Trip Highlights: Black-browed, Shy, Indian and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Manx Shearwater, Sub-Antarctic Skua and all 4 coastal Cormorant species. Parasitic Jaeger briefly seen.
Leaving Cape Point behind as we head out to the trawling grounds on a Cape Town Pelagics trip.
The sunrise on Saturday 12 April dawned on another completely calm day; the preceding days had been idyllic with virtually no wind in the Cape. This unusual weather resulted in very calm sea conditions and we set off across False Bay on board a Cape Town Pelagics trip out of Simon's Town with Dalton Gibbs the tour leader.
In the harbour were the usual Kelp Gulls and Hartlaub's Gulls, with lines of Cape Cormorant on the harbour buoy lines. Out of the harbour we found a few African Penguins along the shoreline near Boulders preparing to go hunting. The trip across False Bay was quiet, with only a few Swift Terns and Cape Gannet following us to Cape Point. Here we took in the early morning view and checked out over the radio.
At Cape Point we found a small city of ski boats taking advantage of calm conditions to fish in the otherwise rough coastal zone. Boats near us brought in Yellowtail fish, whilst flocks of Swift Terns and Cape Gannet dived into the shoals of fish near the surface. Moving further out to sea, we picked up Sooty Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrels and a glimpsing view of a Parasitic Jaeger amongst the feeding Swift Terns. At about 10 N miles we found Shy Albatross and a few Wilson's Storm-petrels soon there after.
We headed to the South West of Cape Point following information we had regarding trawlers in the area, eventually finding four long lining vessels some 20 N Miles from land. Here we soon found Black-browed Albatross behind the boat, followed by Indian Yellow-nosed and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. Great Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels were about in fair numbers, with a sprinkling of European Storm-petrels mixed in with Wilson's Storm-petrel. Along with Shy Albatross we had good views of the three other albatross species as they trailed on behind the long liner.
We stayed with the long liner for a while, adding Sub-Antarctic Skua. There was virtually no wind and as a result most of the birds sat on the water, often approaching our vessel within a few meters, either out of curiosity or to see if we had food on offer. With some two hours of viewing all the species listed above, we decided to move across to another pair of long lining vessels to our north. Here we found a similar mix of species, also drawn to the long liner and giving good close up views.
We decide to have lunch following on behind the long liner, with birds around us and a dead calm sea - splendid lunch time conditions! After lunch we started our cruise home, picking up a trawler on the way back. She was the "African Queen" a side trawler who had just pulled in her nets, with a fair number of birds around her. Here we picked up the same four species of albatross again, plus Great Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels, as well as a Manx Shearwater that quickly made off and disappeared amongst the birds.
Arriving back into False Bay, we rounded Cape Point in beautiful afternoon sunlight and a flat sea. We crossed the Bay to see the Castle Rock cormorant colony, where we found White-breasted, Cape and Bank Cormorants, whilst the adjacent rocks held Cape Fur Seals in different age classes. Back on to Simon's Town harbour where we picked up a Crowned Cormorant on a moored boat to complete this group 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 - 1 - coastal
African Penguin - 10 - coastal
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 100
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 10
Parasitic Jaeger - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 300
Sooty Shearwater - 250
Great Shearwater - 200
Cory's Shearwater - 50
Manx Shearwater - 1
Shy Albatross - 75
Black-browed Albatross - 50
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 10
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 8
Wilson's Storm-petrel - 200
European Storm-petrel - 10
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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