Trip Highlights: Shy Albatross, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, Parasitic Jaeger, Great Shearwater, Pintado Petrel and Dusky Dolphins.
We were delighted that the short respite from the persistent south-easter aligned with a weekend for a change! This allowed us to run a Cape Town Pelagic trip on Saturday 3 November. We boarded at the False Bay Yacht Club in Simons's Town just after 7h00 and were soon on our way through the spectacular False Bay. While there was little wind to speak of, there was still a bit of a chop on the water, a legacy of the strong wind that was blowing the previous evening. At the Point, we stopped for a moment to enjoy and photograph the iconic landmark of Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.
We saw our first White-chinned Petrels just beyond the Point, but only saw our first few close-up Sooty Shearwaters after about four miles from the Point. Next in store was a Great Shearwater sitting on the water which provided great views. We also encountered a couple of Parasitic Jaegers, one providing fairly good views. At about 12 miles, a juvenile Shy Albatross came to investigate. We continued out towards the trawling grounds adding Wilson's Storm Petrel to our list. Our skipper Alan was in communication with many recreational fishing boats that were already in the deep. Unfortunately, none could report any trawlers or long-line vessels. We decided to proceed to the Canyon, an area where the continental shelf begins to fall away very quickly. We arrived to find it rather devoid of life. Undeterred, we started to chum with fish oil and minced up pilchards. To our surprise the response was rather unimpressive with only a few White-chinned Petrels coming to investigate. We however persisted and eventually had Great Shearwater, White-chinned Petrel and both European and Wilson's Storm Petrels in our chum slick. A handful of juvenile Shy Albatross did a few flybys and a couple of Sooty Shearwaters also made a quick appearance. Eventually we were rewarded when a single Pintado Petrel and both Northern and Southern Giant Petrels came to investigate.
We decided to head for the relative calm of False Bay to take lunch as there was a north-westerly predicted to start blowing in the afternoon. The trip back to False Bay was uneventful and after our enjoyable lunch, our final stretch to the harbour was interrupted by a small group of Dusky Dolphins.
The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorant.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c. 10
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Pintado Petrel - 1
White-chinned Petrel - c. 100
Sooty Shearwater - c. 25
Great Shearwater - c. 80
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c. 30
European Storm Petrel - c. 10
Parasitic Jaeger - 2
Cape Fur Seal
Dusky Dolphin - 3
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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