Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


  Trip Reports - Trip report for 5 December 2005





After another week of howling southeasters, the winds finally calmed sufficiently for us to depart Simon’s Town harbour on a Cape Town Pelagics trip, led by Ross Wanless. The almost obligatory flocks of terns, cormorants and gannets just beyond the point produced great views of two Arctic Skuas (both morphs), a single Pomarine Skua, and a handful of Sooty Shearwaters. About 10 miles off the point cetacean blows were sighted, and we cautiously approached the area. We were treated to a 15 minute spectacle of great rarity as a pod (10-15) of the extremely elusive, ghost-like Risso’s Dolphins cruised around our boat. These huge, scarred and pale dolphins could easily be seen underwater from 30 m away, as their almost white bodies seemed to glow electric blue in contrast to the surrounding grey waters.

With some apprehension we headed beyond the 20 nm mark without sight or suggestion on radars of trawlers. Skipper Dave Christie got on to the radio and fortunately we were guided by some recreational fishermen in the direction of what was probably the only trawler within 12 miles. As we neared we began to pick up more pelagic species, and somewhat unusually an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross was the first albatross for the day. Our arrival was timed to perfection, for we got to the Boronia just as she was hauling her nets. Soon we were in the thick of things as hundreds of birds converged to compete for the spoils. Everyone enjoyed watching huge Yellowfin Tuna breaking the surface right behind the trawl bag, taking the fish as they popped out of the nets. Highlights for the day included at least three very late (over-summering?) Pintado Petrels, excellent, close-up views of more than 10 Great-winged Petrels and the most Southern Giant Petrels I have ever seen at one time in these waters. There being no other vessels in the vicinity, we trailed the Boronia until it was time to head home, well satisfied with excellent numbers of birds seen, including great views of all the usuals and some specials.



  Pelagic birds seen and approximate numbers



Shy Albatross 300
Black-browed Albatross 300
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 8
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
Southern Giant Petrel 60
Northern Giant Petrel 10
Giant Petrel sp 20
White-chinned Petrel 300
Pintado Petrel 3
Great-winged Petrel 10
Great Shearwater 5
Cory's Shearwater 50
Sooty Shearwater 10
Wilson's Storm Petrel 100
European Storm Petrel 10
Subantarctic Skua 1
Arctic Skua 2
Pomarine Skua 1
Sabine's Gull 20
Arctic Tern 75

  Cetacean sightings

Risso's Dolphin 1