Trip Highlights: Four species of albatross, Great Shearwater, Cory's Shearwater, Cape (Pintado) petrel, Parasitic Jaeger, Yellow-finned Tuna, Bryde's Whale.
The first leg of the pelagic from Simon's Town and along the western coastline of False Bay was relatively quiet. We did however get to see all of the expected coastal species, like Kelp, and Hartlaub's Gulls; Cape and White-breasted Cormorants, Cape Gannets, Great Crested Terns and African Penguins.
As we approached Cape Point we had a few fleeting glimpses of two (?) Bryde's Whales hunting the local abundance of bait fish. We also spotted our first tube-nose, a Giant petrel (possibly Northern) in the vicinity.
Once past the point, we encountered several large mixed feeding groups. These aggregations were dominated by Common and Great Crested, with a supporting cast of Sooty Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrels and Cape Gannets. All the action attracted several Parasitic Jaegers which we saw harassing any successful tern. The bait fish targeted by these seabirds also attracted large schools of Yellow-finned Tuna.
The initial stretches of open ocean were very quiet except for the occasional White-capped (Shy) Albatross, or White-chinned Petrel. We located a long-liner twenty nautical miles from the coast. It was not working on our arrival, and trailed a small number of mainly White-chinned Petrels. Once it started up and moved to collect its lines, both the number and diversity of seabirds increased. Over the two hours with the vessel, we recorded Brown Skua, Kelp Gull, Arctic Tern, four species of albatrosses: Shy, Black-browed, and both Atlantic, and Indian Yellow-nosed, both Northern, and Southern Giant Petrels, and Sooty Shearwater. There a few note-worthy sightings as well, including two Cape/Pintado Petrels (uncommon in summer), a single Great Shearwater (a straggler from the thousands that had passed the coast in recent weeks), and the first of the summers Cory Shearwaters.
Around midday we started our return run to the coast; enjoying a light lunch in the shelter of False Bay. Suitably recharged we continued up the coast to Partridge Point. The granite outcrops are home to breeding colonies of White-breasted, and Bank Cormorants. The same rocks also held roosting Cape, and Crowned Cormorants. The nearby Cape Fur Seal haul-out was packed with animals, recovering from the previous days rough seas. An adjacent mussel cover rock played host to an African Oystercatcher.
We continued back to port passing a few feeding groups of African Penguins heading home to Boulders Beach.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 15-20
Black-browed Albatross - 7-10
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5-7
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1-2
Northern Giant Petrel - 5
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Giant-petrel spp - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 50-75
Great Shearwater - 1
Cory's Shearwater - 4-5
White-chinned Petrel - 100-150
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 2
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 3
Parasitic Jaeger - 10-15
Arctic Tern - 2-3
African Penguin - 10-15
Cape Gannet - Common
White-breasted Cormorant - 17 breeding pairs
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 1
Bank Cormorant - 9 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common
Hartlaub's Gull - 2
Great Crested Tern - common
Common Tern - common
Sandwich Tern - common
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 2
Cape Fur Seal - abundant
Bryde's Whale - 1-2
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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