Trip Highlights: Great-winged Petrel, Parasitic Jaeger, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Great Shearwater, Arctic Tern, Dusky Dolphins.
A large Cape Town Pelagics boat with guide Andrew de Blocq and an eager group of Australians on board departed from Hout Bay harbour early Saturday morning. Some passengers were pelagic 'newbies' and were excited to be going to sea for the first time, others were excited about the prospect of some new species.
A purse seine fishing boat had just returned to harbour that morning, and had dragged some of the pelagic birds back towards shore with it, which meant we got stuck into some White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters straight off the bat. A single Arctic Tern surprised us all flying past. Our first albatross was also well within sight of land, and it turned out to be a Shy Albatross. We headed out west on information we had received that a trawler had been active there the evening before. Unfortunately the boat had moved on from its overnight position, and all four boats we managed to locate on the radar turned out to be container ships. However, the bird activity was fairly high for open water birding, so we got well acquainted with Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Great Shearwaters, Pintado Petrels, Wilson's and European Storm Petrels, Subantarctic (Brown) Skua and Parasitic Jaeger, and one each of the Southern and Northern Giant Petrels. The birds of the day were a Great-winged Petrel that flew right over the boat, and a very cooperative Soft-plumaged Petrel.
We cruised the 500 m contour for a while enjoying the time out in the deep before heading back. On the ride back in we were lucky to spot a Mako Shark breaching the water, although quite distant. Close in to the harbour we ran into a pod of 12 Dusky Dolphins that played around the boat for quite a long time affording us beautiful views of these diminutive cetaceans. We also ran into two feeding frenzies of Cape Fur Seals, each numbering well into the hundreds. Joining in with the fracas were Cape Gannets and Swift, Common and Sandwich Terns. We stopped off at Seal Island to observe the colony, and picked up Bank, Crowned, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants as a bonus. In addition two African Black Oystercatchers flew past. We returned to the harbour to the squawks of Hartlaub's and Kelp Gulls. Despite not finding a trawler, this was a very successful and satisfying pelagic trip!
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 125
Black-browed Albatross - 30
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
White-chinned Petrel - 400
Pintado Petrel - 5
Soft-plumaged Petrel - 1
Great-winged Petrel - 1
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 10
European Storm Petrel - 1
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Unidentified Giant Petrel - 1
Great Shearwater - 3
Sooty Shearwater - 60
Parasitic Jaeger - 2
Subantarctic Skua - 6
Arctic Tern - 1
African Black Oystercatcher
Other marine species and mammals:
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 Andrew de Blocq.
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