Trip Highlights: Manx Shearwater, Sabine's Gull, Great Shearwater, Cory's Shearwater.
The first good birds of the day were a pair of Black Sparrowhawks flying noisily over the False Bay Yacht Club. Our seabird watching started in earnest in the harbour and yacht basin with a variety of local coastal species such as Cape, White-breasted and Crowned Cormorants, Kelp, Hartlaub's and Grey-headed Gulls. Immediately offshore of Boulders Beach, there were several large rafts of African Penguins preparing to head out to hunt.
African Penguins off Boulders Beach, Simon's Town
Sailing south, we made a quick visit to the Bank Cormorant colony at Partridge Point, before stopping at Cape Point for the iconic view. Here the day's first White-chinned Petrel was spotted along with small numbers of Cape Gannets.
The first few kilometres of open ocean were very quiet. We did, however picked up large feeding flocks of Cory's and Sooty Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrels, and Swift (Great Crested), Common and Sandwich Terns. As expected a few Parasitic Jaegers were in the thick of these groups, trying to steal a meal.
As we headed into deeper waters, Sabine's Gull and Great Shearwater were added to the trip total.
Alan, our skipper, picked up several fishing vessels on the radar and set course to intercept them off the southern tip of the Cape Canyon. On arrival we quickly added four species of albatross: Shy, Black-browed and both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses.
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
Another Great Shearwater was spotted, plus Arctic Tern and Subantarctic (Brown) Skua. European Storm Petrels were common, with much smaller numbers of Wilson's Storm Petrels in attendance. The large mass of birds behind the trawler provided unrivalled opportunities to get better views and photos of all the petrels, and shearwaters that we had picked up on the way out.
As the trawler was not going to raise its net in the next few hours, we headed over to a nearby long-liner. En-route we spotted a pair of Red Phalaropes taking off from the water and disappearing into the swells. In the past this species was more common on summer pelagics, but has become increasing hard to find.
Northern Giant Petrel
At the long-liner, we enjoyed continued great views of a good variety of seabirds, getting good views of two different Northern Giant Petrels. The large numbers of Sabine's Gulls and Storm Petrels were a particular treat. Given the good sea conditions, we elected to have lunch here, instead of back in False Bay. This decision paid off as a very obliging Manx Shearwater flew in and sat near our boat. It was relocated once more, before we needed to head back to the coast, and into port.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 10
Black-browed Albatross - 10
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Sooty Shearwater - 50
Cory's Shearwater - 200-250
Great Shearwater - 10
Manx Shearwater - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 200-300
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 10
European Storm Petrel - 100
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 4
Parasitic Jaeger - 3
Sabine's Gull - 50-75
African Penguin - 40-50
Cape Gannet - common
White-breasted Cormorant - common
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 5
Bank Cormorant - 15 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common
Hartlaub's Gull - 1
Grey-headed Gull - 1
Great Crested Tern - common
Common Tern - common
Sandwich Tern - common
Arctic Tern - 3
African Oystercatcher - 3
Red (Grey) Phalarope - 2
Cape Fur Seal - abundant
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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