Trip Highlights: Exceptional day at sea with thousands of birds and 7 Albatross species, including 5 Wandering Albatross, 4 Northern Royal Albatross and a Southern Royal Albatross
Early on Saturday morning, 7 September a group of excited birders joined a Cape Town Pelagic Trip departing from Hout Bay harbour with specialist guide, Cliff Dorse, on board. Soon we were speeding through out of the bay with all on board crowded into the cabin in an effort to escape a bit of spray.
The first pelagic birds we encountered were Sooty Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrel and Shy Albatross. Knowing that we would encounter these species in great numbers out in the trawling grounds, we did not stop to focus on these first few birds. We however did stop when we saw some birds feeding on scraps as a Cape Fur Seal fed on a fish. One of these was a Wandering Albatross which allowed very close approach. This beautiful bird appeared to be rather small for a Wandering Albatross and showed very definite vermiculations across the neck and body and also exhibited a darker cap. There is a good possibility that this bird was in fact a Tristan Albatross. However, at the moment, not enough is known about the various plumages of the Wandering Albatross group and we cannot definitively exclude the nominate Wandering Albatross, Diomedea exulans.
After this very productive stop we continued out to the deep. Our skipper soon had his sights on a trawler and we headed in her direction. As we approached the trawler the number and diversity of birds drastically increased. We found ourselves surrounded by thousands of birds including Pintado Petrel, Shy Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, White-chinned Petrel, Subantarctic Skua, and Wilson's Storm Petrel. We followed in the wake of the trawler revelling in the spectacle and also managed to pick out Southern Giant Petrel and both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross as well as several Great Shearwaters. We also encountered individuals of both Northern and Southern Royal Albatross, bringing our day tally of albatross species to seven!
A few miles further out, a second trawler was operating and we decided to make our way towards her to see what birds were in the vicinity. This proved to be a wise decision as here we encountered three more Northern Royals and four different Wandering Albatross! This brought the tally for the day to 10 white-back or great albatross. This was a record for both the guide and the skipper whose previous record was 6! To really enhance the experience, we were lucky to have several of the Northern Royals and Wanderers sitting on the water and doing close flybys!
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.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Wandering Albatross 5
Northern Royal Albatross 4
Southern Royal Albatross 1
Shy Albatross c.500
Black-browed Albatross c. 350
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
White-chinned Petrel c.1000
Southern Giant Petrel 2
Northern Giant Petrel 1
Pintado Petrel c. 8000
Sooty Shearwater c.100
Great Shearwater c. 20
Wilson's Storm Petrel c.200
Subantarctic Skua c.20
The following species were encountered close to the coast:
Cape Fur Seal
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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