after by Southern Giant Petrel. There were a few hundred birds behind the trawler and we had good views of all twelve pelagic bird species we had seen during the day. Numerous Cape Gannets completed the scene of feeding frenzies behind the trawler. The day was getting on and had to sadly leave for land, making good time with the wind and swell behind us on the way in.
Once back in False Bay we travelled to the Castle Rock cormorant colony. Here we found White-breasted, Cape Cormorants, and Bank Cormorants, whilst the adjacent rocks held two Crowned Cormorants. Back in Simon's Town Harbour we found a lone Black Oystercatcher, completing the day in seeing all the Bengula current endemic species as well as several fine pelagic birds.
See all Dalton's Humpback Whale photos IN THIS ALBUM
on our Facebook page.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Swift Tern - coastal
Antarctic Tern - 5
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Kelp Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant - coastal - 2
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
African Penguin- coastal - 50
African Black Oystercatcher - coastal - 1
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 100
White-chinned Petrel - 200
Pintado Petrel - 200
Southern Giant Petrel - 3
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 40
Antarctic Prion - 40
Sooty Shearwater - 40
Shy Albatross - 80
Black-browed Albatross - 150
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 4
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 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 Dalton Gibbs.
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