Trip Highlights: Four species of albatross, Spectacled Petrel, Northern & Southern Giant Petrels, Parasitic Jaeger, Sabine's Gull and a Bryde's Whale.
On Sunday, 15 November 2020, a group of local birders met on the quayside in Simon's Town. We boarded the boat and were soon proceeding through a slightly choppy False Bay. Our fist notable sighting was of a Bryde's Whale shortly after leaving the harbour. Thereafter we enjoyed the great scenery and normal array of coastal birds as we headed out of the bay.
At Cape Point we were greeted by a fairly large swell and our first few White-chinned Petrels of the day. Later the first Sooty Shearwaters and Brown (Subantarctic) Skua put in an appearance and we had our first Cory's Shearwater of the season. At about five miles from the point we encountered a Sabine's Gull and then saw a Parasitic Jaeger harassing some Common Terns.
We continued out towards the Canyon making our way through a rather bumpy sea. We were making our way to a group of long-lining vessels who we heard were operating in the area. At about 12 miles from the point we noted our first Shy Albatross. Eventually we could make out the long liners and proceeded in their direction. The vessels were not processing any fish but there were good numbers of birds in attendance. We soon added Black-browed Albatross, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Southern Giant Petrel. After a bit of effort we also added Northern Giant Petrel, Pintado Petrel and European Storm-Petrel.
Eventually the long liners began to retrieve their catch and started processing the fish. This is what we and the birds had been waiting for. We systematically moved between the fishing vessels investigating the birds in attendance. This tactic worked and we were rewarded with a fine Spectacled Petrel - undoubtedly the bird of the day for all. After a close flyby, it alighted on the water and gave all on board prolonged views! We continued searching and eventually managed to find a single adult Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross.
The conditions had improved throughout the morning and we decided to enjoy our lunch in the deep. We then had to start making our way back to terra firma. The highlight of the return trip was a dense shoal of feeding Yellowtail with good numbers of Common Terns and a few accompanying Parasitic Jaegers just off the point.
The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of Bank, White-breasted and Cape Cormorant.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Black-browed Albatross - c. 20
Shy Albatross - c. 40
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Northern Giant Petrel - 5
Southern Giant Petrel - c. 15
White-chinned Petrel - c. 800
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Pintado Petrel - 10
Cory's Shearwater - 6
Sooty Shearwater - 10
European Storm Petrel - 8
Subantarctic Skua - 5
Parasitic Jaeger - 8
Sabine's Gull - 3
African Black Oyster-catcher
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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