Trip Highlights: Three species of albatross, four species of cormorant, three species of Shearwater, Pintado Petrel, Great-winged Petrel.
We started our trip out of Simon's Town in slightly unsettled conditions; a reminder of the rough weather that had recently passed the Cape. Fortunately, the sea conditions flattened out over the course of the day. As we travelled south to Cape Point, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the Hottentots-Holland Mountains. False Bay was relatively quiet, apart from the occasional Cape Cormorant or Kelp Gull.
After stopping at Cape Point for a few photos of the iconic twin lighthouses, our skipper headed south-west. The coastal waters busy with birdlife, with great sightings of Cape Gannets, Great Crested (Swift) Tern, large numbers of Cape Cormorants (which breed on the adjacent cliffs), and the occasional Kelp Gull. We got our first pelagic seabird species: White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters just past the Point. A Giant Petrel approached the boat but sadly it was too distant to identify to species level.
As we left the coast behind and entered oceanic waters, we encountered first of many Shy/White-capped Albatrosses. White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters were very common, with a few Cory's Shearwaters still around.
Several miles offshore, we intercepted a trawler travelling at speed. The vessel had a good trail of birds behind it. The highlights were three species of albatross: Shy/White-capped, Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross; large numbers of White-chinned Petrels, smaller number of Sooty Shearwaters. Other species included a few Great Shearwaters, Cape Gannets, Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skuas and an occasional Cape Fur Seal.
The undeniable stars were the newly arrived Pintado (Cape) Petrels a common winter visitor. These attractive petrels, with their distinctive "chequer-board" upper-wing pattern, feature in the Cape Town Pelagics logo.
We eventfully closed the distance to the trawler, getting great views of most of the species already encountered. An obliging Northern Giant Petrel made a few close approaches to our boat.
At midday, we left the trawler and headed back to False Bay. The trip back was largely uneventful except for a single Wilson's Storm-Petrel, and a brief glimpse of a Great-winged Petrel with its characteristic looping flight pattern.
Shortly after re-entering False Bay, a Bryde's Whale had a frustratingly brief appearance before sounding. After enjoying our lunch below the cliff of Cape Point, we headed to our next stop at Partridge Point. The resident Bank and White-breasted Cormorants were still nesting, with several large chicks seen. As usual we made a quick turn at the Cape Fur Seals "haulout", before continuing north.
Several small groups of African Penguins were swimming on the surface just offshore of Boulders Beach penguin colony.The harbour in Simon's Town offered up the final species for our trip list. A pair of African Oystercatchers roosting on the "sausages" (large floats) at the yacht club. A single Crowned Cormorant rounded out a “full house” of marine cormorants for the day's list.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 70-80
Black-browed Albatross - 20-30
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Giant Petrel spp - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 200-300
Cory's Shearwater - 3
Great-winged Shearwater - 5-7
White-chinned Petrel - 500-600
Great-winged Petrel - 1
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 1
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 4
Great Crested Tern - abundant (coastal)
African Penguin - 10-12 (at sea)
Cape Gannet - 40-50
White-breasted Cormorant - 30-40
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 1
Bank Cormorant - 20-30
Kelp Gull - abundant
Hartlaub's Gull - 4-5
Great Crested Tern - abundant
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 2
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal); 5-10 (pelagic)
Bryde's Whale - 1
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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