Trip Highlights: 5 albatross species including a Wanderer and a Southern Royal, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Subantarctic Skua.
A fairly strong south easterly wind was still blowing early on Sunday morning, but it was predicted to subside during the morning so the decision was made for the trip to run. As such, it was some relief when birders from Ireland, Canada and South Africa boarded our boat in Simon's Town harbour. To give the wind some time to dissipate, we departed at 08h00, slightly later than normal. We also decided to check out the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point first. Here we enjoyed good views of Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorant. There was still an uncomfortable chop on the water and a fairly strong south easter blowing so we progressed slowly through False Bay. After enjoying the scenic Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, we started for the trawling grounds.
We soon encountered our first pelagic birds of the day, Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned Petrel. A second Cape Town Pelagic charter was running from Hout Bay and they confirmed with us that there were indeed trawlers operating to the north of the trawling grounds. We headed in this direction enjoying ever increasingly better views of the Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels. At about 6 miles from the point we encountered our first albatross, a juvenile Shy Albatross. This was soon followed by a sub-adult Black-browed Albatross. At about 18 miles we could make out the Ferox to our north which had just retrieved her nets. She then turned and ran to the south, directly towards us. We soon intercepted her and were suddenly surrounded by masses of birds. We quickly added Pintado Petrel and Subantarctic Skua. While working through the masses of birds were rewarded with an unseasonal Great Shearwater as well as Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels. Suddenly a spectacular Wandering Albatross came into view completely dwarfing all the “smaller” albatrosses. We deduced that the Wanderer was an adult male as he was very white – explaining the alternative name for the species, Snowy Albatross. He did three close fly-bys before disappearing into the masses of birds. While looking for the Wanderer, we picked out another large white-backed albatross in the distance. Photos show that this was a juvenile Southern Royal Albatross.
While drifting in the wake of the trawler we eventually managed to pick out a few Wilson's Storm Petrels. A very obliging Flesh-footed Shearwater suddenly appeared and did numerous close passes of the boat to the enjoyment of all on board. We decided to run back up to the trawler, as we arrived we encountered another Southern Royal Albatross. This was a different individual from the one we saw earlier as it had more white in the upper wing. After a great lunch in the deep we had to turn and head for home. The wind had finally started to subside which facilitated a relatively comfortable run back.
In the harbour we did a small detour to see a few Crowned Cormorants which were sitting on the yachts.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Wandering Albatross - 1
Southern Royal Albatross - 2
Shy Albatross - c. 750
Black-browed Albatross - c. 1000
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Southern Giant Petrel - 3
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Pintado Petrel - c. 1500
White-chinned Petrel - c. 100
Sooty Shearwater - c. 250
Great Shearwater - 1
Flesh-footed Shearwater - 1
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 5
Subantarctic Skua - c. 20
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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