Trip Highlights: Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Southern and Northern Giant Petrel, Spectacled Petrel, Antarctic Tern, Antarctic Prion and a Humpback Whale.
Spectacled Petrel photographed during a previous Cape Town Pelagics trip.
There was almost no wind at Simon's Town harbour when six keen birders and tour leader Dalton Gibbs boarded the Cape Town Pelagics boat heading out to sea on Saturday morning. As we left the harbour we had the usual Kelp Gulls, Hartlaub's Gulls and Cape Cormorant, whilst a bonus Grey Heron fished on the buoy lines in the harbour. On the way out across False Bay we were joined by a few Cape Gannet and Cape Cormorants heading toward Cape Point. Here we stopped in the early morning light to take in the magnificent scenery with photos and checked out over the radio before heading out into the deep.
Our first White-chinned Petrels appeared just past Cape Point and were soon joined by a few Swift Terns and Sooty Shearwaters as we passed the white waters of Bellow's Rock. We were heading south west from the continent toward a trawler that was working the continental shelf and after about 5 nautical miles passed our first few Shy Albatross flying lazily across the horizon.
A young Shy Albatross
We passed a few Antarctic Prions and small terns which showed as Antarctic Terns before joining up with the 'Flame Thorn' stern trawler at the 21 NM mark. Here we connected with Wilson's Storm-petrel, Black-browed Albatross and Pintado Petrel as the Flame Thorn started to lift her net. Fair numbers of Shy and Black-browed Albatross, White-chinned Petrels, Pintado Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters and Antarctic Prions now milled around the back of the trawler. A Sub-Antarctic Skua joined the fray, competing with the Kelp Gulls and Cape Gannets that made up the feeding flock. The trawler turned southwards and processed her catch which had been quite small. As a result we only had a few hundred birds strung along the wake of the trawler. We however soon picked up Northern Giant Petrel while the call of Spectacled Petrel came from the other Cape Town Pelagics boat out in the deep with us. We scanned for the Spectacled and not finding it decided to move closer to the trawler where the last scraps of food were. Here we diligently scanned the flocks of White-chinned Petrels when the Spectacled Petrel performed a perfect fly past, displaying its 'white-ringed' eye appearance.
White-chined Petrels and Black-browed Albatrosses milling around for food scraps.
The numbers of birds around the trawler dropped off and we slowly followed her as she trawled southwards. After an hour of not licking up any new species we headed toward a shark long-liner, the 'SW Sea Hawk' to the south of us. Once behind her we picked up Southern Giant Petrel and then had good views of Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross that we had not yet seen. We had a leisurely lunch whilst following the Sea Hawk and the procession of birds that followed her. After lunch and with the day getting on we headed back for land, being carried along by a light wind and a pushing swell.
Our journey back was quiet, interrupted only when a Humpback Whale was spotted breaching ahead of us. The animal did this several times, launching its huge body into the sky before slamming down into the water. The whale sounded and we continued our journey toward Cape Point.
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, a lone African Black Oyster-catcher and lots of Cape Fur Seals. To complete the list of all the Benguela current endemic species we stopped in the water opposite Boulders Beach to pick up African Penguin.
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 - 5
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
African Penguin - 70 - coastal
African Black Oystercatcher - coastal - 1
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 50
Grey Heron - coastal - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 350
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Pintado Petrel - 70
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 50
Antarctic Prion - 20
Sooty Shearwater - 40
Shy Albatross - 100
Black-browed Albatross - 150
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
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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