Trip Highlights: Four species of albatrosses, Black-bellied Storm Petrel and Great Shearwater.
We were welcomed along the harbour steps by an inquisitive Grey Heron, quite nonplussed by the eager birdwatchers wanting to get onto the boat. It was a relatively wind-free, sunny day and False Bay was calm although swells in excess of 3 m were forecast for open waters beyond Cape point. As we set off of from Simon's Town harbour, we soon began to tally up coastal species such as Great Crested (Swift) Tern, Sandwich Tern, Cape Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls.
As we passed Boulders beach, we encountered a few groups of foraging African Penguins, White-breasted Cormorants and then towards Cape point the first White-chinned Petrels and Cape Gannets appeared.
After checking in at Cape Point, and heading into rougher waters, we soon found thousands of terns, mostly Arctic Terns but with good numbers of Sandwich and Swift Terns amongst them. It was also here that we first saw one or two Sooty Shearwaters and increased numbers of White-chinned Petrel.
Our skipper found a single long-liner on the AIS (automatic identification system) and we were soon headed straight for the fishing grounds around the Cape Canyon. Upon arrival there were already good numbers of seabirds following and surrounding the vessel in anticipation of a share of the spoils which would follow later on. In the midst of activity we spotted a single Black-bellied Storm Petrel and a few Wilson's Storm Petrels amongst Shy and Black-browed Albatross, and both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, Southern Giant Petrel, a single Brown Skua, Cape (Pintado) Petrel and good numbers of Great Shearwater.
A game-fishing vessel came in, and after dropping their lines they started to put out bait in the hope of attracting predatory fish. This of course increased the avian action around the boat and we we really managed to get good close-up views of increasing numbers of the seabirds mentioned above.
After enjoying the masses of birds around the boat, it was time to head northwards again on a slightly bumpy ride as the wind has picked up a bit. En route back to Simon's Town we enjoyed lunch and cold drinks and then stopped off at Partridge Point where we visited the Bank Cormorant colony and the Cape Fur Seal hang-out, after which we returned to the Simon's Town harbour after a great day of birding out at sea.
Pelagic bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 50 - 80
Black-browed Albatross - 10 - 20
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 20 - 30
Atlantic Yellow-Nosed Albatross - 20 - 30
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 10
Great Shearwater - 200 - 300
White-chinned Petrel - 500-800
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 3
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 10
Black-bellied Storm Petrel - 1
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 1
Cape Gannet - 30 - 50
Kelp Gull - 1000+
Hartlaub's Gull - 200
Arctic Tern - 1000+
Swift Tern - 100
Sandwich Tern - 100 - 150
Common Tern - 1
Cape Cormorant - 1000+
White-breasted Cormorant - 20 - 30
Bank Cormorant - 20
African Penguin - 100
African Black Oystercatcher - 1
Cape Fur Seal - Abundant, large numbers seen
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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