Trip Highlights: BULWER'S PETREL, European Storm Petrel, three species of albatross.
The southward run down to Cape Point was relatively quiet apart from the expected suite of coastal seabird species. The highlight were small groups of African Penguins offshore of the Boulder's Beach colony.
The seabird activity was much higher as we passed Cape Point. The persistent shoals of bait fish attracted huge flocks of Great Crested, Common and Sandwich Terns. They were joined by large numbers of Cape Cormorants, Kelp Gulls and Cape Gannets. They were joined by good numbers of tubenoses: Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters, with the occasional White-chinned Petrel and Northern Giant Petrel. All of this feeding in turn attracted Parasitic Jaegers intent on stealing prey from these birds.
The ocean's surface very unsettled as the two local currents were running very strongly. As we battled out we encountered our first White-capped (Shy) and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses. With no fishing vessels within range, we stopped and chummed. This drew in several Brown Skuas, an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and a few White-chinned Petrels.
We decided to go out a few miles further offshore. Our decision paid off handsomely when we encountered a BULWER'S PETREL. This species is a very rare vagrant to the South African coast, and it has been several years since the last sighting. Our return trip saw us find European Storm Petrel, Sabine's Gulls and Arctic Terns.
After a much needed lunch in the shelter of False Bay, we wrapped up the trip with a visit to the White-breasted and Bank Cormorant colonies at Partridge Point.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 10-15
Black-browed Albatross - 1
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Sooty Shearwater - 50-100
Cory's Shearwater - 150-200
White-chinned Petrel - 20-25
Bulwer's Petrel - 1
European Storm Petrel - 1
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 6-7
Parasitic Jaeger - 10-15
Sabine's Gull - 2
Arctic Tern - 1-2
African Penguin - 25-30
Cape Gannet - Common
White-breasted Cormorant - 19 breeding pairs
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Bank Cormorant - 13 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common
Hartlaub's Gull - 3
Great Crested Tern - common
Common Tern - common
Sandwich Tern - common
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 1
Cape Fur Seal - abundant
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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