Trip Highlights: Six species of albatross, including both Northern and Southern Royal Albatrosses, Southern Fulmar and Brown Skuas.
We departed Simon's Town and slowly made our way towards Cape Point. False Bay was busy with the expected diversity of coastal seabirds like Cape, Crowned, Bank and White-breasted Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls, Cape Gannets and Great Crested Terns.
After a photo stop at the world-famous Cape Point, we headed out to the deeper oceanic waters in a south-westerly direction. We encountered the first White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters near the coast, followed quickly by several Shy Albatrosses.
With news of a trawler operating near the Cape Canyon, we wasted no time in heading straight for it. On arrival we rapidly added several new species to the trip list, including three additional species of albatrosses namely; Black-browed, Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. Amongst the chaos of birds we found Brown Skua, Northern Giant Petrel, Antarctic Prion, Great Shearwater, Cape Petrel, Wilson's Storm Petrel; and both Common and Arctic Terns.
Within the mass of birds we picked out a single Southern Fulmar, a sporadic winter visitor to the Cape coast. As we slowly worked our way through the masses of seabirds trailing the trawler, the call of "White-back!" went out. This turned out to be the first of three Northern Royal Albatrosses. This was eventually followed by two juvenile Southern Royals, making it six albatross species for the day. After taking photographs of all these excellent and much sought-after seabirds, we headed back towards the coast feeling quite elated with our tally of birds.
The return trip was a marine mammal extravaganza with no less than five Humpback Whales. The stars of the show were undoubtedly the hundreds of Long-beaked Common Dolphins we encountered close to Cape Point. We watched then for a long time before they moved offshore, and we continued back to harbour at Simon's Town.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Northern Royal Albatross - 3
Southern Royal Albatross - 2
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 75
Black-browed Albatross - 120
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 4
Southern Fulmar - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 150
Great Shearwater - 1
Antarctic Prion - 50
White-chinned Petrel - 500
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 150
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 1
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 30
Arctic Tern - 1
African Penguin - 2 (oceanic)
Cape Gannet - Common (coastal and pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - common
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 12
Bank Cormorant - 22 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common (coastal and pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - common
Grey-headed Gull - 1
Great Crested Tern - Common (coastal); 2 (pelagic)
Common Tern - 1
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 3
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal and pelagic)
Humpback Whale - 5
Long-beaked Common Dolphin - 500
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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