Trip Highlights: Pale morph Southern Giant Petrel, Manx Shearwater, Subantarctic Skua, Northern and Southern Giant Petrel, and a Southern Right Whale.
The Cape Town Pelagics trip set off at first light from Simon's Town pier with 6 passengers and guide Andrew de Blocq on board. Before Cape Point we picked up a number of pelagic species - White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, and an unidentified Giant Petrel. A number of Swift Terns flew past the boat, as well as Cape Cormorants. Cape Gannets were busy around The Bellows, with large bait balls attracting bird activity. We also encountered a Southern Right Whale, which was a first whale sighting for one of the British guests. The first albatrosses of the day showed soon after the point - all Shy Albatross.
We happened on a trawler on the near side of the canyon, which was pulling in significant numbers of birds. Antarctic Prion, Subantarctic Skua, Northern and Southern Giant Petrel, Black-browed Albatross, Pintado Petrel, andWilson's Storm Petrel were all added to our trip lists. We enjoyed the throngs of feeding birds for an hour or so, before the trawler began running south and out of our reach. However, the highlight of the trip came in this post-trawler period when a pale morph Southern Giant Petrel was spotted on the water. We had good views before the bird took off and disappeared. Unbelievably, it came back past the boat another two times before we left the trawling grounds, and everyone on board managed to get some great photos and memories of this special bird. We worked the stream of birds trailing the boat until the activity calmed down, then settled down for lunch. During lunch an inquisitive Subantarctic Skua sat next to the boat, gratefully accepting scraps that "fell" overboard. We also saw our only Yellow-nosed Albatross for the trip, which was an Indian.
After enjoying lunch in the deep we turned back towards Cape Point. At the bellows there was good tuna activity and a number of sport fishing boats were in attendance. This brought in a number of pelagic bird species, including a trio of Manx Shearwaters - a nice bonus for the list! Inside the bay we enjoyed the Bank, White-breasted, Cape and Crowned Cormorants at Partridge Point, as well as the Cape Fur Seals. We also spied the African Penguins from Boulders Beach before entering the harbour, greeted by more cormorants and a pair of African Black Oystercatcher.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 600
Black-browed Albatross - 300
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Antarctic Prion - 70
White-chinned Petrel - 1500
Pintado Petrel - 150
Southern Giant Petrel - 12
Northern Giant Petrel - 15
Pale Morph Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 15
Sooty Shearwater - 250
Manx Shearwater - 3
Subantarctic Skua - 25
Swift (Greater Crested) Tern
African Black Oystercatcher
Southern Right Whale
Cape Fur Seals
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 Andrew de Blocq.
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