Trip Highlights: Five species of albatrosses, including Northern Royal Albatross; Great Shearwater.
We were welcomed along the harbour steps by an inquisitive Grey Heron, quite non-plussed by the eager birdwatchers wanting to get onto the boat. It was a relatively wind-free, sunny day, the sea was calm and as the Pisces set off of from Simon's Town harbour, we soon began to tally up coastal species such as Great Crested (Swift) Tern, Cape Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls.
As we passed Boulders beach, we saw a few groups of foraging African Penguins, White-breasted Cormorants and then beyond Simon's Town the first Cape Gannets appeared.
After check-in at Cape Point, we started seeing the first of hundreds of Sooty Shearwater while White-chinned Petrel put in an appearance shortly after. Shy Albatross also showed, first a quite a distance, but then a few curious individuals allowed for closer views.
Our skipper found a trawler on the radar and we were soon headed straight for the fishing grounds around the Cape Canyon. We arrived just before the fishing vessel hauled in its nets and already there were great numbers of seabirds around the trawler. In the midst of activity we spotted both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, Northern Giant Petrel, Brown Skua, Cape (Pintado) Petrel and Great Shearwater.
After enjoying the masses of birds around the boat, one of the birders asked what the gigantic albatross was he photographed and was now flying away from the boat, about 300 m off. The photograph showed a Northern Royal Albatross, and after a brief chase the bird was re-sighted.
We finally started heading northwards, where, back at Cape point we were treated to a spectacle of 1000+ Cape Cormorants sitting on the water. As another boat approached behind us a large group of birds flew up and the sky was suddenly blackened by the mass of cormorants.
We then headed off to Partridge Point where we enjoyed lunch and cold drinks and the visited the Bank Cormorant colony and the Cape Fur Seal hang-out, after which we headed back to the Simon's Town harbour after a great day of birding out at sea.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 250-300
Black-browed Albatross - 20-50
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 10
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 10
Northern Royal Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Sooty Shearwater - 500-600
Great Shearwater - 5
White-chinned Petrel - 800-1000
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 10
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 15-20
Cape Gannet - Common (coastal and pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - 25-30
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 5
Bank Cormorant - 30 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common (coastal and pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - 1
Great Crested Tern - 10
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal and pelagic)
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 David Swanepoel.
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