Trip Highlights: Long-beaked Common Dolphin, three species of albatrosses, four species of cormorants, Cape (Pintado) Petrel and Wilson's Storm Petrel.
We sighted our first seabirds - Hartlaub's, and Kelp Gulls, and Crowned, and Cape Cormorants - while walking down to the boat.
After getting our gear safely stowed on the vessel, we headed out of Simon's Town. After turning towards Cape Point, we passed several groups of African Penguins heading out from the Boulders beach colony. The trip down the picturesque western shoreline of False Bay offered plenty of sightings of Cape Cormorants, Kelp Gulls and Great Crested (Swift) Terns.
The first pelagic seabirds were encountered just past Cape Point, with good numbers of White-chinned Petrels, in addition to a single Sooty Shearwater and Northern Giant Petrel.
Once clear of the coast, the oceanic waters were dominated by White-chinned Petrels, Cape Gannets and smaller numbers of Kelp Gulls and Shy Albatrosses. We had Common, and Great Crested Terns closer inshore and a few Arctic Terns out in the deeper water. The undisputed highlight of this leg of our trip was a massive pod of Long-beaked Common Dolphins. They followed the boats for several minutes, before we continued out into deeper water, and they continued farther north.
Unfortunately no fishing vessels were operating in their usual fishing grounds so we laid down a slick of fish oil. This slowly worked its magic and we eventually drew in a moderate number, but great diversity of seabirds. Over the next couple of hours we had close views of three species of albatrosses - Shy, Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed; White-chinned Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, both Northern, and Southern Giant Petrels, Wilson's Storm Petrels, Kelp Gulls, and Brown Skuas. The highlight was a pair of Cape (Pintado) Petrels, which are rare outside of mid-winter.
After enjoying a good morning of pelagic sea-birding, we turned for the coast. Once safely back in the bay, we enjoyed light lunch. We also spotted a brief blow of Bryde's Whale but it unfortunately did not resurface.
We continued on to Partridge Point with its breeding colony of Bank, and White-breasted Cormorants. The tidal surge in the area meant we could only make a very brief visit to the nearby Cape Fur Seal haul-out.
Passing Boulders Beach, we stopped to watch several groups of African Penguins returning to their colony. We continued back into the harbour, spotting one final species - an African Oystercatcher foraging on the edge of the yacht basin.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 20-25
Black-browed Albatross - 6 vIndian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 10-12
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 50-75
White-chinned Petrel - 100-150
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 2
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 20-25
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 2
Arctic Tern - 2
African Penguin - 40-50
Cape Gannet - Common (coastal and pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - 19 breeding pairs
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 5
Bank Cormorant - 22 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common (coastal and pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - 15-20
Great Crested Tern - 20-30
Common Tern - 19
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 1
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal and pelagic)
Bryde's Whale - 1
Long-beaked Common Dolphin - 500-600
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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