Trip Highlights: Four species of albatrosses, Great Shearwater, Sabine's Gull.
After the trip was cancelled the previous day due to strong winds, all on board were relieved that the day turn out beautifully and the sea had the appearance of a glassy lake. After setting off from Hout Bay harbour, we soon began to tally up coastal species such as Great Crested (Swift) Tern, Cape Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls.
A Humpback Whale showed itself briefly in the vicinity of Kommetjie and soon the first Cape Gannets appeared.
As we headed southwest out to the fishing grounds, we started seeing the first of hundreds of Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned Petrels whilst the day's only Sabine's Gull put in an appearance shortly after. Shy Albatross also started showing, first at quite a distance, but then a few curious individuals allowed for closer views.
Our skipper found a single trawler on the radar and we were soon headed straight for the fishing grounds around the Cape Canyon. We arrived an hour or so before the fishing vessel hauled in its nets and since only a handful of species were present we drifted off a bit and set out a bit of bait. The bait did the trick and soon we were treated to views of both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, Northern-and Southern Giant Petrel, Black-browed Albatross, Brown Skua, Cape (Pintado) Petrel, Wilson's Storm Petrel and Great Shearwater.
We saw the fishing vessel readying to pull its nets and soon hundreds more birds joined to potentially get a piece of the action. This spectacle lasted for quite some time and we were able to see Giant Petrels and Albatrosses squabble over Kingklip heads at close range.
After enjoying the masses of birds around the boat, we finally started heading northwards, where, in the vicinity of Kommetjie we were again treated to views of a few Humpback Whales and a lone African Penguin.
We had a lunch of sandwiches and cold drinks and then paid a quick visit to the seal island where a few hundred Cape Fur Seals presented good photo opportunities before heading back to Hout Bay harbour after a great day of birding out at sea.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 300-500
Black-browed Albatross - 100+
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 50-100
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 50-100
Northern Giant Petrel - 20-30
Southern Giant Petrel - 20-30
Sooty Shearwater - 500-600
Great Shearwater - 5
White-chinned Petrel - 800-1000
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 30-50
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 20-30
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 50
Sabine's Gull - 1
Cape Gannet - common (coastal and pelagic)
Kelp Gull - common (coastal and pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - 1
Great Crested Tern - 10
Cape Fur Seal - abundant, large numbers seen
Humpback Whale - 4
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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