Trip Highlights: Southern & Northern Royal Albatross, Great-winged Petrel, Sabine's Gull and Humpbacked Whales
At 07h30 on Sunday morning, 01 September and officially the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere, a Cape Town Pelagics trip departed Simon's Town harbour with Barrie Rose, our bird guide, on board.
The Cape Peninsula had again been battered by storms during the week but conditions had abated enough to allow us to get out on the designated backup day. We had a relatively easy trip through False Bay to Cape Point during which we slowed briefly at the snoek fleet in Buffels Bay to take in a few White-chinned Petrels and Subantarctic Skuas. The 25knot north-westerly wind of the previous day had left a moderate swell in its wake and we headed offshore into a bumpy sea which peaked at just over 3m.
Although wet and breezy we added Sooty Shearwaters and Shy Albatross to our species list and as we moved further offshore the breeze moderated and the sea slowly calmed. From 19miles we saw and headed towards the hake trawler ‘Freesia'. Large flocks of albatrosses, petrels, and gannets loafed in the area waiting for the Freezia to raise its net with its first catch of the day.
A soon as the Freezia started hauling its net, the huge flock moved in on its stern in anticipation of the first ‘free meal' of the day. When the 7 ton bag of hake popped onto the surface, Cape Gannets rained into the water, seals and albatrosses argued over fish escaping from the net and a huge flock of Pintado Petrels gathered to pick up the small scraps. At this stage besides the Pintado Petrels we added Black-browed Albatross and both species of Giant Petrel and Wilson's Storm Petrel to the list.
As we drifted through the flock we picked up on a ‘whiteback', initially views were not ideal and we headed well down the wake of the Freezia before we got great views of a young Southern Royal Albatross; in fact over the next hour the same bird paid us a number of visits.
Moving back up the wake towards the trawler we added Great Shearwater, Arctic Tern and an early Sabine's Gull to the list. A Northern Royal Albatross gave us extended although fairly distant views.
After a full two hours in the flock we headed back towards Cape Point. The sea was on our stern and the long trip back from 30 miles was quite comfortable. We stopped on one occasion as a Great-winged Petrel made a close pass next to the boat.
After enjoying a quiet lunch close to Buffels Bay we paid the Partridge Point Bank Cormorant colony and seal roost a visit. Three Humpbacked Whales made a brief showing before we headed back to Simon's Town.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Southern Royal Albatross - 1
Northern Royal Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross - 800+
Black-browed Albatross - 600+
Southern Giant Petrel - 4
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Giant Petrel sp - 4
White-chinned Petrel - ca 1000
Great-winged Petrel - 1
Pintado Petrel - 5000+
Sooty Shearwater - 200+
Great Shearwater - 4
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 200+
Subantarctic Skua - 10
Cape Gannet - 800+
Swift Tern - coastal and to 8mls
Arctic Tern - 1
Common Tern - coastal
Sabine's Gull - 1
Kelp Gull - 20 and coastal
African Penguin - coastal
Cape Cormorant coastal and to 5mlsls
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Humpbacked Whale - 3
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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