Trip Highlights: SIX species Albatross, two Southern Royal Albatross sitting quietly on the water a few metres from our boat. Northern Royal Albatross, Northern & Southern Giant Petrels, Manx Shearwater, Parasitic Jaeger (Skua).
Southern Royal Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel and Shy Albatross
An absolutely huge storm pummeled the Cape Peninsula on Friday afternoon the 22nd of April. Winds peaked at 100 km/hour and the swell was over 7 meters. As such, it was unbelievable that just on 40 hours later, we were boarding our boat from Simon's Town for a Cape Town Pelagic trip! The winds in the morning were very light and were predicted to pick up to about 15 knots from the north-west by mid-afternoon and the swell was a little less than 3 meters. As always, the spectacular Cape Peninsula bathed in early morning light was the highlight of the trip out of False Bay. Besides the usual coastal birds we also had a few White-chinned Petrels in the bay. After an impromptu photo shoot in front of the iconic Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, we headed out towards the deep.
There were large numbers of birds working a short distance off shore. Cape Cormorants and Cape Gannet made up the majority of the mob but there were numbers of Swift Tern, Sooty and Cory's Shearwater in attendance. We were also lucky enough to enjoy two late Parasitic Jaegers harassing a Swift Tern. As we continued outwards we soon added Great Shearwater and Subantarctic Skua to the day list.
At 20 miles off the point we added Shy and Black-browed Albatross, Wilson's Storm-Petrel and a beautiful Arctic Tern in breeding plumage. We came across a shark viewing boat that was busy chumming and spent a bit of time in the vicinity. One of our skipper's many fishing buddies contacted us with news of a fishing trawler that was about 7 miles further out. We decided to battle on outwards and eventually came across the 'African Queen' who was just bringing her net to the surface. There was an incredible amount of birds in the area, the majority being adult Black-browed and Shy Albatross. Soon after we arrived a spectacular Southern Royal Albatross appeared out of the mass of birds and flew straight towards us. It obligingly did two flybys before disappearing into the mass of birds again.
After the euphoria had settled down we continued to work through the medley of birds and managed to find both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. We also enjoyed many Pintado Petrels and had close views of both Northern and Southern Giant Petrel. By this stage the 'African Queen' had reset her net and was slowly trawling out towards the west. We worked through the wake and eventually saw another Royal Albatross, this time a Northern Royal! Over the next 30 minutes we enjoyed several sightings of both species of Royal Albatross. Checking the photos afterwards we could confirm that there were two Northern and at least two Southern Royal Albatross. The highlight of the day was being within a few meters of two Southern Royals sitting quietly on the water. A truly spectacular experience and the first time in a few years that four different individual Royal Albatross were seen on one day!
Southern Royal Albatross
Northern Royal Albatross
As the north western had begun to strengthen, we decided to run back to enjoy our lunch in the comfort of False Bay. The trip back was uneventful but the mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point delivered Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorant. At the nearby seal rock we also found three Crowned Cormorants - completing the list of South African marine cormorant species.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Northern Royal Albatross - 2
Southern Royal Albatross - 2
Shy Albatross - c. 400
Black-browed Albatross - c. 600
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 4
Southern Giant Petrel - 5
White-chinned Petrel - c. 300
Pintado Petrel - c. 30
Cory's Shearwater - 20
Great Shearwater - c. 200
Sooty Shearwater - c. 100
Manx Shearwater - 1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - c. 300
European Storm-Petrel - c. 20
Subantarctic Skua - 5
Parasitic Jaeger - 2
Arctic Tern - 1
African Black Oystercatcher
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 Cliff Dorse.
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