Trip Highlights: Two juvenile Wandering Albatross, a Spectacled Petrel and Southern Fulmar; and good numbers of Black-bellied Storm-petrels.
A light cold front had passed over the Cape Peninsula the day before as a small group of birders gathered on the jetty at Simon's Town harbour to board a Cape Town Pelagic trip lead by Dalton Gibbs. There was some light wind from the South West as we headed out of the harbour, finding the usual Kelp Gulls, Hartlaub's Gulls, Cape Cormorant and a surprise Egyptian Goose! A group of African Penguin appeared right next to our boat near the Boulders Beach colony as a small hunting group of penguins chased fish in the bay. The sea was a bit bumpy as we headed out across False Bay; finding three White-chinned Petrels near Cape Point. This was no doubt indicative of the winds that had blown the day before and brought these birds so close to land. A few Cape Gannet and Cape Cormorants were around Cape Point as we stopped to check out over the radio and absorb the breath-taking scenery before heading further out to sea.
White-chinned Petrels appeared in small numbers as we headed further out to sea, picking up our first Shy Albatross at the 15 N Mile mark. We passed a Sun Fish on the surface before finding our first Black-bellied Storm-petrels which appeared along with Great Shearwaters. We headed further out, finding the trawler Fuschia at 23 N miles. She was processing a catch of fish and we soon found Black-browed and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross mixed with Pintado Petrels. We stayed with the trawler for the next four hours, turning up both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels and a single Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. There was a constant stream of several hundred birds behind the trawler and amongst these we found a few Sub-Antarctic Skua. A call came in from the other Cape Town Pelagics boat that a young Wandering Albatross was nearby and we soon found this bird. It however did not stay but we were rewarded later with closer views of another individual of this magnificent species. Frustratingly a Spectacled Petrel was briefly seen but soon disappeared in the mass of birds around us. Equally fleeting were views of a Southern Fulmar that also failed to show itself well. A few Wilson's Storm-petrel made an appearance to mix in with the Black-bellied Storm-petrels that showed in good numbers. It took effort to find just two Sooty Shearwaters for the day, which were conspicuous by their scarcity.
We had a leisurely lunch following the trawler and witnessed her lifting her nets which brought in the Cape Fur Seals that had been following her. We headed for home in the afternoon and after a quiet trip travelling with the swell direction, reached Cape Point. We travelled further across False Bay, reaching the Castle Rock cormorant colony. Here we found White-breasted, Cape Cormorants and Bank Cormorants. The adjacent rocks held numerous Cape Fur Seals which we had been seeing on and off during the course of the day. From here a calm sea and our boat's powerful engines took us swiftly back to Simon's Town Harbour where we managed to find a few 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
African Penguin - 30 - coastal
African Black Oystercatcher - coastal - 2
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 70
White-chinned Petrel - 100
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Pintado Petrel - 50
Southern Giant Petrel - 10
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 20
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel - 100
Sooty Shearwater - 2
Great Shearwater - 300
Wandering Albatross - 2
Shy Albatross - 70
Black-browed Albatross - 70
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 15
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Southern Fulmar - 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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