Trip Highlights: Four species of albatrosses, including unusually high numbers of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, four species of cormorants, Humpback Whale.
We left Simon's Town harbour and heading south towards Cape Point. The harbour and the adjacent portion of False gave plenty of opportunities to tick a host coastal species like African Penguin, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls, Cape, White-breasted and Bank Cormorants, Great Crested (Swift), Common and Sandwich Terns.
As we approached Cape Point, we spotted a playful Humpback Whale. It alternated between lazily swimming on the surface to giving energetic tail and flipper slaps. The coastal waters were busy with hundreds of Cape Gannets, terns and cormorants feeding on the abundant fish. They were joined by equally large numbers of White-chinned Petrels, mixed with Sooty and Great Shearwaters. The large flocks attracted a trio of Parasitic Jaegers attempting to steal any caught fish.
Once away from the coast, we encountered our first albatross, an Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, a species rarely encountered so close to the coast. This bird was followed in short order by White-capped (Shy) and Black-browed Albatrosses.
We arrived at the fishing ground with two hake trawler working in the area. The closer was the Foxglove. She initially had a small number of trailing seabirds. Once she began to haul in her net, the numbers rapidly increased. Within this flock, we picked at least three dozen Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses. On an average trip we are lucky to see more than half a dozen. We also got a Cape Petrel, a species that is a common winter visitor but rare in summer. The other new species included both Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, a single Brown Skua and Arctic Tern.
With a strong cold front expected, we returned back to the calm of False Bay. After a quick lunch, we continued north to Partridge Point. These granite outcrops held all four species of marine cormorant: Cape, Crowned, Bank and White-breasted Cormorant. The lower laying rocks were home to a haul-out of Cape Fur Seals and an African Oystercatcher.
With the wind freshening, we continued towards port, stopping briefly near Boulders to get additional views of African Penguins, a variety of terns and Crowned Cormorants. With a respectable pelagic trip list in hand, we returned to port.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
White-capped (Shy) Albatross - 10-15
Black-browed Albatross - 5-10
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 36+
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Northern Giant Petrel - 5-7
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 200-300
Great Shearwater - 100-150
White-chinned Petrel - 500-700
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 2
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 1
Parasitic Jaeger - 3
Arctic Tern - 1
African Penguin - 30-40
Cape Gannet - common White-breasted Cormorant - 13 breeding pairs
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 6-7
Bank Cormorant - 19 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common
Hartlaub's Gull - 10-15
Great Crested Tern - common
Common Tern - common
Sandwich Tern - common
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 1
Cape Fur Seal - abundant
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 Vincent Ward.
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