Trip Highlights: Two species of Albatross, Antarctic Prion; Long-beaked common Dolphin, Bryde's and Humpback Whales.
Before we set off for the day around 07h00, a representative of SANCCOB stopped off to deliver two boxes containing our VIP guests for the day, a rehabilitated Soft-plumaged Petrel and an Antarctic Prion deemed fit enough for release by the veterinarians who took care of the birds. As the birdwatchers got onto the boat, the resident Grey Heron was sitting on one of the engines, seemingly keen to join the trip as well.
It was a relatively wind-free, partly cloudy day and False Bay was calm although swells in excess of 3 m were forecast for open waters beyond Cape point. As we set off from Simon's Town harbour, we soon began to tally up coastal species such as Great Crested (Swift) Tern, Crowned Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls. As we passed Boulder's Beach, we encountered a couple of foraging African Penguins and White-breasted Cormorants.
After checking in at Cape Point, and heading into rougher waters, we first enjoyed the spectacle of hundreds of Cape Cormorants and then picked up the first true pelagic birds of the day, namely two Northern Giant Petrels, along with a good numbers of Common Tern. These sightings were soon followed by the first of many White-chinned Petrels, Shy Albatrosses and one or two Sooty Shearwaters.
Our skipper was alerted by the AIS (automatic identification system) to a single trawler at the fishing grounds around the Cape Canyon area, as we head towards it, we were distracted by a group of approximately 50 Cape Gannet diving and milling around a particular spot and a smallish pod of Long-beaked Common Dolphins which allowed good close-up views when they swam right along the boat for a minute or two. We then came across an Antarctic Prion and decided to set our two avian passengers free in the same area.
Upon arrival at the Canyon, we found that the fishing vessel had already hauled in its nets and was moving off rapidly, but there were still good numbers of seabirds around, including Wilson's Storm Petrel, Shy Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, a single Brown Skua, and a couple of Cape (Pintado) Petrel.
After enjoying the masses of birds, we soon started to head northwards again. The home trip was relatively quiet, although we continued to see good numbers of White-chinned Petrel, Shy Albatross, one or two Black-browed Albatrosses, another Antarctic Prion and the only Southern Giant Petrel for the day. We also picked up two more marine mammal species in the form of a single Bryde's Whale and two Humpback Whales. En route back to Simon's Town we stopped off at Partridge Point where we visited the Bank Cormorant colony and the Cape Fur Seal hang-out, then returned to harbour after a wonderful day spent birding at sea.
Pelagic bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 50 - 80
Black-browed Albatross - 10 - 20
Northern Giant Petrel - 4
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 5
White-chinned Petrel - 500 - 800
Cape Petrel - 3
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 1
Antarctic Prion - 2 (+ 1 rehab bird released)
Soft-plumaged Petrel - 1 rehab bird released
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 1
Common Tern - 500+
Swift Tern - 100
Cape Gannet - 50 - 80
Kelp Gull - 1000+
Hartlaub's Gull - 200
Cape Cormorant - 1000+
White-breasted Cormorant - 20 - 30
Bank Cormorant - 20
African Penguin - 500
African Black Oystercatcher - 1
Cape Fur Seal - ±500
Long-beaked Common Dolphin - 10
Bryde's Whale - 1
Humpback Whale - 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 David Swanepoel.
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