Trip Highlights: Shy, Black-browed, Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Spectacled Petrel, Manx Shearwater, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels.
For most of the preceding week the chances of a pelagic trip running on the weekend of 18 February looked like a pipe-dream. However, the gale force southerly winds dropped off for a small window of opportunity on Saturday 18 February which allowed the trip to run. As such, it was with much excitement when we steamed out into False Bay on board the Destiny. We enjoyed great views of Cape and Bank Cormorant in good light on a buoy and some large rafts of African Penguins soon after leaving the harbour. About halfway through the bay we noted a strong whale blow to the east and detoured to investigate. Unfortunately there was only a brief glimpse of a Humpback Whale which disappeared and we were unable to relocate it. After enjoying the spectacular scenery at Cape Point, we steamed out in a south westerly direction to see what wonders we could locate in the deep.
We soon started seeing White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters. It was not long thereafter when we started seeing our first Cory's Shearwaters. At about four miles we detoured to investigate a raft of Cory's and a few White-chinned Petrels. Here we picked up the first Great Shearwater. It was only at about 13 miles from the point when we encountered our first Albatross, an immature Shy Albatross. Eventually we located a stern trawler on the horizon and we headed in her direction. As we drew closer we saw that there were actually four different trawlers in the vicinity! On nearing the first vessel, the Avro Warrior the numbers and diversity of birds began to increase dramatically. One of the distant vessels had just retrieved her nets and had turned and started to steam to the south at pace.
We proceeded to the next trawler, the Forest Lily. After gesturing to someone on board we could make out that they were only going to retrieve her nets in about an hour. As such we started to head back to the Avro Warrior. In between all of this we had added Black-browed Albatross and had spectacular views of Indian and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross sitting next to one another on the water. We also added Subantarctic Skua, our first of three individual Manx Shearwaters and a Long-tailed Jaeger. Both European and Wilson's Storm Petrel eventually came close enough to allow everyone on board great views. We arrived at the Avro Warrior just as her net arrived on the surface. What good timing! The mass hysteria of the birds coming in for a free meal entertained us and we followed in her wake as she ran to the south to reset her net. We were very excited to pick out a FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER which gave good views. This very scarce visitor is always a special sighting.
We continued to slowly work through the masses of birds picking out some Sabine's Gulls, Arctic Terns and a single Southern Giant Petrel. Eventually we were rewarded with a SPECTACLED PETREL to the enjoyment of all on board. The first sighting was rather brief but we were luckily to have several sightings including an extended look at a bird on the water. From the variable facial markings it was clear that we had at least two individuals. We then moved slowly away from the trawler and put out some fish oil in a final attempt to find something different. The oil worked extremely well with good numbers and diversity of birds coming to investigate. The highlights were the only Northern Giant Petrel of the day and another Long-tailed Jaeger.
Eventually we had to turn and run back home. The trip back was relatively uneventful and we enjoyed a very good lunch in the calm of False Bay off Buffelsbaai. The mandatory stop at Partridge Point produced Bank, Crowned and Cape Cormorants.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c. 250
Black-browed Albatross - c. 80
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - c. 30
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - c. 20
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
White-chinned Petrel - c. 1500
Spectacled Petrel - 2 (possibly 3)
Manx Shearwater - 3
Cory's Shearwater - c. 150
Great Shearwater - c. 60
Sooty Shearwater - c. 100
Flesh-footed Shearwater - 1
European Storm Petrel - c. 120
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c. 80
Subantarctic Skua - 10
Sabine's Gull - 2
Arctic Tern - 1
Cape Fur Seal
Humpbacked Whale - 1
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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