A break in the persistent south-easter allowed the Cape Town Pelagic trip to run on Sunday 25 November 2018. Birders from England, the United States, Switzerland and South Africa boarded a Cape Town Pelagics trip and were soon steaming through the spectacular False Bay. After the obligatory stop at Cape Point to take in the scenery and photograph the iconic land mark, we headed on out to the trawling grounds.
The first tube-nose of the day was a quick but close flyby of a Southern Giant Petrel just after Cape Point. The first few Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels that we encountered stayed rather far away from us but we got gradually better views until we had excellent sightings of both species right alongside. Skipper Alan was on the radio to numerous fishing contacts and they soon reported the presence of a stern trawler only 16 miles from the point. We headed in her direction and added Cory's Shearwater and our first Albatross, an immature Shy.
As we neared the trawler, the Avro Warrior, the number of birds and diversity of species increased markedly. There were four Albatross species in attendance. These were; Black-browed, Shy, Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed. We also managed to locate both Northern and Southern Giant Petrels as well as a few Great Shearwaters. There was another trawler, the Freesia, about 4 miles to the south of us. We decided to turn and run towards her as one of the fisherman in the area reported that she had numerous birds in tow. As we arrived we noticed a Flesh-footed Shearwater in close proximity to the boat – it gave some great views before disappearing in the cloud of birds around the Freesia. Always a great bird to see off the Cape! The Freesia had also not retrieved her nets as yet so we began to work through the mass of birds in the vicinity. Eventually we found a Spectacled Petrel but lost it again in the melee. We also managed to pick out a late Pintado Petrel in the fray. We continued to work through the area and enjoyed some good close views of Sabine's Gulls. The first trawler, Avro Warrior, had since retrieved her net and had turned and was running south. We ran the short distance to join in behind her and see what was in her wake. We added nothing new and then rejoined the Freesia as she began to retrieve her net. After the entertainment of watching the net be pulled aboard, we ran with her as she repositioned to reset her net. We again managed to locate the Flesh-footed Shearwater and after some intense searching, relocated the Spectacled Petrel which gave all on board good views.
We decided to enjoyed lunch in the deep and put some oil out to see if anything else would put in an appearance while we ate. The most notable bird during our lunch was another flyby from a Pintado Petrel. We then had to start making our way back to terra firma. The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of all four species of marine cormorant.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Black-browed Albatross c. 10
Shy Albatross c. 30
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 5
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
Northern Giant Petrel c. 10
Southern Giant Petrel c. 15
White-chinned Petrel c. 800
Spectacled Petrel 1
Sooty Shearwater c. 30
Cory's Shearwater c. 30
Great Shearwater 5
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1
Sabine's Gull 10
Cape Fur Seal
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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