Trip Highlights: 4 species Albatross, Spectacled Petrel, Great-winged Petrel, Pomarine Skua (Jaeger), Sabine's Gull, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels.
We left Simon's Town early Sunday morning aboard the trusty Destiny with clear skies and slightly choppy seas. A stop before reaching Cape Point held breeding Bank Cormorant beside the small Cape Fur Seal colony. Once beyond the point, we started picking up our first pelagic species, including Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrel, and our first mollymawk, a Shy Albatross. Luck was on our side as we'd located a trawler working nearby, and the excitement grew as we approached, as it was clear there was a fair deal of bird action going on.
New species started to pile up rapidly as we entered the swarm. Sabine's Gull, Subantarctic Skua, Common and Arctic Terns, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels were all present, the latter two in unusual abundance. We quickly added the other three regular mollymawks: Black-browed, Indian Yellow-nosed and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses. Suddenly the bird of the trip appeared right in the thick of a frenzy: a gorgeous Spectacled Petrel. We would have two more opportunities to savour this excellent species.
The activity continued at high octane levels, but it was a good while before we added any new species. Then suddenly a Great-winged Petrel ghosted right past us, and ended up doing a few more passes over the next half hour. Storm-Petrels were unusually scarce, but with time we added both Wilson's and European Storm-Petrel. The penultimate addition to the list then came in the form of a Pomarine Skua, though getting decent looks at this specimen, in full breeding plumage, proved impossible.
The trawler finished processing its previous catch, and before long was hauling in the next, initiating the usual feeding frenzy. It then motored off, and having had such great luck and with time getting away from us, we decided to head for the shelter of False Bay for lunch. In Simon's Town harbour we found a lone Crowned Cormorant to round off our list for the day at a neat 27.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 40
Black-browed Albatross - 40
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 30
White-chinned Petrel - 500
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Great-winged Petrel - 2
Southern Giant Petrel - 10
Northern Giant Petrel - 5
European Storm-Petrel - 2
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 1
Cory's Shearwater - 30
Sooty Shearwater - 100
Subantarctic Skua - 2
Pomarine Skua - 1
Sabine's Gull - 10
Arctic Tern - 1
Common Tern - 100
Cape Gannet - Common
Cape Cormorant - Common
White-breasted Cormorant - Common
Bank Cormorant - 4
Crowned Cormorant - 1
Kelp Gull - Common
Hartlaub's Gull - Common
Swift Tern - Common
Sandwich Tern - Common
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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