Trip Highlights: 4 albatross species including a young Wanderer, Southern & Northern Giant Petrels, Sub-Antarctic Skua, Antarctic Prion
The sunrise on the 21st June broke on a calm morning; the preceding days had been less so, with a few heavy cold fronts bringing gale force on-shore winds to the Cape. Nevertheless, the sea was calm as we boarded a Cape Town Pelagics trip with Dalton Gibbs our tour leader.
We set off across False Bay, passing the usual Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls in the harbour, with lines of Cape Cormorant on the harbour bouy lines and a surprise Grey Heron that dropped in. An early morning hunting pack of African Penguins were in the water off Boulders Beach. We had not gone far when we found two Sub-Antarctic Skuas in False Bay; an indication that the preceding cold fronts had brought bird species usually found further out to sea, closer to land. Swift Terns and Cape Gannet followed us to Cape Point where we stopped to take in the view and check out with Scarborough radio station.
We set out from Cape Point into the deep, immediately coming across White-chinned Petrel and Sooty Shearwaters, with Shy Albatross soon following. Numbers of these species were to be found as we travelled out, getting superb views of some birds in the early morning light. Black-browed Albatross soon followed, which was unusual as this species is usually encountered further off shore.
We had set a course South West of Cape Point to pick up on a fishing vessel for which we had the co-ordinates. We found the "Sea Hawk", a long liner, some 20 N Miles from shore, and were accompanied en route to her by Sub-Antarctic Skua and small groups of Antarctic Prions. Here we soon found Pintado Petrel and Wilson's Storm Petrel travelling in her wake and picked up Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross amongst the Shy and Black-brows in the vicinity. A Southern Giant Petrel turned up amongst the mix of birds, flying through the flocks of White Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters.
After an hour or so with the Sea Hawk we headed further out to sea, travelling towards the previous co-ordinates of a trawler. Once we arrived however the trawler was found to be further east and out of range so we poured out some fish oil to see what we could find. We had a similar mix of species as earlier and so decided to head back toward the Sea Hawk closer to land.
When we found her and approached a large white-backed albatross took off from the water some way off. After a few anxious moments when we lost sight of the bird we suddenly found it again on the water. When it rose up it was found to be a young Wandering Albatross, whose white wing patches had just started to show.
White-chinned Petrel and a young Wandering Albatross.
This bird stayed around the long liner on and off for the next half an hour, allowing good views as it passed by several times. Our stay behind the long liner rewarded us with a Northern Giant Petrel that made an appearance before it was time to head for land. Our trip back was uneventful, but we enjoyed a spectacular lunch setting inside of Cape Point and beneath the cliffs.
After an excellent lunch we crossed the Bay to see the Castle Rock cormorant colony, where we found White-breasted, Cape Cormorants, 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:
Grey Heron - 1 - coastal
Swift Tern - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Cape Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant - 4 - coastal
African Penguin - 15 - coastal
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 40
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 10
White-chinned Petrel - 400
Pintado Petrel - 20
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Southern Giant Petrel - 3
Sooty Shearwater - 250
Shy Albatross - 150
Black-browed Albatross - 100
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 10
Wandering Albatross - 1
Wilson's Storm- petrel - 200
Antarctic Prion - 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.
To book, simply email
or phone us, or submit a
booking enquiry online.