Trip Highlights: 3 albatross species, Northern Giant Petrel, Manx Shearwater, European Storm Petrels, Long-tailed and Parasitic Jaegers, Sabine's Gull, all 4 species of endemic coastal cormorants.
An unseasonal cold front arrived at the Cape on Friday evening - ironically this provided a gap in the very strong south easterly wind. Conditions were still not ideal with a 15 knot westerly wind and some light showers predicted throughout the day. However, we were bathed in nice sunlight when we boarded the Destiny in Simon's Town. While boarding we had a Crowned Cormorant in the harbour and two Peregrine Falcons sitting on the telecommunications mast behind Bertha's Restaurant. The sea in False Bay was nice and calm and we raced quickly to Cape Point. This iconic landmark together with the Cape of Good Hope were as magnificent as ever.
Out of the bay we were greeted with a rather bumpy sea which was to accompany us all day. Shortly after the point we encountered our first Cape Gannets, White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters. After about two miles we started to see numerous Cory's Shearwaters and encountered our first Subantarctic (Brown) Skua and Parasitic Jaegers of the day.
At about eight miles we had fairly good numbers of Sabine's Gull and our first Wilson's Storm Petrels and Great Shearwaters. Eventually we had our first Albatross - a sub-adult Shy at about 12 miles. Unfortunately there were no trawlers or long lining vessels in the vicinity so we continued to about 20 miles where we put out some fish oil to see what we could draw in.
The White-chinned Petrels and a couple of Great Shearwaters were quick to respond, but it was not long before a juvenile Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and several Wilson's Storm Petrels made an appearance. We regularly augmented the fish oil slick and patiently waited. This tactic was rewarded and we managed to attract a single Northern Giant Petrel, Long-tailed Jaeger and a cracking Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. We also managed to attract a single Blue Shark. We could see rain on the horizon that was heading in our direction so we decided to turn and run back towards the Shark Explorer who were chumming for Blue Sharks about 10 miles back towards Cape Point. Shark boats use lots of chum and we thought we could go see what birds this had attracted. On route the rain caught us but we also managed to add European Storm Petrel to the day list. This included a raft of about 1000 birds, it was quite a spectacle and a real highlight of the day.
We arrived at the shark explorer just as she was leaving. There were still a few birds in attendance, but nothing we had not already encountered. We decided to run back to False Bay so that we can enjoy our lunch in the relative calm of False Bay. The trip back was punctuated by three sightings of Manx Shearwater, including a very obliging bird that uncharacteristically remained on the water for great views.
The mandatory stop at Partridge Point produced the balance of the endemic coastal species, namely Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c. 10
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
White-chinned Petrel - c. 200
Manx Shearwater - 3
Cory's Shearwater - c. 100
Great Shearwater - c. 20
Sooty Shearwater - c. 50
European Storm Petrel - c. 800
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c. 50
Subantarctic Skua - 6
Long-tailed Jaeger - 1
Parasitic Jaeger - 5
Sabine's Gull - c. 30
Marine mammals and other species of interest:
Cape Fur Seal
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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