Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


  Trip Reports - 16 august 2007

By Ross Wanless

2 white-phase southern giant-Petrels!
soft-plumaged Petrel




We departed Simon’s Town harbour at 7:30 on a trip. This is a superb time of year for southern right whales, and we slowed to watch one of these behemoths cruising along the coast. A slight chop in the bay meant a relatively slow run to the point, by ‘Obsession’ standards, that is.

Seas and wind beyond Cape Point were coming from the south, and kept our speed to 15-20 kn. Just beyond the point, and not more than 30 seconds after discussing the extreme rarity of the particular bird, a WHITE PHASE SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL cruised past. This is an exceptionally rare bird in the Cape, and in the 10 years I have been guiding pelagics I have only ever seen one in these waters. We gave chase, but it was not hanging around and we realised that further pursuit was unlikely to yield better views than we had already had. En route to the deep a pair of terns crossed our wake, which were almost certainly Arctics.

e picked up a couple of longliners at about 10 am, just over 22 nm from the point, and spent the next two and a half hours birding behind one of these, with crippling views of all four regular albatross species and the other typical pelagics for this time of year. To my absolute astonishment, at about 11 am, a SECOND WHITE PHASE SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL came past, clearly a different bird. This one spent a good half hour around the boat and gave the photographers on board plenty of reasons to be happy! When the longliner hauled the end of the anchor line and headed into the south, we called it a day and headed home. The following seas had flattened and we made it to the point in an hour, with the highlights being a massive raft of Sooty Shearwaters and a very fleeting view of the trip’s only SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL. Inside the bay the skipper opened up the throttles and we were treated to a fabulous 35 knot charge to the Bank Cormorant colony at Partridge Point. After an absence from guiding of several months, it was great to be back at sea and running a great pelagic trip.



  Pelagic birds



Swift tern - coastal
Arctic tern 2
Hartlaub’s gull - coastal
Cape gull - coastal
Sub-antarctic skua – 10
Cape cormorant - coastal
Bank cormorant - coastal
White-breasted cormorant - coastal
Crowned cormorant - coastal
African penguin - coastal
Cape gannet – coastal & pelagic
Shy albatross 100
Black-browed albatross 20
Indian yellow-nosed albatross 2
Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross 4
Southern giant-petrel (incl. 2 white phased birds) 5
Pintado petrel 100
White-chinned petrel 250
Soft-plumaged petrel 1
Sooty shearwater 500
Wilson ’s storm-petrel 3
Subantarctic skua 10

 Marine mammals



Cape fur seal - coastal & pelagic
Southern right whale - 1


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