Trip Highlights: Three species Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Pomarine Jaeger, Dusky Dolphins, Humpback Whales
Saturday morning of the Easter weekend provided spectacular weather to go to sea. We delayed the start slightly due to some of the guests having a breakdown - but luckily they managed to make it safely to Simon's Town to be able to join the trip. Before long, we were all on board and speeding through the picturesque False Bay. On arriving at Cape Point we paused momentarily to enjoy and get a few pictures of this spectacular and iconic piece of coastline.
We then headed in a south-westerly direction and towards the trawling grounds. Shortly after the point we started seeing our first White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters of the day. We also started seeing very many Great Shearwaters as well as smaller numbers of Cory's Shearwaters. At about eight miles from the point we came across a large pod of Dusky Dolphins which entertained all on board with their antics. We then encountered our first European Storm Petrels, a species that was present in big numbers throughout the day.
We could soon make out the distinctive silhouette of a stern trawler, The Ferox on the horizon, but when we were about four miles away it started to steam to the north at pace. We could see there were good numbers of birds in her wake so we rushed to intercept her. As we approached we encountered many Shy and Black-browed Albatross. The Ferox was still running to the north at speed and we were fearful that she may be heading back to Cape Town Harbour. We worked though the birds as they streamed past and added Brown (Subantartic) Skua, Northern Giant Petrel and a single Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross which put in a very brief appearance. Quite a few very early Pintado Petrels were also in attendance. There were really huge numbers of European Storm Petrels with lesser numbers of Wilson's Storm Petrels amongst them. We then noticed that The Ferox, now quite a distance away, had turned, she was redeploying her net! Racing back up to her, we joined the large numbers of birds in her wake. This offered us extended views of all the species mentioned above and eventually added Southern Giant Petrel and a few Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross which finally gave great views. We spent a long time following in the wake and working through the large numbers of birds.
Conditions were very pleasant so we decided to eat our lunch out in the deep, after which we then started the homeward journey. At about 10 miles from the point we encountered large numbers of Yellow-finned Tuna breaking the surface in their pursuit of Garfish. We also again encountered the Dusky Dolphins which were even more energetic then they were in the morning, with many of the animals performing spectacular back flips. We also added a single and a solitary Pomarine Jaeger which were welcome additions to the day's list.
The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point delivered Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorant. We were also lucky enough to encounter three Humpback Whales in the bay.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c. 80
Black-browed Albatross - c. 500
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 4
Southern Giant Petrel - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 4
White-chinned Petrel - c. 600
Pintado Petrel - c. 20
Cory's Shearwater - c. 50
Great Shearwater - c. 300
Sooty Shearwater - c. 30
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - c. 800
European Storm-Petrel - c. 1500
Brown (Subantarctic) Skua - 3
Pomarine Jaeger - 1
Sabine's Gull - 1
Greater Crested Tern
Cape Fur Seal
Dusky Dolphin - +500
Humpback Whale - 3
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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