Trip Highlights: Another outstanding pelagics trip with 6 Albatross species, including a Wanderer and Northern Royals, and 8 Petrel species
Black-bellied Storm Petrel during a Cape Town Pelagics trip.
With the characteristic summer south-easterly wind beginning to blow, we were somewhat relieved that it had died down enough to let us congregate on the harbour side in Hout Bay on Sunday 06 October for a Cape Town Pelagics trip guided by Cliff Dorse.
Soon we left the tranquil harbour behind and headed towards the trawling grounds in the deep beyond Cape Point. Besides the normal Terns and Cape Gannets the first true pelagic birds of the day were two Parasitic Jaegers. These were then followed by Sooty Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrel, Great Shearwater and Shy Albatross. As always, we did not slow down or detour to enjoy these birds as we knew that we would encounter these species at close range out in the trawling grounds. We did however get quite excited about the first two Black-bellied Storm Petrels making sure that everyone got on to them. While October is the prime month for these passage migrants, we had no idea that they were here en masse and we must have seen over 100 on the day!
As we neared the area known as the Canyon, we started to encounter different species. These included Southern Giant Petrel, Pintado Petrel, Black-browed Albatross and Wilson's Storm Petrel. Our skipper managed to spot the outline of a long-line fishing boat in the distance and we headed in that direction. As we approached the boat, the numbers of birds began to increase dramatically.
We stopped directly behind the long liner and then drifted down her wake enjoying the spectacle. We soon added Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Great-winged Petrel, Subantarctic Skua and Soft-plumaged Petrel. A huge highlight was three Royal Albatross. Two were clearly Northern Royal Albatross but the one very young bird looked very good for Southern Royal Albatross. However, after reviewing the photos, it is likely that this bird is also a Northern. We also managed to locate a few Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Northern Giant Petrels.
We added a bit of fish oil to the mix and were rewarded with very close views of Black-bellied Storm Petrel, Soft-plumaged Petrel and Great-winged Petrel. In fact one of the highlights of the day was the large numbers of Black-bellies, some at very close range!
We spent a good deal of time repeatedly running up to the trawler and then drifting in her wake. Our efforts were eventually rewarded when a spectacular Wandering Albatross appeared. It flew past us and landed some way off on the water to squabble over a fish with some of the smaller albatross species. As we approached, it took off and gave all on board great views! As is often the case in summer, the south-easter was predicted to strengthen dramatically in the late afternoon and we decided to head for home.
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 1
Northern Royal Albatross 3
Shy Albatross c.200
Black-browed Albatross c.120
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross c. 10
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 3
White-chinned Petrel c.300
Southern Giant Petrel 2
Northern Giant Petrel 3
Pintado Petrel c. 200
Soft-plumaged Petrel 7
Great-winged Petrel 5
Sooty Shearwater c.30
Great Shearwater c. 400
Wilson's Storm Petrel c.50
Black- bellied Storm Petrel 100+
Subantarctic Skua 5
Parasitic Jaeger 2
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.
To book, simply email
or phone us, or submit a
booking enquiry online.