Trip Highlights: 5 species of albatross including Wandering Albatross, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Great-winged Petrel, both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels.
Trawler with pelagic birds in tow.
A Cape Town Pelagic trip set off from Simon's Town harbour at 07h30 on a breathless autumn morning, with six birders and guide Dominic Rollinson on board.
Heading out of False Bay in fairly calm waters, the swell soon picked up as we rounded Cape Point, as did the birding. The first Cape Gannets, White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters were soon noted as well as smaller number of Great Shearwaters. We began the relatively long ride out to the trawling grounds, picking up bits and pieces along the way. Cory's Shearwaters were soon noted in increasing numbers and then we had a quick flyby of a single Great-winged Petrel.
Just as we were about to give up hope on finding a trawler for the day, our skipper shouted out happily that he had (using his Sat-nav) located one nearby and we should be arriving in the next 30 min or so. From a distance we could see a large number of birds behind the trawler and soon began picking out Indian and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses in amongst the hordes of Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses. A single early Pintado Petrel was spotted and both species of giant petrels.
The trawler was busy processing its catch on board and many birds were hanging around for an easy meal. As the trawler steamed slowly on, Sub-Antarctic Skuas were seen harassing other birds for their meal. After a while we noted a single Flesh-footed Shearwater, which then did a few loops around our boat. Drifting a little further behind the trawler we found small numbers of storm-petrels which included mostly Wilson's, but also smaller numbers of European Storm-petrels. As we were about to turn around and head back home a single immature Wandering Albatross was seen, dwarfing the albatrosses around it.
An immature Wandering Albatross with White-chinned Petrels.
We then made the return journey back to Simon's Town, a few Arctic Terns were noted but not too much else. Just off Partridge Point we enjoyed some lunch and views of the small Bank Cormorant colony alongside the commoner Cape, White-breasted and Crowned Cormorants. Cape Fur Seals were seen on their usual haul-out rocks nearby which ended another enjoyable day at sea.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 500
Black-browed Albatross - 1000
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Wandering Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Southern Giant Petrel - 5
White-chinned Petrel - ca 1500
Great-winged Petrel - 2
Pintado Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 200+
Cory's Shearwater - 10
Great Shearwater - 300
Flesh-footed Shearwater - 1
European Storm-Petrel - 5
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 50+
Subantarctic Skua - 5
Cape Gannet - 100+
Arctic Tern - 10+
Swift Tern - coastal
Kelp Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Cape Fur Seal - 100+
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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