Trip Highlights: Four species of albatross, Southern & Northern Giant Petrel, Great-winged Petrel, Pomarine Jaeger and Sabine's Gull.
Northern Giant Petrel
We left Simon's Town harbour at around 7 am, with just about no wind and clear skies and Cape Town Pelagics guide Dominic Rollinson on board. We had been told of a number of fishing vessels not too far south of Cape Point and so were all hopeful for good numbers of scavenging seabirds.
The trip out through False Bay was unusually quiet with nothing much besides a couple of small groups of African Penguins just off Boulders Beach as well as Cape Cormorants and Swift Terns heading out for the day's foraging.
We stopped briefly to enjoy Cape Point in the morning light before heading south to the trawling grounds. Soon after Cape Point we started picking up the commoner pelagic species such as White-chinned Petrels and Cory's and Sooty Shearwaters, as well as the first of the day's Cape Gannets. We also had a brief flyby of a Parasitic Jaeger followed shortly after by its larger cousin the Pomarine Jaeger.
Seabird feeding frenzy!
It wasn't long before we spotted a group of three trawlers operating roughly 20 nautical miles south of Cape Point which all had good numbers of seabirds behind them. Shy and Black-browed were the most abundant of the albatrosses, however we had good numbers of Atlantic Yellow-nosed, with smaller numbers of Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. White-chinned Petrels were around in their 1000s, however (and unfortunately) we could not spot any Spectacled Petrels in amongst them. With one of the trawlers lifting it's nets we soon had even greater numbers of seabirds, with both Northern and Southern Giant Petrels entering the foraging frenzy. Great Shearwaters were abundant and provided close up views right alongside the boat. On the outskirts of the feeding frenzy we encountered Wilson's and European Storm Petrels, Sabine's Gulls and a few Sub-Antarctic Skuas which were seen harassing other birds for fish discards.
As many as four Great-winged Petrels were noted around the trawlers and on the return journey to Simon's Town. We stopped briefly at the rocks just offshore of Miller's Point; which support breeding Bank Cormorants, with the last new bird of the trip being a Crowned Cormorant inside Simon's Town harbour.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 500
Black-browed Albatross - 300
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 75
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Southern Giant Petrel - 5
Northern Giant Petrel - 10
White-chinned Petrel - 1500
Great-winged Petrel - 4
Sooty Shearwater - 150
Cory's Shearwater - 50+
Great Shearwater - 35
European Storm-petrel - 50
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 5
Parasitic Jaeger - 3
Pomarine Jaeger - 1
Cape Gannet - 100+
Common Tern - 10+
Swift Tern - coastal
Sabine's Gull - 10
Kelp Gull - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Humpback Whale - 2 or 3
Cape Fur Seal - 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
guides Dominic Rollinson.
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