Trip Highlights: 4 albatross species, a Great Shearwater, Sooty Shearwaters, Southern & Northern Giant Petrels in amongst a feeding frenzy of 1000's of Pintado Petrels.
1000's of birds around a Cape Town Pelagics boat in the vicinity of a trawler.
It was with the usual anticipation that 10 excited birders gathered on the quayside in Hout Bay for another Cape Town Pelagic trip. We were soon aboard our spacious boat and on our way leaving the famous fishing harbour. The first pelagic birds that we encountered were Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned Petrel. We were heading in a more southerly direction than normal to where the trawlers were rumoured to be. It was only at about 15 N miles from Hout Bay where we encountered our first albatross of the day, a Shy Albatross.
As we continued outwards towards the trawling grounds we added Subantarctic Skua and Wilson's Storm Petrel. Eventually we could see a trawler on the horizon and we headed in her direction. We arrived to find that the "Stevia" busy fishing, but not yet processing, resulting in few birds in it's vicinity. Shortly after we arrived however, the trawler started to retrieve her nets and many hundreds of sea birds suddenly appeared in anticipation of the nets and associated fish that would soon be on the surface. We soon added Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel , Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and an unseasonal Great Shearwater.
Pintado Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, Cape Gannet, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Kelp Gull spotted in amongst the mayhem.
The numbers of birds in attendance was steadily growing and soon after the net reached the surface we noticed that there were thousands of fish floating on the surface! The net had broken and a large part of the catch had spilled into the sea. The ensuing feeding frenzy was spectacular and we had terrific views of all the species mentioned above. In addition we found several Northern Giant Petrels and an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross.
We spent an extended period of time in this area before moving towards a trawler heading in our direction from the south. This trawler, the Fressia, was not fishing but positioning herself for another trawl. She soon turned to head south again and dropped her net. We then drifted and took the chance to put down some fish oil and sardines to see if we could attract anything different. While nothing new came in, we did nave additional great views of most of the species already seen on the day.
Pintado Petrel with a Black-browed Albatross in the background.
It was almost time to head home but before doing so, we made a brief detour to revisit the "Stevia", but she had very little in tow so we decided to head for home. The run back to Hout Bay was uneventful.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross c.300
Black-browed Albatross c. 600
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 8
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
White-chinned Petrel c.500
Southern Giant Petrel 3
Northern Giant Petrel 5
Pintado Petrel c.1000
Sooty Shearwater c 200
Great Shearwater 1
Wilson's Storm Petrel c.100
Subantarctic Skua c.20
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.
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