Trip Highlights: 6 Albatross species including Northern AND Southern Royal Albatross, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Antarctic Prion, Subantarctic Skua, and a pair of Southern Right Whales
We left the False Bay yacht Club in Simon's Town on calm seas, which were in strong contrast to the rough conditions that prevented the trip from going out over the previous weekend. The trip down to Cape Point was fairly uneventful, with the exception of large numbers of Cape Cormorants and numerous Cape Gannets heading south to feed in the open ocean. We had a few Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skuas and White-chinned Petrels towards the southern edge of False Bay.
Once around Cape Point, we had our first sightings of Shy Albatrosses, Antarctic Prions, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters. As we travelled south-west into deeper oceanic water, we got our first Black-browed Albatross.
At a distance of 26 nautical miles from Cape Point, we found a trawler processing its catch. The combination of the abundant fish discard and winter weather brought in several hundred albatrosses, mainly Black-browed. Amongst them were good numbers of both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, along with Pintado Petrels, a few Wilson's Storm-Petrel, all in addition to masses of White-chinned Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, Sub-Antarctic Skuas and Cape Gannets. A small flock of Kelp Gulls and a lone Swift Tern also joined the melee.
Unfortunately the trawler was slowly heading away from shore. We slowly worked our way back through the trail of birds feeding and sitting on the surface, adding a few more Wilson's Storm-Petrels to the days tally. Amongst the numerous resting mollymawks were a pair of "white-backed" great albatrosses. As we approached they turned out to be Northern AND Southern Royal Albatrosses!! The Southern quickly took off and disappeared in the oceanic swells, not before revealing that it had a red leg tag. The Northern was more obliging and we got a few more glimpses before it too blended into the swells.
The run back to Cape Point (usually boring in comparison to a trawler) delivered an unexpected haul of six Soft-plumaged Petrels.
Once around Cape Point, we travelled to Buffels Bay for a lunch stop. As we started to run north towards the Partridge Point cormorant colonies, we had a pair of Southern Right Whale briefly surface next to the boat.
At Partridge Point, there were breeding Bank and White-breasted Cormorants, in addition to numerous roosting Cape and a single Crowned Cormorant. Swift (Great Crested) Terns and Hartlaub's Gulls were seen feeding in the bay. The regular rock used by Cape Fur Seals to rest was teeming with extra animals seeking to get away from the Great White Sharks feeding on them at the nearby Seal Island.
Further on towards the harbour, conditions allowed us to see endangered African Penguins returning to the colony at Boulders Beach. As we turned into Simon's Bay, there was another penguin resting on the surface. We ended the day with a pair of African Black Oystercatchers seen feeding on the floating boundary fenders at the yacht club.
Species seen at sea and approximate numbers:
Northern Royal Albatross - 1
Southern Royal Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross - 30-40
Black-browed Albatross - 200-300
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 10-15
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Southern Giant Petrel - 10-15
Northern Giant Petrel - 5-10
White-chinned Petrel - 2000-3000
Pintado Petrel - 250-300
Soft-plumaged Petrel - 6
Sooty Shearwater - 900-1000
Antarctic Prion - 100-200
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 5
Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua - 15-20
Cape Gannet - 150-200
Kelp Gull - 20-30
Swift Tern - 1
Species seen along Coast:
Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua
Cape Gannet - abundant
Cape Cormorant - very abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 4
Bank Cormorant - 20-30 (breeding)
White-breasted Cormorant - 40-50 (breeding)
Hartlaub's Gull - abundant
Kelp Gull - abundant
Swift Tern - abundant
African Penguins - 10-20 at sea; numerous onshore at Boulders
African Black Oystercatcher - 2
Southern Right Whale - 2
Cape Fur Seal - abundant
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 Vincent Ward.
To book, simply email
or phone us, or submit a
booking enquiry online.