Trip Highlights: Four species of albatross, four species of cormorant, three species of Shearwater, Arctic Tern
We set out of Simon's Town harbour in beautiful flat and windless conditions. This was in stark contrast to the stormy north-westerly conditions that delayed our departure by a day. The yacht basin held the usual groups of roosting Cape and White-breasted Cormorants, and Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls.
In False Bay, we spotted several groups of African Penguins going out to feed, as well a few small groups of Cape Gannets.
The coastal waters around Cape Point were very busy with hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters feeding amongst the flotilla of small fishing boats. They were joined by large numbers of Cape Cormorants, Great Crested Terns, Kelp Gulls and the occasional Cape Gannet.
As we headed out into the open ocean, we encountered the first of many Great Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels, as well as a few unseasonably late Cory's Shearwaters. We soon got our first albatross: a handsome adult Indian Yellow-nosed, quickly followed by several Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses.
We crossed paths with a trawler returning to port, trailed by a few White-chinned Petrels and Shy Albatrosses. With no other fishing vessels in sight, we stopped at 17 nautical miles offshore and put down a slick of anchovy oil. The oil attracted a variety of species including a curious Northern Giant Petrel, Brown Skuas, Storm Petrel, Arctic Terns (breeding plumage adult and first year), large numbers of White-chinned Petrels, Great Shearwaters, and three species of albatross: Shy, Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed.
Three longline fishing boats were sighted travelling towards us. One vessels picked up its lines and began processing its catch. The abundant offal attracted in addition to species already seen, an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and numerous Brown Skuas. The majority of birds attending the vessel were roughly equal numbers of White-chinned Petrels and Great Shearwaters, with a few Sooties and a single Cory's Shearwater. A few Cape Gannets and Cape Fur Seals also joined the melee.
At midday, we left the vessel and returned to the coast. The return trip saw more sightings of Great, Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters, and groups of Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses. Once back near coast, Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants and Greater Crested Terns were sighted again.
Cape Fur Seal
We had lunch back in False Bay, before heading to Partridge Point. The rocks held Bank Cormorant nests and several large downy chicks. Cape Fur Seals were hauled out on their usual rock, while African Oystercatchers foraged in mussel banks on lower rocks.
Wilson's Storm Petrel
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Brown Skua - 8-9
Arctic Tern - 2
Cape Gannet - 15-20 (coastal and pelagic)
Shy (White-capped) Albatross - 40-50
Black-browed Albatross - 5-10
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3-5
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 450-500
Cory's Shearwater - 3-5
Great Shearwater - 400-450
Sooty Shearwater - 200-250
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 10-15
African Oystercatcher - 3
Kelp Gull - common
Hartlaub's Gull - common
Greater Crested Tern - common
Cape Gannet - 15-20 (coastal and pelagic)
Crowned Cormorant - 4
White-breasted Cormorant - 40-50 (breeding)
Bank Cormorant - 20-30 (breeding)
Cape Cormorant - common
African Penguin - common
Cape (Brown) Fur Seal - common (coastal and pelagic)
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.
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