Trip Highlights: Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, the four species of endemic marine Cormorants, Bryde and Humpback Whales.
The 21st July was a calm morning after a week of light on shore winds. A group of keen birders gathered early at the Simon's Town Yacht Club and boarded a Cape Town Pelagics charter with guide Dalton Gibbs leading the trip. Wind was predicted for that afternoon and so we made an early start to get ahead of this weather system. Leaving the harbour we saw the usual Kelp Gulls, Hartlaub's Gulls, a few Swift Terns, Cape Cormorant and a lone Grey Heron. Out in False Bay we saw a few African Penguins feeding in the waters, whilst groups stood upon Boulders Beach ready to take to the sea. The trip across False Bay was quiet, with only a Cape Gannet of interest. Near Cape Point a Bryde's Whale made an appearance, soon followed by a White-chinned Petrel. When we reached Cape Point it was bathed in early morning light so we stopped for scenery photos and checked out over the radio before heading out into the deep.
As soon as we left Cape Point we connected with numerous Cape Cormorants and then a few Sooty Shearwater who showed their silvery under wings in the early morning light. At about the seven nautical mile mark our first Shy Albatross appeared, with a number of these birds making fly pasts in the next few miles. We continued further out, finding a few Wilson's Storm-petrels which flitted past us.
At the 20 N Mile mark we followed up on several ship sightings but these all turned out to be large tankers and cargo ships. The radar also failed to turn up anything. We headed slightly further out to the 25n mile mark before stopping and laying out fish oil. Several White-chinned Petrels and Shy Albatross showed and were soon followed by an Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and a Northern Giant Petrel which showed well close to the boat. Sub-Antarctic Skua showed up on two occasions and a few more Wilson's Storm-petrels made an appearance. A small flock of terns pitched up and two of these birds were well marked as Antarctic Tern going into their breeding colours. Despite having not found a trawler we managed to find a good number of pelagic species on the rather strong smelling fish oil which was poured behind the boat.
The afternoon wind which was forecast started to pick up and we slowly headed for home. This was fairly uneventful except for having brief views of a Humpback Whale off Cape Point. Back in False Bay we had lunch in the calm waters below the cliffs of Cape Point while watching a seal kill and eat an octopus in front of us. After lunch we travelled across False Bay, coming to the Castle Rock cormorant colony. Here we found White-breasted, Cape Cormorants, and Bank Cormorants, whilst the adjacent rocks held an African Black Oystercatcher, Cape Fur Seals and a lone Crowned Cormorant. We made our way back to Simon's Town Harbour, reaching home comfortably before the wind picked up.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Antarctic tern - 2
White-chinned Petrel - 50
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 10
Sooty Shearwater - 20
Shy Albatross - 10
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 2
Swift Tern - coastal
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic – 30
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Kelp Gull - coastal
Grey heron - coastal -1
Cape Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant – coastal - 1
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal - 1
African Penguin - 20 - coastal
African Black Oystercatcher - coastal - 3
Cape Fur Seal
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 Dalton Gibbs.
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