Trip Highlights: Soft-plumaged Petrel, Subantarctic Skua, Spectacled Petrel, 3 Albatross speices, Southern and Northern Giant Petrel.
There was a light wind from the south west - after a cold front had passed over the Cape - as seven keen birders gathered on the quayside of Hout Bay harbour at first light. We boarded the a Cape Town Pelagics boat, with guide Dalton Gibbs and set off through light swells out to sea. We passed inshore Kelp Gulls, Hartlaub's Gulls and Cape Cormorant and the occasional Cape Gannet before entering a thick mist band a few miles off the coast.
As a result of the mist we only picked up our first White-chinned Petrels quite a few miles out, with fleeting glimpses of them in the whiteness. Small but constant flocks of Antarctic Prions appeared followed by our first Shy Albatross as the mist began to clear. We headed further out, moving toward a long liner some 20 N miles off Cape Point. Here we found a Sub-Antarctic Skua that shadowed us as we arrived at the long liner, the Penkop 2. She was not pulling in her lines and only a hundred or so birds hung around her waiting. In amongst these were Pintado Petrels, Sooty Shearwatersand Black-browed Albatross.
We stayed with the Penkop 2 for half an hour, adding some chum to the water and picked up brief fly-bys of Soft-plumaged Petrels, a Northern Giant Petrel and small flocks of Wilson's Storm Petrels. Just before we considered leaving the Penkop 2, Andrew Jenkins noticed a petrel with characteristic markings of a Spectacled Petrel! The bird flew passed the back of the boat made a circle and performed a perfect fly by, giving everyone great views.
Elated with this rarity sighting we headed a few miles further south where the other Cape Town Pelagics boat that ran from Simon's Town had picked up a trawler. This was the Foxglove and she had several hundred birds in her vicinity waiting for her nets to be lifted. When these nets lifted a few hundred birds moved in and we soon picked up Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Southern Giant Petrel. We had great views of all the species we had seen during the day going past us in a continuous procession as the trawler processed her catch and steamed off to lay her nets again. At times it was hard to see through all the Pintado Petrels that were about but we had good views of everything that was there. Shy and Black-browed Albatross squabbled over food as Giant Petrels swooped in to settle the arguments with their imposing bulk.
This amazing sight of birds continued for a while until we turned for home, stopping off at the long-liner Penkop 2 for a short time. We found nothing new here and headed for home with the wind and swell behind us. Our journey back was quiet, with only a Swift Tern to add to the day's list. Back in Hout Bay harbour we found a few Cape Cormorants and a pair of Crowned Cormorants before disembarking.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 100
Black-browed Albatross - 300
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 4
White-chinned Petrel - 350
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Pintado Petrel - 1000
Soft-plumaged Petrel - 3
Southern Giant Petrel - 4
Northern Giant Petrel - 5
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 50
Antarctic Prion - 75
Sooty Shearwater - 300
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 5
Swift Tern - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Kelp Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant - coastal - 3
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 30
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
guides Dalton Gibbs.
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