A cosmopolitan mix of birders boarded a Cape Town Pelagics boat on the morning of 4 August from Simon's Town with Cliff Dorse the trip leader. The group comprised birders from Germany, Belgium, the US, England and South Africa. There was a small window in the weather which allowed us to attempt the pelagic on Saturday. In fact the wind was still blowing at 50 knots from the south-east at Cape Point at midnight. However, as it was predicted, the wind came down very quickly and was only a light breeze by 08h00 in the morning. The sea was still rather bumpy following the very strong winds overnight so we decided to make a turn at Partridge Point on the way out rather than on the run back in in order to give the sea a little more chance to settle. Here we had good views of Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorant. There were also quite a few White-chinned Petrels in the bay.
After taking in the spectacular site of Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, we headed out towards the deep. We enjoyed more White-chinned Petrels and our first Sooty Shearwaters of the day as we proceeded. A juvenile Giant Petrel made a quick appearance but looking into the light we were not able to see the diagnostic colour of the bill tip. At about 8 miles from the point we encountered our first albatross of the day, an adult Shy Albatross. At about 17 miles from the point we noticed a trawler to the North West and we headed directly towards her. As we approached, the numbers of birds increased dramatically. The trawler, the Foxglove, was still busy with her first trawl of the day and was not processing any fish. The birds were however already starting to concentrate in the area waiting for the net to be retrieved. As such we carefully worked through the rafts of birds in the vicinity. We enjoyed great views of Black-browed and Shy Albatross and added our first Pintado Petrels and Subantarctic Skuas of the day.
We were delighted when the trawler started to retrieve her net not long after our arrival. When the net appeared at the surface the feeding frenzy commenced with vast numbers of birds and many Cape Fur Seals partaking in the action. White-chinned Petrels, Black-browed and Shy Albatross were most abundant birds in attendance. We had to work hard to locate a few handsome Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross amongst the masses of birds. Once the net was on board, the trawler turned and ran to the south at pace before eventually slowing to redeploy her net. We ran back up to her and spent some time going through her wake. We then drifted down her wake and even put some oil and chum out that we had brought along. While some birds came to investigate none were new to the day list. However our skipper eventually picked up one of only two Wilson's Storm Petrels that were encountered on the day. We then noticed a second trawler to our north and decided to run up to her. The same species encountered at the Foxglove were in attendance at this trawler, the Ferox.
We drifted in the wake of the Ferox which was actively trawling and enjoyed a great lunch out in the deep. Again a Giant Petrel provided a brief and poor view not allowing a view of the bill. The sea had now flattened off really nicely and the run back was very comfortable. The last of Southern Africa's marine cormorants, Crowned Cormorant was seen well in the Simon's Town Harbour.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c.500
Black-browed Albatross - c.800
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Pintado Petrel - c.100
White-chinned Petrel - c.1500
Giant Petrel sp. - 2
Sooty Shearwater - c.100
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 2
Brown (Subantarctic) Skua - c.20
Cape Fur Seal - Common
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 Cliff Dorse.
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