Trip Highlights: 5 albatross species including a Northern Royal Albatross, a Flesh-footed and Manx Shearwater, Subantarctic Skua and Southern Giant Petrel.
Northern Royal Albatross
On the morning of Saturday 1 April six excited people boarded a Cape Town Pelagics boat which departed from Simon's Town harbour at 7:15am. None of the guests had ever done a pelagic trip before and all were extremely keen to see an albatross. The spectacular scenery kept us all entertained as we ran through the iconic False Bay. We enjoyed the usual coastal birds including Swift Tern, Cape Gannet and a single Parasitic Jaeger while still in the bay. When we reached the tip of the peninsula we stopped for some mandatory pictures of the remarkable Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope.
Leaving Cape Point behind as we head out to sea.
Shy Albatross with a couple of White-chinned Petrels
We were soon slowly heading out in a south westerly direction to the trawling grounds. We had already heard that all the trawlers we operating to the north, out of our reach. However we had also heard that there were a couple of long-lining vessels operating in an area known as the Canyon, so we headed in that direction. The sea was rather choppy so the going was fairly slow. White-chinned Petrel, Cory's and Sooty Shearwater were soon in attendance and keeping us entertained. At about eight miles from the point we encountered our fist albatross of the day, an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. This was soon followed by Shy Albatross, Subantarctic Skua and Wilson's Storm Petrel.
Eventually we could see the long lining vessel with a few ski boats in attendance. As we got closer the bird numbers and diversity began to increase. We soon added Great Shearwater, Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. Suddenly a huge white-backed albatross came into view dwarfing all the others around. It was a Northern Royal Albatross which gave good views to all on board. We were all still excited about the Royal when a Flesh-footed Shearwater put in an appearance. Two top birds!
Black-browed Albatross - adult with sub-adult
We continued to work through the birds in the vicinity, looking hard for something different. We were rewarded with a single Manx Shearwater. We eventually managed to find a few Giant Petrels, all of which were Southern's. There were also Common and Arctic Terns in attendance. We enjoyed a great lunch out in the deep before starting the run back to terra firma.
The run back was uneventful but the mandatory stop at Partridge Point produced Bank, Cape, White-breasted and Crowned Cormorants.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Northern Royal Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross - c. 300
Black-browed Albatross - c. 50
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - c. 10
Southern Giant Petrel - 3
White-chinned Petrel - c. 1500
Manx Shearwater - 1
Cory's Shearwater - c. 80
Great Shearwater - c. 10
Sooty Shearwater - c. 20
Flesh-footed Shearwater - 1
European Storm Petrel - c. 20
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c. 100
Subantarctic Skua - 6
Arctic Tern - c. 10
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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