Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


  Trip Reports - 8 September 2007

By Dalton Gibbs
Southern Fulmar



A Cape Town Pelagics trip left on the “Obsession” out of Simon’s Town on 8 September. There was a light drizzle as a mild south-westerly swept a weak cold front past the Cape; this rain soon passed and gave way to overcast conditions that prevailed throughout the day. Soon out of the harbour we came across our first Southern right whale in False Bay, with Cape gannet, Cape cormorant, Cape gull and swift terns in attendance. Just beyond Cape Point white-chinned petrel made an appearance and birds soon slotted in behind our boat. Next up was shy albatross as we made our way out to the trawling grounds, several young birds providing good views as they eyed our boat. A brief sighting of two hump-backed whales was made just beyond Bellows Rock as the first pintado petrel appeared. These beautifully patterned black and white birds were to prove very common throughout the trip.

We headed toward a shark longlining vessel, and just before reaching her, came across our first sub-antarctic skua. As expected these birds often stay near fishing vessels where they fly higher than the other birds, swooping in to steal food when the moment is right. Behind the longliner was a collection of birds, which included our first sooty shearwater, black-browed albatross and northern giant petrel. Wilson’s storm petrel was present in small number flitting between the larger feeding birds.

Dave spotted a stern trawler further out and we headed off in this direction, picking up a great shearwater on the way. Our arrival at the trawler was in time to catch the nets being pulled in; an activity that attracts the birds and several thousand pintado petrels congregated behind the boat. Drifting across this mixed group of pintado, white-chinned petrels, sooty shearwater, shy and black-browed albatross when a cry of “SOUTHERN FULMAR!” was called. The bird did a perfect fly-by passed the front of our boat and returned for a second round for those who didn’t get a great first view.

Amongst the albatross we had adult black-browed birds with their yellow beaks. Two immature yellow-nosed albatross birds were seen but were not sufficiently old enough to determine their species. This soon changed as we had views of several adult Indian yellow-nosed albatross, some of which fed on the water at close range. Southern giant petrel mixed in with thousands of pintados and good views were had of them close by; in this feeding group we spotted another southern fulmar. This was possibly the same bird that we had seen earlier and allowed for a close approach of only a few metres as it remained feeding on the water. .

e turned for Simonstown and passed a wonderful display of the hump-backed whales whacking the hell out of the water with their giant sized flukes. Both animals completed almost complete breaches out of the water as they displayed. Once back in False Bay we stopped to view the bank cormorant colony near Partridge Point, with views of bank cormorants on their nests. The adjacent rock with carpeted with dozens of Cape fur seals and another southern right whale complemented the already great views of marine mammals we had.



  Pelagic birds



Swift tern - coastal
Hartlaub's gull - coastal
Cape gull - coastal
Cape cormorant - coastal
Bank cormorant - coastal
White-breasted cormorant - coastal
African penguin - coastal
Cape gannet - coastal & pelagic - 150
Southern giant petrel - 5
Northern giant petrel - 2
Sub-Antarctica skua - 15
White-chinned petrel - 2000
Pintado petrel - 4000
Southern fulmar - 2
Sooty shearwater - 150
Great shearwater - 6
Shy albatross - 500
Black-browed albatross - 150
Indian yellow-nosed albatross - 5
Yellow-nosed albatross (immature) - 2
Wilson's storm-petrel - 100

 Marine mammals



Cape fur seal - coastal & pelagic
Southern right whale - 4
Hump-backed whale - 2


Thanks to everyone on board for helping make such an enjoyable trip!