Trip Highlights: Black-browed, Shy and Atlantic yellow-nosed Albatross, Sabine's Gull, a white-morph Southern Giant Petrel, Northern Giant Petrel, Great Shearwater, Subantarctic Skua, Orca whale and all 4 species of marine Cormorant.
The conditions in Simon's Town harbour were calm given the small but strong cold front that had moved through Cape Town the day before. Ten keen birders boarded one of four Cape Town Pelagics boats running that day, this one with Dalton Gibbs the trip leader. In the harbour we found the usual Kelp Gulls, Hartlaub's Gulls and Cape Cormorant on the buoy lines. A solitary Crowned Cormorant showed well on a rock nearby as we set off across a calm False Bay. African Penguins lined Boulders Beach colony beach ready to go to sea to hunt fish. Our trip to Cape Point was quiet and after pausing for some scenery photographs we set off into the deep.
From Cape Point onwards we found Cape Gannet and White-chinned Petrels that were with us for most of the day. At the 14 N Mile mark we came across three purse seine trawlers, one of which - the "Avonia" - was drawing in her nets alongside. Her nets were full of small sardines and were being pumped into the trawler. This had drawn in large numbers of Great Shearwaters and the occasional young Black-browed Albatross and Shy Albatross. Small numbers of Pintado Petrels were about, along with numerous Kelp Gulls and Cape Gannet that had flown out from the mainland. I had the briefest glimpse of a white colour morph of a Southern Giant Petrel, but frustratingly this bird immediately disappeared off toward the horizon.
As we were still close in shore we headed further out to sea accompanied by another CTP boat - also full of keen birders. At the 22 NMile we came across the stern trawler "Freesia" who was just about to pull her net. A small group of Sabine's Gull were seen by some as they flew just in front of us and disappeared into the cloud of birds behind the trawler. We had brief views of a Northern Giant Petrel and small groups of Wilson's Storm-petrel. A few sightings of Sooty Shearwater were to be had as the net came in and attracted large numbers of birds. A call of Orca went up and was heard from other boats nearby. The distinctive fin of an Orca appeared in the water some way back and the Cape Fur Seals that were about huddled closer into smaller groups. The Orca unfortunately did not show for long and we turned back to the Freesia. We followed her for the next three hours and got good views of most species.
We found a few Atlantic yellow-nosed Albatross, eventually getting good views of one on the water. After lunch we had an uneventful trip back towards land. Once in False Bay we crossed over to the Castle Rock cormorant colony. Here we found four species of cormorants; White-breasted, Crowned, Bank and a lone Crowned Cormorant. With a south-westerly wind picking up we headed back home and were soon back in Simon's Town Harbour.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Swift Tern - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Kelp Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - oastal
Crowned Cormorant - coastal - 7
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
African Penguin - coastal
African Black Oystercatcher - coastal - 2
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 120
Sabine’s Gull - 3
White-chinned Petrel - 600
Pintado Petrel - 50
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel - 20
Sooty Shearwater - 3
Great Shearwater - 500
Shy Albatross - 50
Black-browed Albatross - 70
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 1
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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