Trip Highlights: Shy and Black-browed Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Manx Shearwater, a leucistic White-chinned Petrel, Humpback Whales.
White-chinned Petrel (leucistic)
On Saturday morning a Cape Town Pelagics tour group departed from Simon's Town harbour with Cliff Dorse leading the trip. The group consisted of birders from Germany, France, England, the US and South Africa. The highlight of the run through the picturesque bay was a single Humpback Whale. After the obligatory photo shoot of the spectacular Cape Peninsula at Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope we headed out towards the trawling grounds in the deep.
Shortly after leaving the point behind us, we encountered our first White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters of the day. Our first few Shy Albatross were in the distance but it was not long before a beautiful adult bird made a close pass of the boat to the enjoyment of all on board. At about 6 miles we had a brief encounter with a Manx Shearwater. Despite intensive scanning of the horizon and communication with other boats out in the deep, there were no fishing boats in striking distance. Luckily we were prepared and had brought pilchards and fish oil with which to chum.
Southern Giant Petrel
At about 22 miles from the point we saw our first Black-browed Albatross and shortly thereafter decided to stop and chum. Working the pilchards into a fine paste we slowly added chum and oil creating a very long chum slick. It was very affective bringing in many White-chinned Petrels. However, Brown Skua and a few Northern Giant Petrels also promptly arrived. Two Pintado Petrels also made an appearance and eventually we also got a handful of Wilson's Storm Petrels interested. A single Southern Giant Petrel also made an appearance as did a spectacularly beautiful partially leucistic White-chinned Petrel.
The wind had started to strengthen from the north-west so we decided to run back towards the calm of False Bay. Conditions were very calm about three miles from the point where we had another view of a Humpback Whale. There were also plenty of Sooty Shearwaters in the vicinity and we decided to stop and enjoy our lovely lunch. We then investigated a large raft of Sooty Shearwaters about half a mile away and were lucky to find a single Manx Shearwater amongst them which gave great views.
Back in the bay, the mandatory stop at Partridge Point produced Bank, Cape, Crowned and White-breasted Cormorant.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c. 30
Black-browed Albatross - c. 20
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Pintado Petrel - 2
White-chinned Petrel - c. 200
Sooty Shearwater - c. 200
Manx Shearwater - 3
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c. 50
Brown (Subantarctic) Skua - 8
Cape Fur Seal
Humpback Whale - 2
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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