Trip Highlights: Southern Royal Albatross, white morph Southern Giant Petrel, Antarctic Prion, Cape (Pintado) Petrel and Long-beaked Common Dolphins.
Sunrise as we head out to sea
We were treated to a spectacular winter sunrise as we head out of the yacht club and into False Bay. The sea was a smooth as glass as we made the run down to Cape Point. This leg of our journey was dominated by coastal seabird species like Cape and White-breasted Cormorants, Kelp Gull, Great Crested Tern and Cape Gannet. Once clear of the coast we picked up large numbers of Sooty Shearwaters, as well as smaller numbers of White-chinned Petrels, and a few Southern Giant Petrels. A few miles offshore, a spectacular and rare white morph Southern Giant Petrel made a close approach to our boat. We made an attempt to get closer, but the bird had other plans.
Our AIS showed a very distant hake trawler operating to the south east of the Cape Canyon. As we closed the 35 nautical mile gap, we added a nice variety of species to the trip list, including Shy, Indian Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatrosses, Cape (Pintado) Petrel, both Northern and Southern Giant Petrels and Brown (Subantarctic) Skua.
On arrival at the trawler, we picked up several mixed large rafts of albatrosses and petrels. There were good numbers of Brown Skuas in attendance as well. The trawler crew decided on a later than usual time to pull in the net, so we spent the time working through and photographing the masses of seabirds. We managed to turn up a single Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Wilson's Storm Petrels and Antarctic Prions as we went along. Just before midday the net finally came up and we were treated to the spectacle of hundreds of seabirds all trying to get an easy meal.
A few on the boat managed a very brief glimpse of a Southern Royal Albatross, before it disappeared into open ocean. We tried desperately to relocate it, but with a long return leg ahead of us, we had to give up and start the run to shore. As a conciliation prize we were treated to a massive pod of Long-beaked Common Dolphins just as we rounded Cape Point. We spent some time enjoying them before making a brief stop at the Partridge Point Bank Cormorant colony and Cape Fur Seal haul-out.
Our final species for the day were African Oystercatchers and Crowned Cormorants on the "sausages" (wake control floats) back in port.
It was a good day!
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Southern Royal Albatross - 1
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 200
Black-browed Albatross - 300
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Southern Giant Petrel - 12 (including 1 white morph)
Giant-petrel spp - 2
Sooty Shearwater - 200
White-chinned Petrel - 500
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 10
Antarctic Prion - 5
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 5
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 20
African Penguin - onshore
Cape Gannet - Common (coastal and pelagic)
White-breasted Cormorant - common
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 2
Bank Cormorant - 18 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common
Hartlaub's Gull - 2
Great Crested Tern - 20
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 2
Cape Fur Seal - abundant (coastal and pelagic)
Long-beaked Common Dolphin - 800-1000
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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