Trip Highlights: Black-bellied Storm Petrel, Sabine's Gull, Northern Giant Petrel and Parasitic Jaeger
It was a calm morning on the 27th October as we hopefully boarded our pelagic charter in Simon's Town with Dalton Gibbs guiding the trip. The recent weather had been calm and a light south westerly wind was blowing and was expected to drop during the day. In the harbour were the usual Cape Cormorants, Kelp Gulls, Hartlaub's Gulls and an African Black Oystercatcher to see us off. The trip across False Bay was uneventful and apart from a few Swift Terns and Cape Cormorants, was otherwise quiet. We stopped off at the Castle Rock cormorant colony, finding Cape, White-breasted and Bank Cormorants on the rocks. We moved on to Cape Point where a few Cape Gannets turned up and once we headed out to sea we soon picked up numbers of White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters working with Swift Terns to feed off bait fish. A pod of Common Dolphins came alongside our boat and rode our boats wave for a while, rising alongside us and showing off their creamy coloured underbellies. A small group of African Penguin popped up out of the water and we picked up three different Parasitic Jaegers amongst the Swift Terns in the area.
A few miles further out we came across our first Great Shearwaters who were feeding on the outside band of inshore fish. The water temperature was a warm 17 deg C and things went quiet as we headed out into the swell which came from the south east. At the 20 N mile mark we picked up a ship on the horizon and headed toward her, picking up a few Shy Albatross and then Black-browed Albatross as we approached her. This was a stern trawler and had fair numbers of birds around her. As we came alongside her a large white-backed albatross veered off into the distance before we could get to grips with it. This was possibly a Northern Royal Albatross, but the conditions and speed at which the bird flew away from us made it impossible to be certain.
Behind the trawler however we soon found a few late season Pintado Petrel and Sub-Antarctic Skua waiting for the nets to be lifted. This soon happened and brought in a mass of birds such as Kelp Gull, Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants, White-chinned Petrels and a Northern Giant Petrel. We stayed in the mass of birds and also picked up an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and a few Wilson's Storm Petrels.
The conditions at sea hadn't improved much as they were forecast to, so we started to head for home, picking up Black-bellied Storm Petrel on the way; whilst closer to Cape Point two Sabine's Gull crossed our path.
Once back in False Bay we stopped in a sheltered cove beneath the Cape Point cliffs to enjoy lunch before heading back to Simon's Town. Back in Simon's Town harbour we picked up a pair of Crowned Cormorant before completing the trip for the day.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Swift Tern - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Cape Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant - coastal - 2
African Penguin - coastal
African Black Oystercatchers - 3
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 150
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 5
Parasitic Jaeger - 3
Sabine's Gull - 2
White-chinned Petrel - 600
Pintado Petrel - 6
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 300
Great Shearwater - 500
Shy Albatross - 100
Black-browed Albatross - 750
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 30
Black-bellied Storm Petrel - 2
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 Dalton Gibbs.
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