Trip Highlights: Four species of albatross, Spectacled and Soft-plumaged Petrels, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaegers, Sabine's Gull and a Humpback Whale.
It was a great assemblage of birders from diverse destinations which boarded the Destiny in the picturesque Simon's Town harbour on Sunday 3 November. There were birders from Belgium, the United States, England, Kenya and China on board! The run through the bay was very pleasant with the usual coastal birds and great scenery keeping us entertained as we ran up to Cape Point. We had our first few White-chinned Petrels while still in the Bay. After taking in the spectacular Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope land marks, we started heading out in a westerly direction on a rather lumpy sea with fairly large swell.
The going was slow but by three miles we had added Sooty and Great Shearwater as well as Parasitic Jaeger. We spent some time in the company of a very demonstrative
Humpback Whale. The animal was doing some serious pectoral fin slapping on the water surface. It also performed a series of head slaps on the water but the main act was an occasional breach.
At about five miles from the point we encountered our first albatross, an immature Shy Albatross. We continued slowly out towards a trawler, the location generously provided to us by one of Alan's fishing buddies. It was a long way, about 30 miles, and due west of the point. After a very long slog through the choppy sea we eventually saw the vessel on the horizon. One of the highlights of the day came in the form of a Soft-plumaged Petrel which came in to inspect the back of our boat before it arced away into the distance. On route we also had a couple of Long-tailed Jaegers and our first few Wilson's Storm Petrels. As we approached the trawler the numbers of birds started to increase dramatically. We soon added Pintado Petrel, Atlantic Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatross. We also encountered both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels. Intense searching eventually delivered Brown (Subantarctic) Skua, Sabine's Gull and European Storm Petrel. The bird of the day for many then put in an appearance, a cracking Spectacled Petrel which did two tight loops around the Destiny giving all on board great views.
The south-wester was starting to strengthen and the bumpy conditions in the deep dictated that we head for the relative calm of False Bay to enjoy our lunch. The trip back was punctuated only by views of an obliging Sun Fish. The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorant.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c. 200
Black-browed Albatross - c. 20
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - c. 20
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Southern Giant Petrel - c. 10
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Pintado Petrel - c. 30
White-chinned Petrel - c. 500
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Soft-plumaged Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - c. 80
Great Shearwater - c. 200
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c.20
European Storm Petrel - 2
Brown (Subantarctic) Skua - 2
Parasitic Jaeger - 4
Long-tailed Jaeger - c. 20
Sabine's Gull - 10
Cape Fur Seal
Humpback Whale - 1
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 Cliff Dorse.
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