Trip Highlights: 2 Red Pharalope, 6 albatross species, including a Wanderer, Soft-plumaged Petrel and Great-winged Petrel
Southern Royal Albatross on a Cape Town Pelagics trip photographed by Cliff Dorse
Early Sunday morning, 29 September, a group of eight excited birders boarded a Cape Town Pelagic trip running out of Hout Bay and lead by Cliff Dorse. There were some large swells, but luckily there was very little wind. As we proceeded out towards the deep, heading for the trawling grounds, we encountered the first few Sooty Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrel and Shy Albatross. Knowing that we would encounter these species at close range out in the trawling grounds, we did not stop to focus on these first few birds.
As we neared the area known as the Canyon, we started to encounter different species. These included Great Shearwater, Southern Giant Petrel, Pintado Petrel, Black-browed Albatross, and Wilson's Storm Petrel. We also had a spectacular Southern Royal Albatross which did several close flybys of our boat. Just as we started to continue on our way, we noticed a Wandering Albatross flying away from us. We tried to chase the bird but it effortlessly extended the gap between us. With no fishing vessels anywhere in sight, we decided to try a bit of fish oil. It worked extremely well and numerous birds came to investigate. The majority comprised of Pintado Petrels and Wilson's Storm Petrels but several Soft-plumaged Petrels also responded. The "Softys" were particularly friendly and really hung around the boat. We also managed to attract our first Subantarctic Skua of the day a single Great-winged Petrel which gave excellent views. We then continued out to the edge of the Canyon where there was still no sign of trawlers or long liners. On route we came across two Red Phalarope which was certainly one of the day's highlights. We put out the last of the oil and besides more of the species mentioned above; we managed to locate Northern Giant Petrel and a single Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. We were very lucky to encounter two more white-back albatross. The first was another Southern Royal and the next a Northern Royal Albatross which brought the days Albatross tally to six.
The wind had now started to strengthen and we decided to run for home. Just as we approached Hout Bay and we thought the days excitement was over, our skipper noticed a small pod of Haviside's Dolphin - an excellent finale to a great day at sea!
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 1
Northern Royal Albatross 1
Southern Royal Albatross 2
Shy Albatross c.80
Black-browed Albatross c. 50
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 1
White-chinned Petrel c.100
Southern Giant Petrel 1
Northern Giant Petrel 3
Pintado Petrel c. 100
Soft-plumaged Petrel c. 20
Great-winged Petrel 1
Sooty Shearwater c.10
Great Shearwater c. 20
Wilson's Storm Petrel c.50
Subantarctic Skua 3
Red Phalarope 2
The following species were encountered close to the coast:
Cape Fur Seal
Haviside's Dolphin 4
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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