Trip Highlights: Black-bellied Storm Petrel, Cape (Pintado) Petrel, Antarctic Prion
Cape (Pintado) Petrel
We departed Simon's Town early on Sunday morning and charted a course to Cape Point. Our sea-birding within the bay yielded a good variety of coastal species such as African Penguin, Cape Gannet, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls, Great Crested (Swift) Tern, and all four of the local marine cormorant species - Cape, Bank, Crowned and White-breasted Cormorants.
During our usual photo stop at the point, we encountered first true pelagic species. White-chinned were very common, with smaller numbers of Great, Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters, and a single juvenile Giant Petrel in the mix. Sadly the latter was too distant to confidently identify to species level.
Wilson's Storm Petrel
As we headed into deeper oceanic waters, White-chinned Petrels and Great Shearwaters became abundant. Even further out, we picked up our first Shy Albatrosses, the first ever albatross for all our guests. The diminutive Wilson's Storm Petrel were still very common, with good numbers still on passage past the South African coast. A real treat was the first Antarctic Prions of the winter season. They were surprising abundant, and we got several close views of this distinctive species.
We found a long-line fishing vessel 22 nautical miles from the coast. Although not actively fishing, it still attracted a respectable numbers of seabirds. The morning's birding around the boat saw us add Black-browed Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Black-bellied Storm Petrel and Brown Skua, to our trip list.
Cape (Pintado) Petrel
The stars of the show for all on board were the very striking Cape (Pintado) Petrels. These attractive black and white seabirds are a common winter visitor and a fitting mascot for Cape Town Pelagics. We were treated to some very close views, especially of several small flocks resting on the sea. At midday we began our return trip, and we picked up a good selection of pelagic species all the way back to the coast.
After a fantastic light lunch, we made a quick stop at some of the dramatic sea caves near Cape Point, before continuing onto the nearby Partridge Point Bank Cormorant colony. Despite their breeding being done, the rocks held good numbers of this endangered seabird. They were joined by large numbers of Cape and a few White-breasted Cormorants. A Crowned Cormorant was found roosting on the nearby Cape Fur Seal haul-out. An African Oystercatcher was spotted feeding on the exposed mussel beds on the backside of this outcrop. For a second week in a row, a solitary juvenile African Penguin was seen roosting amongst the sleeping seals.
With a fantastic trip under our belts, we returned safely to port.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
African Penguin - 30
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 30
Black-browed Albatross - 3
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Giant-petrel spp - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 10
Cory's Shearwater - 5
Great Shearwater - 150
White-chinned Petrel - 350
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 50
Antarctic Prion - 100
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 50
Black-bellied Storm Petrel - 2
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 4
African Penguin - 30
Cape Gannet - Common
White-breasted Cormorant - 20 breeding pairs
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 1
Bank Cormorant - 20 birds
Kelp Gull - common
Hartlaub's Gull - 1
Great Crested Tern - common
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 1
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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