Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


 Trip Report - 27 October 2007

By Ross Wanless



A trip left Simon’s Town harbour shortly after 7:30 on Saturday, 27 October. Conditions in the bay were idyllic, with a gentle westerly wind and virtually no swell. We encountered a Southern right whale en route to the point, and once out of the bay we were pleasantly surprised at just how flat the seas were. There was relatively little activity out to the deep, but we put the boat’s speed to good use and got out to a trawler at 10:30. The crew indicated that the net would be lifted around 12, so we settled down to wait, birding in relatively calm conditions.

Once the winches started the birds began to gather, and soon we were in the thick of a chaotic cloud of birds. Although no black-bellied storm petrels were around, we did pick up a single European stormie amongst low numbers of Wilson’s stormies that were somewhat recalcitrantly disinclined to come close. Besides these, we were able to get superb views of all the other species present, including both giant petrel spp. and a stunning Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross. There were no adult black-browed albies (but lots of juvs and immatures), and no Indian yellow-nosed albies. We were all momentarily flummoxed by a very bizarre seabird. It had a completely white head, and its body was mottled black and white. The bill and proportions were clearly that of a small shearwater, and as it took off the jizz gave the game away immediately – it was a seriously aberrant, partially leucistic sooty shearwater. We were disappointed to see that the trawler did not put out the obligatory bird-scaring lines, in breach of permit conditions and a matter that I will follow-up on.

A little after 1 pm, as the birds started to thin out, we headed back to shore, only to come across a pod of 4-5 hump-backed whales, including a mother and small calf. The wind and seas had died down still further, and we just about flew back. Close to the point we came across two rafts of Sabine’s gulls and a single pomarine skua amongst the terns and fairly common Arctic skuas/parasitic jaegers. We stopped off to see the nesting bank cormorants and made it back alongside just after 3 pm with a lot of birding under the belt.



  Pelagic birds



Swift tern – coastal
Arctic tern - 15
Hartlaub’s gull - coastal
Cape/Kelp gull - coastal
Sabine’s gull
Subantarctica skua – 20
Parasitic jaeger
Cape cormorant – coastal
Bank cormorant – coastal
White-breasted cormorant – coastal
African penguin – coastal
Cape gannet – coastal & pelagic
Shy albatross – 300
Black-browed albatross – 30
Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross – 2
Northern giant petrel – 1
Southern giant petrel – 5
Giant petrel spp. – 3
Pintado petrel – 80
Wilson ’s storm petrel – 10
European storm petrel – 1
White-chinned petrel – 500
Sooty shearwater – 50
Great shearwater – 200

 Marine mammals



Cape fur seal – common
Southern right whale - 3
Hump-backed whale - 5


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