On Sunday 15 August a group of birders
from Europe left Simon’s Town harbour aboard
a Cape Town Pelagics trip guided by Cape Town Pelagics
guide, Cliff Dorse. From the weather reports we were
all expecting a calm day out. The conditions in False
Bay were indeed very calm and we were soon underway
through the idyllic bay. As always the spectacular
scenery was a highlight. We encountered a couple of
White-chinned Petrels in the bay
along with the usual coastal birds. After a quick
stop to get photos of the Point and the Cape of Good
Hope, we headed in a south westerly direction towards
the trawling grounds. There was quite a bit of oceanic
swell and some chop on the water and this stayed with
us the entire day until we again re-entered the bay.
Good numbers of birds were actively feeding just off
the point and we headed towards the hive of activity.
There were fair numbers of Sooty Shearwaters,
Cape Cormorants, Cape Gannet
and Swift Terns actively pursuing
bait fish. Less then one mile off the point we encountered
a very obliging Pintado Petrel sitting
on the water! This was very close inshore for a Pintado
and after spending a few minutes with the bird we
started to wonder if it was injured or ill. It then
promptly took to the air and flew strongly towards
the feeding frenzy – showing no signs of any
As we continued to the deep, we soon added Shy
Albatross and Sub-antarctic Skua.
We continued getting better looks at most of the species
already encountered and added Wilson’s
Storm Petrel and Black-browed Albatross.
At 20 miles we could see no sign of any fishing vessels
on the horizon and we started to systematically work
through the rafts of birds on the water. There were
large numbers of bird spread over a wide area and
we decided to do a bit of chumming. Unfortunately,
this did not attract anything new for the day list
but provided excellent photographic opportunities.
On route back we encountered two Hump-backed
Whales at about 6 miles from the point. In
the shelter of the bay we enjoyed our much deserved
lunch before making the mandatory stop at Partridge
Point to view the Cormorant colony, which showed all
4 species - Bank, White-breasted,
Cape and Crowned Cormorant.
All in all it was a satisfying day at sea but the
lack of any Yellow-nosed Albatross
or Giant Petrels was noteworthy.
Bird species seen - numbers are rough
Shy Albatross 50
Black-browed Albatross 30
Pintado Petrel 250
White-chinned Petrel 250
Sooty Shearwater 300
Wilson’s Storm Petrel 30
Subantarctic Skua 10
Bird species encountered close
to the coast:
African Black Oystercatcher
Humpbacked Whale 2
Cape Fur Seal
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 Cliff Dorse.
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