Trip Highlights: Four Albatross species, Southern Giant Petrel, Spectacled Petrel, Manx Shearwater, Great-winged Petrel, Sabine's Gull, Subantarctic Skua and Humpback Whale.
Spectacled Petrel © Pontus Grönvall
A group of birders departed Simon's Town at 07h30 on board a Cape Town Pelagics trip guided by Barrie Rose.
False Bay was calm and the trip up to Cape Point was smooth, comfortable and uneventful other than a brief sighting of a distant Humpback Whale. Outside of Cape Point conditions were a bit bumpy although there was little wind. A mile outside the Point we encountered a huge feeding aggregation of mainly Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters feeding over shoals of anchovy and saury that were been chased to the surface by yellowtail. Swift Terns, Cape Gannets, White-chinned Petrels and a few Common Terns were also in the mix. We spent 20 minutes enjoying this spectacle before heading offshore on a south-westerly course in search of a fishing vessel.
Our first albatross species was unusually an Indian Yellow-nose Albatross and we encountered a good few on our outward steam including a raft of 12! The reason for this less common species being so close to shore is likely to have be the attraction of the huge shoals of saury. Yellow-nosed Albatross are more piscivorous than other albatrosses. Breeding Arctic Terns were really special and we came across a flock of over 50 feeding over what was probably a shoal of skipjack tuna before heading north to their breeding grounds.
Great Shearwaters, Wilson's Storm-Petrels and Shy Albatrosses soon joined the list. At 20 miles we picked up on a fishing boat and joined the hake trawler 'Freesia' at 23 miles. There was a raft of birds that sat on the water as the vessel was yet to haul its net. We interrogated these flocks adding Black-browed Albatross and European Storm-Petrel to the ever growing list.
Thirty minutes later the trawler hauled a two ton catch which sparked the feeding frenzy which makes these pelagic trips so special. A few really early Pintado Petrels showed up, Subantarctic Skuas, a Sabine's Gull and a Great-winged Petrel were further additions. Sifting carefully through the flock we picked up on a few Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and a Southern Giant Petrel. The bird of the day however was a Spectacled Petrel which gave us a close flyby allowing good views and some photos.
After nearly 2 hours with the trawler we turned our nose towards Cape Point. The trip home produced another Great-winged Petrel and a Manx Shearwater 4 miles off Cape Point.
Inside Cape Point we ate a great lunch under the cliffs near Rooikrans. We made the standard visit to the Bank Cormorant colony and Cape Fur Seal roost at Partridge Point before heading back to Simon's Town.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 250+
Black-browed Albatross - 300+
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 30
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
White-chinned Petrel - ca 1000
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Pintado Petrel - 5
Great-winged Petrel - 2
Sooty Shearwater - 3000+
Cory's Shearwater - 3000+
Great Shearwater - 500+
Manx Shearwater - 1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 500+
European Storm-Petrel - 50+
Subantarctic Skua - 5
Cape Gannet - 400+
Arctic Tern - 80+
Common Tern - 20+
Sabine's Gull - 1
Swift Tern - coastal and to 8mls
Kelp Gull - 10 and coastal
Cape Cormorant coastal and to 5mls
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
African Penguin - coastal
Humpback Whale - 1
Cape Fur Seal - 100+
Yellowtail - 1 shoal
Saury - 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.
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