Trip Highlights: Wandering Albatross, Blue Petrel and white morph Southern Giant Petrel
Blue Petrel © Barrie Rose on this Cape Town Pelagics trip.
Early Sunday morning a group of birders departed Simonstown aboard a Cape Town Pelagics trip guided by Barrie Rose.
Another strong frontal system swept over the Cape Peninsula on Friday leaving a large swell and confused sea outside Cape Point. Storms of this nature however improve the chances of finding unusual southern ocean birds; particularly at this time of year. The trip to Cape Point was uneventful; the only sighting of any significance was a single Southern Right Whale as we were leaving the harbour.
Once outside Cape Point we headed in a south-westerly direction into the swell. Progress was relatively slow due to the state of the sea. Within the first few miles we saw good numbers of White-chinned Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, Shy Albatross and both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels. A distant pair of Hump-backed Whales blew and showed their distinctive profile before diving. At 12 miles we picked up on a distant ‘whiteback’ and although the views were not ideal the black-edged tail was evident; confirming it as a Wandering Albatross.
After a couple of hours steaming and at 24 miles, we became aware of a trawler some miles south of us. As we turned towards the fishing boat we started to gather more species adding Pintado Petrel, Black-browed Albatross and Wilson’s Storm Petrel to the list. We arrived at the ‘Maria Marine’ while it was processing its first very small catch of the day. It had a good flock of hungry birds at its stern but before we had a chance to take in the spectacle we were onto a Blue Petrel. This is a rare vagrant normally found south of 40degS. The petrel was moving up and down the wake with a large flock of pintados and was seen intermittently for at least 15 minutes. We hardly settled down when a white morph Southern Giant Petrel entered the fray; these extraordinarily beautiful birds are uncommon and are a bonus to any pelagic trip. We also added Great Shearwater and Arctic Tern to the list before an Antarctic Fulmar paid us a short visit.
We turned for Cape Point at 12h30 and had not gone many miles when a second Fulmar made a close pass across our bow.
Having the swell on our stern the trip inshore was pleasant and dry. Two miles off Cape Point we investigated a large feeding flock; Swift Terns and Sooty Shearwaters were feeding over Cape Cormorants and much to our surprise we found a fairly confiding Soft-plumaged Petrel right at the centre of the action.
Lunch was enjoyed under the sheltered cliffs of Cape Point and after a stop at Partridge Point to take in the Bank Cormorant colony and Cape Fur Seal roost we headed back to Simonstown.
Wandering Albatross – 1
Shy Albatross – 180+
Black-browed Albatross – 180+
Blue Petrel – 1
Southern Giant Petrel – 10 (1 x white morph)
Northern Giant Petrel – 2
Giant Petrel sp – 5
White-chinned Petrel – ca 1000
Antarctic Fulmar – 2
Pintado Petrel – 1000+
Soft-plumaged Petrel – 1
Sooty Shearwater – 400+
Great Shearwater – 2
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 80+
Subantarctic Skua – 10
Cape Gannet – 200
Arctic Tern – 4
Swift Tern – coastal and to 8mls
Kelp Gull – 15 and coastal
Cape Cormorant – coastal and to 5mls
White-breasted Cormorant – coastal
Bank Cormorant – coastal
Crowned Cormorant – coastal
African Penguin – coastal
Southern Right Whale – 1
Humpbacked Whale – 2
Cape Fur Seal – 100+
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 Barrie Rose.
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