Saturday morning, the 4th of August, saw a group of excited birders gathering on the wharf in Simon’s Town waiting to join a Cape Town Pelagics tour, guided by Cliff Dorse. We boarded the Stella and were soon running through the scenic False Bay. While still in the bay we enjoyed the normal coastal birds such as Cape Gannet, Swift Tern and Cape Cormorant. Before the point we added our first Sub-antartic Skua, White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters.
Black-browed Albatross © Marine Drouilly on this Cape Town Pelagics trip
We passed the point and headed out towards the fishing grounds. Conditions were very pleasant for the first few miles and we soon found Shy Albatross and Wilson’s Storm Petrel amongst the numerous White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters.
Sooty Shearwater © Marine Drouilly on this Cape Town Pelagics trip
Shy Albatross adult and juvenile © Marine Drouilly on this Cape Town Pelagics trip
A light north westerly wind, which was not predicted, was accompanied by sheets of rain and an uncomfortable chop on the water. The rain also reduced visibility and we battled to pick out any fishing vessels in the distance. We continued outward and just when we were starting to get despondent we noticed the distinctive outline of a stern trawler on the horizon to the south. As we approached the vessel we added Black-browed Albatross, Pintado Petrel and two Antarctic Prions. The spectacle of the thousands of birds was extremely impressive. Our timing was perfect and the trawler started bringing in her net. In the spectacle that resulted we managed to locate our first Southern Giant Petrel on the water and an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross flew closely by. We made our way down the wake of the trawler and it was with much excitement when a Northern Royal Albatross put in an appearance.
Southern Giant Petrel © Marine Drouilly on this Cape Town Pelagics trip
The sheer number of birds was extraordinary and we slowly worked our way towards the trawler which had reset her nets and was steaming to the south. We added our fifth Albatross species to the day list, an Indian Yellow-nosed. We were surrounded by birds which included a very big flock of Pintado Petrels. Suddenly a call of “Fulmar” rang out as the bird flew closely by the boat. However, it soon disappeared amongst the numerous Pintados and we were unable to relocate it.
© Marine Drouilly on this Cape Town Pelagics trip
We had followed the trawler to about 30 miles from the point when we unfortunately needed to turn back. The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of three species of cormorant, White-breasted, Bank and Cape Cormorants.
The following is a list of the species seen during the course of the day. The numbers reflected can be considered as rough estimations only.:
Shy Albatross c. 250
Black-browed Albatross c. 300
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 1
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
Imm Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
Northern Royal Albatross 1
Southern Giant Petrel 4
Giant Petrel sp. 2
Pintado Petrel c. 1000
White-chinned Petrel c. 250
Sooty Shearwater c. 50
Wilson’s Storm Petrel c. 20
Antarctic Fulmar 1
Subantarctic Skua c. 15
Antarctic Tern 3
The following species were encountered close to the coast:
African Black Oyster-catcher
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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