A Cape Town Pelagic
trip left Simonstown on Saturday May 29th guided by
Cape Town Pelagics guide Dalton Gibbs. The
conditions had been calm for the few days proceeding,
with a light south-easterly wind expected for the
With a rosy sunrise we cast off at low tide; in Simonstown
harbour we found the usual Cape and Hartlaub’s
Gulls, while Cape Cormorants lined the
floating booms along with a single African Black
Oystercatcher. Outside the harbour in False Bay
we had a smooth run to Cape Point, with a few Cape
Cormorants and a small flock of Cape Gannets
passing us. As usual the view of Cape Point in
the early morning light was spectacular as we stopped
for some photos and to check out with the lighthouse
keeper. Here we found White-chinned Petrels
feeding on inshore pelagic fish with Swift
Terns. A few Sooty Shearwaters soon followed
as we passed Bellow’s Rock and headed out to the continental
shelf. We passed several flocks of White-chinned
Petrels loafing on the water before we came across
our first Shy Albatross.
At the 5 mile mark the water warmed slightly, reaching
15.5 deg C and we came across our first Black-browed
Albatross. We crossed the shipping land and were
unable to locate a trawler, calling several contacts
over the radio; the trawlers in appeared were tied
up in harbours due to the low price of hake fish!
Never the less we continued out and found Pintado
Petrel, followed by Sub-Antarctic Skua
that approached our boat. Wilson’s Storm Petrel
appeared, with single and handfuls of birds passing
us from time to time.
A young Southern Giant Petrel was spotted,
with several young Black-browed and
Shy Albatross around us. At this stage unfortunately
some of us began to suffer the effects of the boat
motion and we decided to head back to land. On the
way however we picked up Northern Giant Petrel
and constant views of the albatross species. Once
in the calm shelter of False Bay we settled down under
the magnificent cliffs of Cape Point and enjoyed and
excellent lunch, with a mammal record of Dassie (spotted
by Matthew) as an unusual sighting! We had a look
at the sea cave at Rooikrans and had excellent visibility
in the water; being clearing able to see the bottom
8m below us.
We crossed Buffels Bay to visit the Castle Rock Bank
Cormorant colony, having views of these birds as well
as White-breasted and Cape Cormorant.
On the adjacent rocks we had close up views of Cape
Fur Seals, accompanied by all the smells when
we were down wind of the colony! Three Crowned
Cormorant were finally located near by, completing
the list cormorant species in our area. Further along
the coast off the Boulders African Penguin colony
we had views of birds on the main fishing beach, but
unfortunately had no fishing birds in the water before
returning to Simonstown Harbour.
Despite not finding a trawler we never the less did
well out of the day; thanks to Alan, our skipper,
for a great trip!
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Swift tern coastal
Hartlaub’s gull - coastal
Cape gull - coastal
Cape cormorant coastal
Bank cormorant coastal
Crowned Cormorant coastal - 3
White-breasted cormorant coastal
African Penguin coastal
Cape Gannet coastal & pelagic 150
Africa black Oystercatcher coastal - 1
White-chinned Petrel 100
Northern Giant Petrel 1
Southern Giant Petrel 1
Sooty Shearwater 75
Shy Albatross 25
Black-browed Albatross 20
Wilson’s Storm Petrel 20
Sub-antarctic Skua - 3
Cape fur seal
Rock Hyrax (Dassie)!
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 Dalton Gibbs.
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