Trip Highlights: Birding highlights included: Black-bellied Storm Petrel, Sabine's Gull and Cape (Pintado) Petrel.
We departed Simon's Town slightly later than normal while we waited for the large swells at Cape Point to subside. While chatting over coffee, we started our day's species list with Crowned and Cape Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls and Great Crested Terns. Once out in False Bay, we encountered several large groups of African Penguins, heading out to feed.
Our first stop was the seal and cormorant colonies at Partridge Point. The seal haul-out was covered in dozens of Cape Fur Seals, while the nearby taller rocks held both breeding Bank and White-breasted Cormorants. The decision to delay setting out paid off as the swells off Cape Point were small as we passed by the dramatic scenery at the tip of the Cape Peninsula and set out into deeper waters.
As we left the coast we passed good numbers of Cape Gannets, White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters. Further out we encountered our first Shy Albatrosses, as well as both Common and Arctic Terns. The onboard radar and AIS systems showed a single vessel off the coast, but it was sadly well north of our range. We were consoled by a pair of young Humpback Whales swimming north.
At the 22 nautical mile mark, we laid down an oil slick. The pungent oil soon attracted in several more Shy Albatross, as well as small numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses. A single Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross approached the boat but stayed at a distance. A pair of Brown Skuas roosted on the water very close to the boat. The highlight was the Wilson's and Black-bellied Storm Petrels that lingered over the slick. The other "goodies" of the day included Sabine/s Gull, Cape (Pintado) Petrel and a close encounter with an old adult Northern Giant Petrel.
At midday, we headed back to the coast encountering a large Oceanic Sunfish basking on the surface. After a tasty lunch at the Rooikrans Cliffs, we headed back into port, adding a pair of African Oystercatchers in the harbour.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 15
Black-browed Albatross - 3
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 50
White-chinned Petrel - 100
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 1
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 4
Black-bellied Storm Petrel - 2
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 3
Sabine's Gull - 1
Arctic Tern - 3
African Penguin - 60
Cape Gannet - Common (coastal and pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - 17 breeding pairs
Cape Cormorant - abundant (coastal)
Crowned Cormorant - 3
Bank Cormorant - 8 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common (coastal and pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull - common (coastal)
Great Crested Tern - common (coastal)
Common Tern - common (coastal & pelagic)
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 2
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal and pelagic)
Humpback Whale - 2
Other species of interest:
Oceanic Sunfish - 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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