Trip Highlights: four species of albatross, four species of cormorant, Cape (Pintado) Petrel, Great Shearwater, multiple sightings of Southern Right Whales, a small pod of Humpback Whales.
As with every Simon's Town departure, we headed out of the yacht basin and south along the mountainous western coastline of False Bay. The flat seas allowed us several fantastic sightings of African Penguins heading out to sea from their Boulder Beach breeding colony. The bay was very busy with good numbers of coastal species like Cape and White-breasted Cormorant, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gull, and Great Crested (Arctic) Tern. Plenty of Cape Fur Seals were seen in the bay.
Halfway to Cape Point we spotted and enjoyed a pair of Southern Right Whales. These 50 tonne behemoths made a close approach to our boat before heading out into deeper water. There was quick sighting of a White-chinned Petrel, just before we rounded Cape Point.
As we traversed the coastal waters out into the deeper ocean: Sooty Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrels and Cape Gannets were very common. Once in the true open ocean, we had our first sightings of Shy (White-capped) and Black-browed Albatrosses.
We stopped at 17 nautical miles, to search for fishing vessels. With nothing in sight, we began to chum, which brought in Brown (Subantarctic) Skua, several White-chinned Petrels, and a single Shy (White-capped) Albatross.
A distinctive trail of Kelp Gulls flying in the same direction, meant that there was an active fishing vessel in the area. We followed them and located a “long-liner” at the 25 nautical mile mark. The vessel had attracted a large volume of seabirds dominated by White-chinned Petrels, Shy (White-capped) and Black-browed Albatrosses, and the afore-mentioned Kelp Gulls. In amongst the mass of seabirds were smaller numbers of Sooty Shearwaters, a single Great Shearwater, the last of this winter's Cape (Pintado) Petrels, a lone Wilson's Storm Petrel, Brown (Subantarctic) Skuas, Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, and several Cape Gannets. The occasional Cape Fur Seal was seen trailing the boat. We happily enjoyed this very busy spectacle for a good while, before having to start the trip back to the coast.
Once back in the bay, we started to enjoy a light lunch, which was happily interrupted by four, very close, Humpback Whales. The whales swam close to our boat before they headed away. After we finished lunch, we slowly headed north, spotting another three Southern Right Whales. As with the ones seen in the morning, these were equally confiding, spy-hopping, rolling and raising their tails and flippers out of the water.After all this exciting whale-watching, we returned to some sea-birding at Partridge Point. The highlight was several pairs of breeding Bank and White-breasted Cormorants. The rocks also held several Cape and Crowned Cormorants, rounding out the quartet of local marine cormorants. We had a quick stop at the nearby Cape Fur Seal haul-out, which also featured a feeding African Oystercatcher, before heading back to port for well-deserved hot drinks.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 75-80
Black-browed Albatross - 50-60
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Sooty Shearwater - 50-75
Great Shearwater - 1
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 4-5
White-chinned Petrel - 450-500
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 1
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 6-7
African Penguin - 40-50 (at sea)
Cape Gannet - 90-100 (coastal); 35-40 (pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - 60 (breeding)
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 8
Bank Cormorant - 50 (breeding)
Kelp Gull – abundant (coastal); 90-100 (pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - 15-20
Great Crested Tern - 7-10
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 3
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal); 10-15 (pelagic)
Southern Right Whale - 5
Humpback Whale - 4
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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