Trip Highlights: Thousands of birds!! A rare white morph Southern Giant Petrel, Soft-plumaged and Great-winged Petrels, 5 albatross species, including Northern Royal Albatross.
The usual 07h30 departure time of the Cape Town Pelagics trip was delayed until 09h00 on the morning of Saturday 13 July 2013 due to a frontal system which arrived during the night. Our skipper monitored the progress of this weather system and when he was sure that it had passed and that the wind was beginning to swing into the west we headed out of Hout Bay Harbour on a WSW course.
There was a stiff breeze and the run out was somewhat bumpy. However within in a few miles we came across several good birds; predominantly Shy Albatrosses and White-chinned Petrels. At approximately 8 miles a Soft-plumaged Petrel made two close passes providing everyone on board with great views. Travelling further south towards the trawling grounds, we soon picked up good numbers of Antarctic Prions, a Subantarctic Skua and a couple more Soft-plumaged Petrels.
At 25 miles the fishing fleet began to show on the radar and at 30miles they became visible. From a distance we could see large feeding flocks behind the first two hake trawlers. As we approached closer, we identified a flock of 500+ Cape Gannets dominating the feeding frenzy behind the ‘Sistro’ and we were soon drifting down its wake taking in the thousands of Pintado Petrels, Black-browed Albatrosses and White-chinned Petrels. A white morph Southern Giant Petrel was quite confiding and allowed us to approach within metres. We added Northern Giant Petrel, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Great-winged Petrel to our growing list. Moving to a second trawler our attention was caught by an all-white bird which turned out to be a leucistic White-chinned Petrel.
We spent time behind 4 different trawlers and in spite of a rather stiff bumpy sea were engrossed in the spectacle of up to 3000 Pintado Petrels behind one trawler. As the day wore on we added Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and a Northern Royal Albatross that splendidly displayed its full black wings, white back and white tail before disappearing into the riotous mob of pelagic birds.
We turned for home at 35mls and with the sea behind us enjoyed a pleasant ride back to Hout Bay with more sightings of Soft-plumaged and Great-winged Petrels as we went.
We arrived back in Hout Bay at 15h30.
Species seen (numbers approximate:
Northern Royal Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross - 300
Black-browed Albatross - 800
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 4
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Southern Giant Petrel - 15 (1 x white morph)
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 1000 (1 x leucistic)
Pintado Petrel - 5000+
Soft-plumaged Petrel - 10
Great-winged Petrel - 5
Antarctic Prion - 80
Sooty Shearwater - 100
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel - 200
Subantarctic Skua - 15
Arctic Tern - 6
Swift Tern - coastal and to 8mls
Cape Gannet - 800
Kelp Gull - 5 and coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal and to 5mls
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Hartlaub’s Gull - coastal
Cape Fur Seal - 50+
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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