Trip Highlights: Spectacled Petrel, 3 Jaeger species and 3 Atlantic Blue Sharks
The morning of Sunday 30 December was calm after a weak cold front had come through Cape Town, bringing south-westerly winds and some light rain in the previous days. We sent out of Simonstown harbour at 08h00 on board a Cape Town Pelagics trip led by Dalton Gibbs. In the harbour were the usual Cape and Hartlaub’s Gulls, with Cape Cormorants on the harbour buoy lines. Swift and Sandwich Terns were also about as we headed out into False Bay. Early morning groups of African Penguins were off the Boulders Beach as they started hunting for fish. False Bay was relatively flat, and we made good time out to Cape Point where we paused to take in the view before heading out to sea.
The water was a warm 19 deg C and we encountered our first White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters some 5 N miles out. Occasional Cape Gannets trailed us as we headed further out and we picked up Parasitic Jaeger harassing Swift Terns until they dropped their catch. We found our first Shy Albatross as we entered a band of dense birds with lots of feeding activity concentrating on surface fish at some 10 NMiles off Cape Point. Cory’s Shearwaters were about, with Sabine’s Gulls that were mixed in with flocks of Arctic Terns. Found amongst the mixed groups around our boat were Wilson’s and European Storm Petrel. A Pomarine Jaeger lifted from the water amongst a group of birds. An immature Yellow-nosed Albatross passed us, but we were unable to determine the species, but found an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross adult and a fly over of a Black-browed Albatross a bit further out.
At the 15 N Mile mark we could not find a trawler and the birds were mainly absent, indicating they were concentrating at the feeding area a few miles back toward Cape Point. We headed back and chummed the area, quickly pulling in Sub-Antarctic Skua and a Long-tailed Jaeger that sat amongst some white-chinned Petrels.
We put some chum into the water and whilst waiting had some lunch. Soon we had several species around us, which were soon joined by a Mako Shark and three magnificent Atlantic Blue Sharks. The one Blue Shark was almost three metres and this beautiful creature enthralled us as it came along the side of the boat to get the food that was on the line. These sharks stayed around our boat for some time, giving us fantastic views of their shape and exquisite colours.
Two Sub-Antarctic Skuas on the water off our boats stern had a suspicious Petrel sitting between them. A quick look in the binoculars confirmed this was a Spectacled Petrel! The bird took off and did a perfect fly past behind the boat before setting off.
Soon after this rarity we had a Great Shearwater give a brief fly past before setting for Cape Point and home. The trip back was fairly uneventful and we were soon back in the calm of False Bay and headed across to Castle Rock cormorant colony where we found White-breasted, Cape Cormorants and Bank Cormorants. The adjacent rocks held a lone Crowned Cormorant as well as a variety of Cape Fur Seals in different age classes. We returned to Simonstown with views of more African Penguins along the beach at Boulders.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Swift Tern – coastal
Sandwich Tern – coastal
Hartlaub’s Gull – coastal
Cape Gull – coastal
Cape Cormorant – coastal
Bank Cormorant – coastal
White-breasted Cormorant – coastal
Crowned Cormorant – coastal
African Penguin – coastal
Cape Gannet – coastal & pelagic – 50
Sabine’s Gull – 70
Sub-Antarctic Skua – 5
Parasitic Jaeger – 2
Pomarine Jaeger – 3
Long-tailed Jaeger – 1
White-chinned Petrel – 200
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Cory’s Shearwater - 100
Great Shearwater – 1
Sooty Shearwater – 70
Shy Albatross – 50
Black-browed Albatross – 1
Yellow-nosed Albatross sp. (immature) – 1
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross – 1
Wilson’s Storm- petrel – 100
European Storm-petrel – 50
Cape fur seal
Atlantic Blue Shark
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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