Trip Highlights: 6 Albatross species including a Wanderer and a Southern Royal Albatross, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Great Shearwater, Sabine's Gull, Black-bellied Storm Petrel, Southern Right and Humpback Whales.
Southern Royal Albatross
On Saturday 1 October 2016, six birders from France, America, England and South Africa boarded the Cape Town Pelagics trip from Simon's Town harbour with guide Cliff Dorse. Our trip through False Bay was pleasant as always with the great scenery and the usual array of coastal birds keeping all entertained. At the point we encountered the 10 knot south / south-westerly wind which was to accompany us all day. The swell was also from the south-west so the conditions were somewhat bumpy. As such, the outward journey was much slower than usual.
It was just before The Bellows that we started seeing our first pelagic birds. First were the White-chinned Petrels followed thereafter by the occasional Sooty Shearwater. At about 3 miles from the point we encountered our first albatross, a Shy Albatross. We also detoured to investigate a spout which turned out to be a rather unfriendly Humpback Whale. For the next 10 miles or so we encountered very few birds. However at about 12 miles from the point we had a confiding Soft-plumaged Petrel which made several close passes of the boat! We continued slowly outwards, eventually making out the distinctive silhouette of a trawler on the horizon. As we got closer we could see that there were at least six trawlers in the general vicinity and we made a beeline for the closest one. When we were about two miles away the bird diversity suddenly increases dramatically and we quickly added Wilson's Storm Petrel, Black-browed Albatross, Pintado Petrel and Subantartic Skua. We also picked out a Black-bellied Storm Petrel, a much sortafter passage migrant which is a 'special' on any October pelagic off the Cape. In the end, we managed to see a total of eight Black-bellies during the day. As we arrived at the first trawler we saw that she had just retrieved her net and was turning to steam off to the start of her next trawl line. There were masses of birds in the general area and we worked carefully through these adding both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Great Shearwater and both Northern and Southern Giant Petrels.
Southern Royal Albatross
We then positioned ourselves to intercept a second trawler steaming in from the south. We were soon working through her wake. Here a very young Southern Royal Albatross put in appearance giving all on board good views! We also managed to find a single Sabine's Gull. A juvenile Wandering Albatross also put in a brief appearance - our 6th albatross species of the day! Unfortunately, this bird did not provide good views.
Despite the bumpy conditions, we decided to eat our tasty lunch out in the deep as to maximise our time with these very special pelagic birds. We had time to investigate one more trawler steaming up from the south. There were few birds in attendance with most having already fed well and sitting around in large rafts in the vicinity. We then had to turn for home. The highlight of the run back was another Soft-plumaged Petrel. In the Bay, we stopped at the Partridge Point Bank Cormorant colony where we enjoyed, Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants. Just before the Harbour, we had a brief view of a Southern Right Whale which immediately dived and disappeared.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Wandering Albatross - 1
Southern Royal Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross - c.500
Black-browed Albatross - c.400
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - c. 10
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
White-chinned Petrel - c.1500
Southern Giant Petrel - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Pintado Petrel - c. 300
Soft-plumaged Petrel - 2
Sooty Shearwater - c.50
Great Shearwater - c. 10
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c.50
Black-bellied Storm Petrel - 8
Subantarctic Skua - c. 10
Sabine's Gull - 1
Arctic Tern - 2
African Black Oystercatcher
Cape Fur Seal
Southern Right Whale
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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