Trip Highlights: Great day at sea with 5 Albatross species, including a Wanderer, a Spectacled Petrel and both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels.
Young Wandering Albatross
A crazy cold front had passed over the Cape in the two days preceding the pelagic trip, dumping 150mm of rain over Hout Bay and causing extensive flooding in Cape Town. With this weather having passed we gathered at Hout Bay Harbour to board a Cape Town Pelagics trip with Dalton Gibbsb our guide. We pulled out of the harbour, passing the usual Cape and Hartlaub's Gulls, whilst Cape Fur Seals lounged on the floating jetties.
Soon we were out of the bay and heading along the coast. Birds were slow in coming and we only found Cape Cormorant, Cape Gannet and Swift Terns close to shore. By the time were a few miles out we found White-chinned Petrel and then Parasitic Jaeger chasing some Common Terns. We headed further out until we were off Cape Point where we had a glimpse of an African Penguin and then picked up Sooty Shearwaters and a small pod of Dusky Dolphins.
A radar contact showed up and we headed in her direction through a sea that had very few birds. A tuna boat appeared on the horizon and getting close to her we started to pick up birds, with Shy Albatross and Northern Giant Petrel appearing out of the blue ocean. The tuna boat was not fishing but we spotted a trawler in the distance and headed toward her. Approaching her we quickly started to pick up more birds, with Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross appearing. European Storm Petrels flew past us and were mixed in with Great Shearwaters and delicately marked Pintado Petrels.
When we reached the trawler she was the "Forest Lily" some 25 N Miles off Cape Point and had her nets down. We followed this trawler for the next 3 hours, joined by flocks of birds that were waiting for the net to be raised. A few Sabine's Gulls came through and then the call of Spectacled Petrel rung out and came past mixed in with White-chinned Petrels. This bird came past several times, giving good views of its features.
Wilson's Storm Petrels in fair numbers joined the European Storm Petrels around the boat, whilst some Southern Giant Petrels made an appearance. A number of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross came past us, mixed in with Shy and Black-browed Albatross, whilst Sub-Antarctic Skuas patrolled the skies. All the species present had given us good views and the trawler was preparing to lift her nets when a large brown albatross approached us. It was a young Wandering Albatross and did some great fly bys as it eyed our boat for any food, eventually putting down on the water some distance away. It did not allow us to approach too close and was soon up in the air again, circling the trawler a few times before heading out into the deep.
Another photograph of the Young Wandering Albatross seen on this pelagic trip
A sun fish lolled on the surface of the sea, giving us good views of its peculiar shape before it was time for the "Forest Lily" to haul in her nets. This attracted a swarm of birds that descended on the fish below. With this spectacle still in our minds we headed back toward Hout Bay, cruising up along the western side of the Cape Peninsula. The trip back was fairly uneventful except for a group of Parasitic Jaegers in shore near Hout Bay that were harassing Swift Terns.
Back in Hout Bay we found a lone Crowned Cormorant on the jetty before disembarking.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Swift Tern - coastal
Common Tern - coastal
Arctic tern - 50
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Kelp Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant - 2
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 100
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 20
Parasitic Jaeger - 7
Sabine's Gull - 12
White-chinned Petrel - 200
Spectacled Petrel - 1
Pintado Petrel - 1000
Southern Giant Petrel - 20
Northern Giant Petrel - 20
Sooty Shearwater - 200
Great Shearwater - 30
Shy Albatross - 200
Black-browed Albatross - 200
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 10
Wandering Albatross - 1
Wilson's Storm- petrel - 50
European Storm-petrel - 50
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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