Trip Highlights: 3 albatross species, Southern & Northern Giant Petrels, Great Shearwater, Subantarctic Skua, Humpback and Southern Right Whales
Sunday 07 September saw two Cape Town Pelagics boats run out of Simon's Town harbour with pelagic guides, Cliff Dorse and Vince Ward on board. The weather predictions were good in the morning but forecast a fairly strong north-wester to be blowing by mid-day. As such, we wanted to get out to the trawling grounds as soon as possible. The run through False Bay was as picturesque as ever but it was only after Cape Point that we had our first White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters of the day. Just after the Bellow's, we came across two Southern Right Whales loafing on the surface giving very nice views.
At about 15 miles out from the point, we saw our first Shy Albatross and Wilson's Storm Petrels. By 22 miles we could see no sign of any fishing boats on the horizon or on the radar. However, we continued out for a good few more miles and added Great Shearwater, Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. At about 24 miles we decided to chum and both boats put out oil and sardines to create a fairly impressive chum slick. It worked very well and all the birds mentioned above came in for a closer look, several pugnacious Subantarctic Skuas dominated proceedings and our only Southern Giant Petrel came in to investigate. We spent a long time drifting in the vicinity, closely interrogating any bird which came into view.
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
One of the boats, which had started to run back a short time before, called to say that they could see a Stern Trawler steaming up from the south. We excitedly headed in that direction and it was only when we quite close could we see that she was not fishing but heading back to Cape Town Harbour. There were still a fair numbers of birds following the trawler including our only Northern Giant Petrel of the day. We then drifted in the wake of the trawler for some time, hoping to see something different in the ever strengthening wind. Unfortunately, we eventually had to run back towards the relative comfort of False Bay.
Once back in the bay we headed towards the moderately wind-free Buffel's Bay to enjoy a great lunch. Just before we were about to leave, we noticed that three Humpback Whales had appeared in the vicinity. One of them momentarily got caught on a buoy line which lead to an octopus trap and it dragged the buoy and rope for several meters before it thankfully manage to dislodged itself. The mandatory stop at the Partridge Point Bank Cormorant colony produced good views of Bank Cormorants on their nests.
Summary of birds seen during the trip. Numbers are rough estimates only.
Shy Albatross c. 50
Black-browed Albatross c. 20
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 5
Northern Giant Petrel 1
Southern Giant Petrel 1
Pintado Petrel c. 50
White-chinned Petrel c.150
Sooty Shearwater c.20
Great Shearwater 4
Wilson's Storm Petrel c.20
Subantarctic Skua c.15
Southern Right Whale 2
Humpbacked Whale 5
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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