Trip Highlights: 5 Albatross species including 2 Wanderers! Spectacled Petrels and 4 Shearwater species including Manx.
Wandering Albatross photographed by guide Cliff Dorse, as it inspected our boat and circled around us on this Cape Town Pelagics trip.
Spectacled Petrel photographed by guide Cliff Dorse on this Cape Town Pelagics trip.
Following a fairly significant cold front that passed over the Cape on Friday, it was a justly relieved group of birders that gathered on the quayside in Simon’s Town at 7.15am ready to board a Cape Town Pelagics Trip. We soon departed the harbour and made our way towards the iconic Cape Point. On our way across False Bay, we took in the spectacular scenery, the usual coastal species and encounters with White-chinned Petrel and Subantarctic Skua.
There was a large swell running but luckily with little wind blowing, we were able to continue out towards the deep. There were large numbers of Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned Petrels and we soon encountered our first Albatross of the day, an Adult Shy Albatross. A single Manx Shearwater put in a brief appearance but it was only after 10 miles from the point when we encountered our first Wilson’s Storm Petrels and Antarctic Prions. We continued to scan the horizon hoping to make out the distinct shape of a fishing vessel. The large swell made it difficult to scan the horizon effectively and we were just starting to lose hope when we detected a stern trawler in the distance. As we proceeded towards the vessel we started encountering Black-browed Albatross and Pintado Petrels. As we arrived at the stern trawler, the Blue Bell, she changed course and steamed off a short distance to reset her nets. There were literally thousands of birds in attendance and we followed in the wake trying to pick out additional species. We were soon rewarded with a solitary Great Shearwater, a Spectacled Petrel, an Antarctic Tern and an Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. A Wandering Albatross was also seen momentarily but we were unable to relocate it in amongst the masses of sea birds in the vicinity.
We then made our way to a long liner vessel operating in the area. As we arrived an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross increased our daily Albatross tally to five. After spending some time working through the birds in the area we decided to have our lunch out in the deep rather then returning to the relative calm of False Bay. This decision proved to be a good one as we had just packed out the lunch when a Spectacled Petrel was seen sitting on the water a few meters from the boat. Immediately after lunch, a Wandering Albatross also came into view and joined a group of Black-browed and Shy Albatross squabbling over a fish. The Wanderer dominated its smaller congeners and it allowed close approach to the enjoyment of all on board. The bird then took to the air and gave great views from all aspects as it did circles around the boat.
Unfortunately we were running out of time and we had to start heading back home. On our way back we intersected another trawler, the Freesia, and even thought it was fishing, it was clearly not processing anything as there were almost no birds in attendance. At about five miles from the point we were lucky enough to encounter a pod of about 30 Common Dolphin and a single, very late, Cory’s Shearwater.
The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of all four South African marine cormorant species – Cape, Bank, Crowned and White-breasted Cormorant.
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.
Wandering Albatross 2
Shy Albatross c.800
Black-browed Albatross c. 800
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 1
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 1
Pintado Petrel c.1500
White-chinned Petrel c.400
Spectacled Petrel 2
Sooty Shearwater c.250
Cory’s Shearwater 1
Manx Shearwater 1
Great Shearwater 1
Antarctic Prion c. 30
Wilson’s Storm Petrel c.25
Subantarctic Skua c.10
Antarctic Tern 1
The following species were common close to the coast:
Common Dolphin c. 30
Cape Fur Seal Common
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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