Trip Highlights: Three albatross species, Humpback Whale
Our group met at 07:00 on Sunday morning at the Simon's Town Yacht Club before setting off on our pelagic tour. It was a relatively wind-free, sunny day and the waters within False Bay were relatively calm. After we set off from Simon's Town harbour towards Cape Point, we soon began to tally up coastal seabird species such as Great Crested (Swift) Tern, Cape Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls. The highlight of this stretch was undoubtedly our encounters with five Humpback Whales.
Around Cape Point the swell had increased, and the sea became significantly more rough. We saw good numbers of Cape Cormorants and a few groups of Common Terns were present. The rest of the trip out towards the fishing grounds was relatively quiet, although we added a distant Giant Petrel as well as our first Shy Albatross and a handful of White-chinned Petrels.
Northern Giant Petrel
Upon reaching the fishing grounds around the Cape Canyon no fishing vessels were found to be present, however, bird numbers had increased. We poured some fish oil out to lure the birds closer, and almost immediately the numbers picked up even further. In addition to an increase in Shy Albatross and White-chinned Petrels, the oil attracted a good few Great Shearwaters and a single Cape (Pintado) Petrel. Both Northern Giant Petrel and Southern Giant Petrels came in, one or two Black-browed Albatrosses put in an appearance and a few Wilson's Storm Petrels entertained us all with their tap-dancing moves. A Yellow-nosed Albatross flew past but didn’t hang around long enough for identification to species level.
Wilson's Storm Petrel
After enjoying the birds around the boat for a couple of hours, it was time to head northwards again. Between the Cape Canyon and Cape Point, we managed to add one new bird for the day, namely Brown Skua and a Yellow-fin Tuna was briefly seen. En-route back to Simon's Town we enjoyed lunch and cold drinks in a relatively wind-sheltered spot overlooking the Cape of Good Hope National Park. Our last stop was at Partridge Point where we visited the Bank Cormorant colony and the Cape Fur Seal hang-out, after which we returned to the Simon's Town harbour after a wonderful day of birding out at sea.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 50-80
Black-browed Albatross - 2
Yellow-nosed Albatross sp. - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Southern Giant Petrel - 5
Giant Petrel sp. - 1
Cape Petrel - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 300-500
Sooty Shearwater - 2
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 4
Cape Gannet - 50-80
Brown Skua - 1
Hartlaub's Gull - 10
Kelp Gull - 300
African Oystercatcher - 2
White-breasted Cormorant - 10
Bank Cormorant - 20-30
Crowned Cormorant - 1
Cape Cormorant - 500-800
African Penguin - 50
Great Crested Tern - 100-200
Common Tern - 200-300
Egyptian Goose - 5
Marine mammals & other species:
Cape Fur Seal - 150
Humpback Whale - 5
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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