Trip Highlights: 3 albatross species, Subantarctic Skua, Antarctic Prion, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Humpback Whale.
Difficult to photograph, Antarctic Prion 'captured' during the trip by Marcus Craig.
On Saturday 6 August a group of intrepid birders boarded the Cape Town Pelagics trip from Simon's Town Harbour with Cliff Dorse the guide for the day. Thanks to some thick mist and low lying cloud, the spectacular Peninsula mountain chain was completely obscured. As such, we focused on and enjoyed the coastal birds that appeared from out of the mist. There were good numbers of Sooty Shearwaters and the occasional distant White-chinned Petrel in False Bay. We also had a single Subantarctic Skua while still in the bay.
Soon after we rounded Cape Point, the mist started to lift. As our visibility increased, we started to see many more Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels and it was not long before we glimpsed our first Antarctic Prion of the day. Our first Albatross, a juvenile Shy Albatross, was encountered at about six miles from the point. A highlight came at about 10 miles when we had a very obliging Soft-plumaged Petrel which did a couple of circles around the boat. It was very surprising to see this species on such a calm day. These dynamic flyers really love the wind! Eventually we could see a couple of long-liner fishing boats and we headed in their direction. We added Wilson's Storm Petrel on route and had great views of Black-browed Albatross and Pintado Petrel at the long-liners. The fishing boats were waiting to retrieve their lines and as such were not processing any fish. As such, we decided to put some chum in the water and were almost instantly rewarded with great views of an Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross.
Half way through chumming, a ski boat which was busy fishing in the vicinity, contacted us to inform us that they could now see a trawler. We immediately decided to run towards the trawler. We arrived to see the Foxglove was still busy with her first trawl of the day as there were no birds feeding in her wake. There were however masses of birds in the vicinity also waiting for the net to be retrieved. While we waited, we put the remaining chum in the water attracting most of the species listed above. We then ran back up to the Foxglove as she started to retrieve her net. The number of birds suddenly increased dramatically as the net arrived on the surface. There were also many Cape Fur Seals taking part in the feast - some of the more brazen individuals climbed on top of the net being towed behind the trawler and simply pulled fish out! We followed in the wake of the trawler for some time enjoying the amazing spectacle. We also managed to get good views of both Northern and Southern Giant Petrels. Unfortunately time was running out and we needed to start heading back. A second Soft Plumaged Petrel put in a brief appearance as we left the trawler. We again went past the long-liner before heading back.
The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of Bank, Cape, Crowned and White-breasted Cormorant. Just before we entered Simon's Town Harbour we had a good view of a Humpback Whale.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c.400
Black-browed Albatross - c.1000
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Pintado Petrel - c.1500
White-chinned Petrel - c.1500
Southern Giant Petrel - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Soft-plumaged Petrel - 2
Antarctic Prion - c. 40
Sooty Shearwater - c.600
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c.70
Subantarctic Skua - c.15
Cape Fur Seals
Humpback Whale - 1
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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