Trip Highlights: Three species of albatrosses, Antarctic Prion, Cape (Pintado) Petrel.
After a break of nearly six months due to Covid19 lockdowns, we were finally given the green light to resume trips. After meeting up at the pier in Simon's Town, we started the trip briefing only to be rudely interrupted by a very noisy Giant Kingfisher flying over our heads. It is a rare species to encounter in the harbour unlike the expected regulars like Kelp, Hartlaub's and Grey-headed Gulls, Great Crested Tern, Cape and Crowned Cormorants.
We set out into False Bay and past Boulders Beach spotting African Penguins on the landing beach. The other notable species seen on the way out included a small group of Bank Cormorants roosting on the marker buoy at the harbour entrance.
The trip down to Cape Point was punctuated by the occasional small flock of Great Crested Terns or Kelp Gulls. As we passed Smitswinkel Bay, we were overtaken by a massive skein of Cape Cormorants, numbering several hundred. A surprise sighting was a single overwintering Parasitic Jaeger just offshore of Buffels Bay.
In short order, we arrived at Cape Point. The sea here was very busy with large numbers of Sooty Shearwaters, Great Crested Terns and Cape Cormorants. These were joined by smaller numbers of White-chinned Petrels and the occasional Cape Gannet. A Southern Right Whale surfaced very close-by causing great excitement on board.
Our skipper set course towards the fishing grounds around the Cape Canyon. En-route we spotted our first White-capped (Shy) Albatross and Black-browed Albatrosses. A few distant Giant Petrels were seen but they were too far away to be identified to species level.
Despite the very heavy commercial shipping traffic out at sea, there were no fishing vessels showing up on the A.I.S (Automated identification System). We decided to stop at the 12 nautical mile mark and lay down some chum. Although slow at first, the numbers of birds attending the boat increased and we had good views of several sought-after species like Brown Skua, Cape Petrel, Southern Giant Petrel, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Antarctic Prion.
With the wind slowly picking up, we started the return trip back to the coast. We had a distant view of Humpback Whale, but it sounded as we approached. Once in False Bay, we headed to Partridge Point to add Bank Cormorant to the trip list. We also took the opportunity to pass the nearby Cape Fur Seal haul out.
We spotted a large raft of African Penguins as we neared Boulders, ending off a good trip despite not getting a fishing vessel.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
White-capped Albatross - c.20
Black-browed Albatross - 4
Indian Yellow Albatross - 1
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Giant petrel spp - 2
Cape Petrel - 1
Antarctic Prion - 1
White-chinned Petrel - c.100
Sooty Shearwater - c.500
Parasitic Jaeger - 1
Brown Skua - 4
African Penguin - 2 (pelagic), 35 (coastal)
Cape Gannet - c.10
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Bank Cormorant - 18 breeding pairs
White-breasted Cormorant - 15
Crowned Cormorant - 4
Kelp Gull - common (coastal), 15 (pelagic)
Grey-headed Gull - 1
Hartlaub's Gull - common (coastal)
Great Crested Tern - common (coastal)
African Oystercatcher - 1
Cape Fur Seal - common (coastal)
Southern Right Whale - 2
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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