Trip Highlights: Four species of Albatross, three Spectacled Petrels, Long-tailed, Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers, Manx Shearwater, a large pod of Common Dolphins, plus Bryde's and Southern Right Whales.
On Saturday 2 March, birders from France, Holland, the United States and England boarded the Destiny for a Cape Town Pelagic trip. False Bay was extremely flat and as picturesque as ever. The first notable sighting of the day came in the form of a Bryde's Whale off Partridge Point. This was soon followed by a pod of at least 400 Common Dolphins off Buffel's Bay. We were treated to a wonderful prolonged experience of being in the middle of this very large pod of Dolphins. Eventually we had to force ourselves to leave and head on toward the iconic Cape Point.
Shortly after the point we diverted for some more Bryde's Whales. We also soon started encountering our first White-chinned Petrels, Cory's and Sooty Shearwaters of the day. There were good numbers of Parasitic Jaeger about as well as at least three Pomarine Jaegers. Two of the Pomarine's were already supporting impressive spatulate central tail feathers. At about five miles we encountered four unseasonal Southern Right Whales which also showed really well. Shortly thereafter we added Great and Manx Shearwaters to the day list. We also enjoyed a single very brief flyby from a Southern Giant Petrel. This proved to be the only Giant petrel encountered on the day.
We continued to run out toward the canyon where one of Alan's contacts had relayed that a stern trawler was reported to be in operation. We had one or two minor rain squalls but we all managed to stay dry. At about 15 miles we encountered our first Albatross, an Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. It was at this point that we suddenly noticed the trawler as the mist lifted. We approached the trawler, the Foxglove, and Alan radioed them to find out what time they would be retrieving there net. They indicated that they would still be trawling for another 1.5 hours. As such, we got to working through the birds in her wake and the general area. We soon added Shy, Black-browed and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross as well as Long-tailed Jaeger. The long-tailed Jaeger were quite a highlight as we encountered at least eight individuals, the first of which was already supporting tails streamers of about 30cm!
We interrogated the very numerous White-chinned Petrels in the vicinity and were eventually rewarded with a total of three different Spectacled Petrels. We also encountered a few Subantarctic (Brown) Skuas, several Sabine's Gulls as well as both Common and Arctic Terns. We noticed that the Foxglove had commenced with retrieving her nets and we ran back up to her to her to enjoy the feeding frenzy that ensued. There were many birds in attendance, most providing excellent views. However, we were unable to pick out anything not already seen on the day. We then enjoyed a well-earned lunch out in the deep before running back towards Cape Point.
The run back to the point was uneventful, except for an encounter with another two Southern Right Whales. Back in False Bay, the mandatory stop at Partridge Point produced Bank, Cape, Crowned and White-breasted Cormorants.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c. 40
Black-browed Albatross - c. 50
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 10
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
White-chinned Petrel - c. 600
Spectacled Petrel - 3
Cory's Shearwater - c. 200
Great Shearwater - c. 50
Sooty Shearwater - c. 200
Manx Shearwater - 3
European Storm Petrel - c. 20
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c. 80
Subantarctic Skua - c. 10
Parasitic Jaeger - 3
Pomarine Jaeger - c. 15
Long-tailed Jaeger - 8
Sabine's Gull - 4
Cape Fur Seal
Common Dolphin > 400
Southern Right Whale - 6
Bryde's Whale - 5
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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