Trip Highlights: Wandering Albatross, Parasitic Jaeger, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Arctic & Antarctic Terns, Great Shearwater.
A large group of birders departed Hout Bay on a Cape Town Pelagics trip with guide Seth Musker on board. We were greeted by fairly rough seas, making for a rocky ride out. However, conditions would only improve throughout what turned out to be a very successful day. The ride out produced Greater Crested Tern, Cape Gannet, Sooty Shearwater, Parasitic Jaeger, and White-chinned Petrel. We thought we had our first albatross with a bird coming in from out of the morning sun, but it turned out to be the first of three Giant Petrels seen on the ride out, none of which were seen well enough to obtain certain IDs. Our first albatross did follow shortly in the form of a young Shy Albatross.
We were buoyed by the news that a couple of trawlers were operating in the canyon, and bird activity began to steadily increase as we drew nearer. Good numbers of Black-browed Albatross were present, and we also picked up our first of many Cape (Pintado) Petrel and Subantarctic Skua. A couple of sightings of Yellow-nosed Albatrosses could not be pinned to species level as neither bird obliged. There were a few very grey-headed Shy-type Albatrosses, one of which was particularly exciting, but later inspection of photographs confirmed the ID as Shy Albatross.
Cape (Pintado) Petrel
Once at the trawler we had excellent views of Southern Giant Petrel, and brief views of its Northern sister. We had time to simply marvel at the huge numbers of birds all around us, but were suddenly drawn back to the action by the shout of "Wandering Albatross"! In fact it was a bird that could not be safely identified as the possibility of Southern Royal couldn't be ruled out. However, luck was on our side as no sooner had the bird ghosted away than a second appeared much closer, this time undoubtedly a fine adult Wandering Albatross.
By now the Ferox had hauled in her catch and was speeding away, so we decided to wander over to the other nearby trawler to investigate. Unfortunately it had only just put its nets down, so we made our way slowly back to the Ferox, picking up our only Great Shearwater of the day and the first of but a few Wilson's Storm-petrels en route.
Back at the Ferox there was still plenty of action, but the only new species added was a single early-arriving Arctic Tern bouncing along amid the chaos. After a while it was time to head back on an unusually long journey as we had wandered over 30 nautical miles from shore. Luckily, the seas were much calmer, and a couple of stops turned up a few Antarctic Terns. The rest of the journey was uneventful but allowed for time to reflect on a classic day of sea birding.
Black-browed Albatross (immature)
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 100
Black-browed Albatross - 300
Yellow-nosed Albatross sp. - 2
Wandering Albatross - 1
Diomedea albatross sp. (Wandering/S Royal) - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 1000
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 100
Wilson's Storm-petrel - 4
Southern Giant Petrel - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Giant Petrel sp. - 4
Sooty Shearwater - 20
Great Shearwater - 1
Antarctic Tern - 3
Arctic Tern - 1
Cape Gannet - common coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - common coastal
Kelp Gull - common coastal
Cape Cormorant - common coastal
Greater Crested Tern - common coastal
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 Seth Musker.
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