Trip Highlights: Shy Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Great Shearwater, Northern Giant Petrel, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Wilson's Storm Petrel, Parasitic Jaeger, Oceanic Sunfish, Southern Right Whale, Humpback Whale, Dusky Dolphin
Our birding for the day started in the yacht basin of False Bay Yacht Club, with roosting Cape Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls, Great Crested (Swift) Terns gathered on the boundary floats. Once out of the harbour, we headed south past the penguin colony at Boulders beach. We encountered several rafts of African Penguins swimming on the surface, heading out to feed.
The highlight within the bay, was a pod of four Southern Right Whales wallowing in the swallows near Miller's Point. We spent a good while enjoying them, before continuing down to Cape Point.
The waters off of "The Point" was very busy. Large shoals of small bait fish had attracted a large of feeding seabirds, including a newly arrived Parasitic Jaeger, a Northern Giant Petrel, Great Crested (Swift) Terns, Cape Gannets, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants, large numbers of both Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels, and our first Shy Albatross of the day.
As we crossed the expanse of open ocean, towards the fishing grounds, we got several more great views of Shy Albatrosses, and our first few Black-browed Albatrosses and Wilson's Storm Petrels. The highlight for everyone on board was a pod of, at least, 600 Dusky Dolphins. As we followed them around, we glimpsed a large Oceanic Sunfish, the largest of the bony fishes, swimming on the surface. As the dolphins were swimming towards the coast, we had to eventually turn back out and continue out to sea.
We spotted a trawler on the radar at 21 nautical miles, and headed to meet it. As we arrived, we were treated to the classic Cape pelagic spectacle, of hundreds of albatrosses and several thousands of White-chinned Petrels. In amongst these masses of birds were smaller numbers of Cape (Pintado) Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, Kelp Gulls, a single Great Shearwater, Wilson's Storm Petrels, Brown Skuas and Cape Gannets.
After enjoying this awesome seabirding experience for several hours, we started our return run. It was fairly quiet, except for a view of a Soft-plumaged Petrel, and several blowing and breaching Humpback Whales near the coast.
Once back in False Bay, we headed up to Partridge Point, with its breeding Bank and White-breasted Cormorants. The local granite outcrops were home to large numbers of roosting Cape, and a few Crowned Cormorants and African Oystercatchers. We also briefly stopped at the haul-out of Cape Fur Seals before finally heading back to port.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 500-600
Black-browed Albatross - 300-400
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Sooty Shearwater - common (coastal and pelagic)
Great Shearwater - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 1500-2000
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 75-100
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 100-150
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 10-15
Parasitic Jaeger - 1
African Penguin - 50-75 (at sea)
Cape Gannet - common (coastal); 75-100 (pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - 10-15 pairs (breeding)
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 5
Bank Cormorant - 15-20 pairs (breeding)
Kelp Gull - abundant (coastal & pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - 25-30
Great Crested Tern - 250-350
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 4
Cape Fur Seal - Abundant
Southern Right Whale - 4
Humpback Whale - 2
Dusky Dolphin - 600
Oceanic Sunfish - 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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