Trip Highlights: Four species of albatrosses, Great Shearwater, Spectacled Petrel, two species of whale: Humpback and Bryde's, 1000+ Long-beaked Common Dolphins.
Our day's list started with an excellent view of a breeding plumaged Crowned Cormorant sitting on one of the rocks in the harbour. While cruising out of the Simon's Town yacht basin, we quickly added several of the more common coastal seabirds like Cape and White-breasted Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls, and Great Crested (Swift) Tern.
Soon after leaving port, we received news of a nearby massive pod of dolphins. We were rewarded with the rare sight of over a thousand Long-beaked Common Dolphins moving quickly north. After enjoying this amazing spectacle we continued south spotting Cape Gannets and African Penguins en-route. We also recorded our first two pelagic species: Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned Petrel as we passed Cape Point.
After the customary photo-stop at the point, we set course for the fishing grounds around the Cape Canyon. Once clear of the coast, the first Shy Albatrosses of the day were seen, as well as masses of Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels. Much further out, we added the first of several hundreds of Black-browed Albatrosses.
At the fishing grounds, we located two working trawlers, and headed to the closest of the pair. The boat trailed well over a thousand seabirds, including an excellent diversity of species. Within the midst of the confusing activity we recorded four species of albatrosses: Shy, Black-browed, Atlantic Yellow-nosed and Indian Yellow-nosed, White-chinned and Cape (Pintado) Petrels, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Sooty Shearwater, Wilson's Storm-petrels, Brown Skuas, Kelp Gulls and Cape Gannets. There was also a frustratingly brief Spectacled Petrel which rapidly flew by, disappearing in the melee.
After enjoying the masses of birds at the first boat, we headed over to the second trawler, adding a Great Shearwater to the day's tally. After refuelling with a tasty lunch, we headed back to coast picking up three Humpback Whales just outside of False Bay. We added a second whale species - Bryde's Whale - as we headed north towards Partridge Point. Here we visited the famous Bank Cormorant colony, and Cape Fur Seal haul-out. Some of the exposed lower lying rocks held a few African Oystercatchers. With an excellent trip bird and marine mammal list in hand, we headed back into Simon's Town.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 250-300
Black-browed Albatross - 150-200
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 10
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Southern Giant Petrel - 5
Sooty Shearwater - 500-600
Great Shearwater - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 800-1000
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 50-60
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 50-60
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 25-30
African Penguin - 20-30
Cape Gannet - common
White-breasted Cormorant - 20-25
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 5
Bank Cormorant - breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common
Hartlaub's Gull - 4
Great Crested Tern - 25-30
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 5
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal and pelagic)
Bryde's Whale - 1
Humpback Whale - 3
Long-beaked Common Dolphin - 1000+
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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