Trip Highlights: Six albatross species, including a Wanderer and Northern & Southern Royals! Southern Giant Petrel, Antarctic Prion, Subantarctic Skua and several other pelagic species including a Bryde's Whale, Dusky Dolphins and an Oceanic Blue Shark.
Six birders and trip leader Barrie Rose departed Simon's Town harbour at 07h15 on board a Cape Town Pelagic trip headed for the trawling grounds south of Cape Point.
Conditions were pleasant as we headed down False Bay to Cape Point. The trip was rather uneventful although we stopped once as a Bryde's Whale surfaced 200m from us.
At Cape Point we started to pick up our first pelagic bird species; White-chinned Petrels and then Sooty Shearwaters. Two miles off and in the vicinity of Bellows Rock we came upon widespread feeding activity as Yellowtail chased shoals of anchovy to the surface. Large flocks of Cape Cormorants, Sooty Shearwaters and Swift Terns fed excitedly.
Moving South-westerly across a moderate swell we made fairly good time. At about 8 miles we saw our first Shy Albatrosses and then crossed paths with a large widespread school of Dusky Dolphin which followed the vessel and bow-rode for nearly a mile. At 15 miles we stopped for a small flock of Antarctic Prions and over the next few miles added Wilson's Storm-Petrels and Arctic Terns to our list.
It was a great relief when we picked up a trawler in the distance. We reached the hake trawler 'Realeka' at 23 miles just after it had hauled in its first catch of the day. Good numbers of birds were congregated in the area and we were surrounded by hundreds of albatrosses, petrels and gannets. Black-browed Albatrosses dominated, Pintado Petrels formed large flocks and amongst the mêlée we picked up a single Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and a couple of Southern Giant Petrels. Once the trawler had redeployed its gear a huge flock congregated in its wake. Over the next hour we picked on an adult Wandering Albatross and both Southern and Northern Royal Albatrosses. The Wanderer provided good in flight views while we were able to approach close to the two Royals as they sat on the water. Amongst the flock we came across a small Oceanic Blue Shark attacking a discarded hake head. We stayed with the trawler until it completed processing and when the flock began to disperse when we headed back towards Cape Point.
We stopped for some minutes behind the trawler 'Lobelia' at 18 miles from the Point; its flock, although large had less diversity and we added no new species to our list. It is noted that both trawlers were flying their bird scaring lines.
Back inside Cape Point we had a pleasant lunch before visiting the Partridge Point Bank Cormorant colony and Cape Fur Seal roost and heading back to Simon's Town.
The trip was significant for the six species of albatross seen, including the three species of 'whitebacks'.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Wandering Albatross - 1
Northern Royal Albatross - 1
Southern Royal Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross - 400+
Black-browed Albatross - 800+
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Southern Giant Petrel - 6
White-chinned Petrel - ca 1000
Pintado Petrel - ca 1000+
Sooty Shearwater - 500+
Antarctic Prion - 40+
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel - 100+
Subantarctic Skua - 8
Cape Gannet - 800+
Arctic Tern - 15
Swift Tern - coastal and to 8mls
Kelp Gull - 20 and coastal
Cape Cormorant coastal and to 5mls
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Grey-headed Gull - 1 in harbour
African Penguin - 1 and coastal
Bryde's Whale - 1
Dusky Dolphin - 1 school (200+)
Cape Fur Seal - 100+
Oceanic Blue Shark - 1
Yellowtail - shoals
Anchovy - shoals
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 Barrie Rose.
To book, simply email
or phone us, or submit a
booking enquiry online.