Trip Highlights: Three species of Albatross, Cory's Shearwater, Great Shearwater and Sabine's Gull.
The group of birders met outside the False Bay Yacht Club, Simon's Town at 07:00 on Saturday 27 March before setting off on our Cape Town Pelagics trip. 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 headed out of Simon’s Town harbour, we soon began to tally up coastal species such as Great Crested (Swift) Tern, Crowned Cormorant, Cape Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls.
As we passed Boulders beach, we encountered a large raft of approximately 50 foraging African Penguins. After stopping off for photographs, we started making our way further towards Cape Point where we picked up Cape Gannets, many being juvenile birds.
After checking in at Cape Point, and heading into rougher waters, we soon found the first of hundreds of Great Shearwaters, followed shortly by a handful of Sooty Shearwaters and good numbers of White-chinned Petrel. Here we also saw the only Southern Giant Petrel for the day.
Soon afterwards, we encountered the first of a couple of unpredicted rain showers, as well as the first Cory's Shearwaters of the day. Next on the list was a beautiful adult Black-browed Albatross, followed by Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and then Shy Albatross.
No fishing vessels were shown to be present in the fishing grounds around the Cape Canyon according to the AIS (automatic identification system) and since we had another couple of rain showers and the swells were picking up, we decided to put out anchovy oil to tempt the seabirds in the area to come in for close-up views. Almost immediately a few Wilson's Storm Petrels came in amongst Shy Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, a few Brown Skuas, Cory's Shearwaters and good numbers of Great Shearwater.
Wilson's Storm Petrel
Amongst the Wilson's Storm-Petrels a slightly larger bird was picked up and good close-up views by some passengers appeared to show a markedly notched tail indicating a potential Leach's Storm Petrel. Unfortunately, all passengers did not have good views of the bird and no photographs were taken.
After enjoying the birds around the boat, it was time to head northwards again on a slightly bumpy ride as the swell has picked up a little. The only quick stop was for a group of three Sabine's Gulls. En-route back to Simon’s Town we enjoyed lunch and cold drinks while watching the fishermen at the red cliffs in the Cape of Good Hope National Park pull out a couple of large Yellowtails and then stopped off at Partridge Point where we visited the Bank Cormorant colony and the Cape Fur Seal hang-out, after which we returned to harbour after a wonderful day of birding out at sea.
Pelagic bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 50-80
Black-browed Albatross - 5
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 10
Great Shearwater - 700-1000
Cory's Shearwater - 300-500
White-chinned Petrel - 500-800
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 10
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 10
Sabine's Gull - 3
Cape Gannet - 300-400
Kelp Gull - 1000+
Hartlaub's Gull - 100
Arctic Tern - 3
Sandwich Tern - 100-150
Cape Cormorant - 1000+
White-breasted Cormorant - 20-30
Bank Cormorant - 20
African Penguin - 50-75
African Black Oystercatcher - 1
Cape Fur Seal - abundant
Cape Fur Seals
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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