Trip Highlights: 6 Albatross species with 5 Wanderers and a Southern Royal, Black-bellied Storm Petrels, Sabine's Gull and Arctic Tern.
A Wandering Albatross glides effortlessly passed our boat.
One of approximately 200 Black-bellied Storm Petrel seen during this trip.
A beautiful adult Southern Royal Albatross.
On Saturday 15 October six excited birders embarked on a Cape Town Pelagic trip from Simon's Town harbour with guide Cliff Dorse on board. Our boat was soon racing through a very flat False Bay. Although there was quite a bit of cloud about the scenery was still absolutely spectacular. We also enjoyed a few distant White-chinned Petrels while still in the bay. Following a quick photo shoot of the iconic Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, we headed out towards the trawling grounds.
We started to encounter more and more White-chinned Petrels, but there were only a few distant Sooty Shearwaters about. From about 4 miles from the point we started to see our first Great Shearwaters. This species turned out to be the most numerous species encountered during the day. At six miles we noticed some disturbance on the water to the north. We detoured to investigate and were enthralled to encounter a feeding school of Yellow-fin Tuna. There were good numbers of these game fish about feeding on anchovies. Many of them cleared the water completely as they pursued the bait fish. Also in attendance were Swift Terns, Cape Gannets, White-chinned Petrels and Great Shearwaters. Here we also had our first Albatross, an Indian Yellow-nose.
We continued outwards, with few birds around. As we neared the stern trawler, the Lobelia, we started to encounter more birds and quickly added Pintado Petrel, Shy and Black-browed Albatross as well as Black-bellied Storm Petrel. The Lobelia was not processing so we decided to put out some fish oil while we waited. This worked well as we had good views of a Black-bellied and Wilson's Storm Petrels. As soon as the Lobelia started to retrieve her nets we ran back up to her to witness the frenzy of activity as the net arrived at the surface. The Lobelia then turned and ran to the west. We followed in her wake adding Southern Giant Petrel to the day's list. We then noticed a Wandering Albatross sitting on the water some distance behind the trawler. We had excellent views of this spectacular bird, both while it sat on the water and in flight.
Below: Three of the five Wandering Albatross individuals seen during this trip:
Our skipper had heard from some of his fisherman friends that a second trawler, the Umlobi, was operating about 10 miles to our south. Despite the distance, we made the decision to head towards her. The Umlobi was also trawling to the south so it took some time to catch up, but when we did it soon became apparent that it was worth the effort! We had a total of four Wandering Albatross, three of which sat on the water and allowed exceptional views. In addition we had a beautiful adult Southern Royal Albatross, also sitting calmly on the water a few meters from our boat. We also managed to find a couple of Northern Giant Petrels in amongst the more numerous Southerns. Of special note were the great numbers of Black-bellied Storm Petrels. Mid-October is the best time to encounter these passage migrants off the Cape but the numbers today were incredible with about 200 seen!
Black-bellied Storm Petrel
After a leisurely lunch out in the deep we had to start running for home. The trip back was uneventful besides a slight detour to investigate a whale blow. This animal however never showed itself leaving us to ponder what it may have been!
The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of Bank, Crowned, White-breasted and Cape Cormorant.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Wandering Albatross - 5
Southern Royal Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross - c.350
Black-browed Albatross - c.100
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - c. 20
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - c. 15
White-chinned Petrel - c.2000
Southern Giant Petrel - c. 15
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Pintado Petrel - c. 50
Sooty Shearwater - c.25
Great Shearwater - c. 2500
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c. 20
Black-bellied Storm Petrel - c. 200
Subantarctic Skua - 2
Sabine's Gull - 2
Arctic Tern - 3
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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