Trip Highlights: Orcas, two Spectacled Petrels, four species of Albatross, Great Shearwater, Pomarine & Long-tailed Skua, Northern Giant & Great-winged Petrels
Rare sighting of Orcas (Killer Whales) in False Bay.
Six birders departed Simon's Town at 07h15 on board a Cape Town pelagics trip guided by Barrie Rose.
Conditions were virtually windless and the trip to Cape Point was pleasant although uneventful with only coastal species being recorded.
Outside Cape Point we headed across a light southerly breeze towards the fishing grounds. Our first pelagic birds were White-chinned Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters and Cory's Shearwaters. These were seen in rather low numbers as we headed through flocks of terns, gannets and cormorants on our way offshore.
Bird numbers increased and we visited 2 small flocks of Sabine's Gull as we moved further offshore and the water colour changed from dark green to a deep oceanic blue. Our first albatross, a Black-browed, appeared at 20 miles where a couple of Flying Fish flushed off our bow. As we moved along the edge of the Cape Canyon we encountered the recreational tuna fleet which was gathered around a pair of hake long-liners. Large shoals of Skipjack (Tuna) fed on the calm surface; they were accompanied by a substantial flock of Common Terns.
Just after 10h00 the first long-liner started to retrieve its gear and process fish. We soon had numbers of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross cruising around us. A single young Indian Yellow-nosed, some Black-browed and a few Shy Albatross gathered through the morning. Wilson's and European Storm-petrels fed and passed within metres of our vessel. Two Spectacled Petrels were present for over 2 hours. We also added Great Shearwater, Pomarine Skua, Great-winged Petrel and a fleeting Northern Giant Petrel to the list.
Spectacled Petrel glides past a longliner and a small fishing boat towards us.
While drifting and eating lunch we chummed bringing some birds to almost touching distance and luring an Oceanic Blue Shark to within 5m of the boat.
After nearly 3 hours in these ideal conditions we started the trip home stopping to interrogate the flock gathered behind a long-liner working 8 miles further inshore. This flock provided great views of a Long-tailed Skua and further looks at Great-winged Petrel. Our trip back to Cape Point was comfortable and only interrupted by a second Pomarine Skua.
While heading towards the Partridge Point Bank Cormorant we came across a pod of at least 5 Killer Whales (Orcas); an unusual sighting which caused much excitement. Our trip ended in Simon's Town after visits to the Bank Cormorant colony and seal roost at Partridge Point.
Orca cruising past our boat.
The trip was significant for its number of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (50+) and of course the Orca sighting!
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 10
Black-browed Albatross - 20
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 50
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
White-chinned Petrel - ca 400
Spectacled Petrel - 2
Great-winged Petrel - 4
Sooty Shearwater - 20
Cory's Shearwater - 50
Great Shearwater - 4
Wilson's Storm-petrel - 100
European Storm-petrel - 50
Subantarctic Skua - 5
Pomarine Skua - 2
Long-tailed Skua - 1
Sabine's Gull - 25
Cape Gannet - 100+
Common Tern - 100+
Swift Tern - coastal and to 8mls
Sandwich Tern - coastal
Kelp Gull - 80 and coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant coastal and to 5mls
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
African Penguin - coastal
Orca - 5+
Cape Fur Seal - 100+
Fish species of interest:
Oceanic Blue Shark - 1
Skipjack - shoals
Flying Fish - 3
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 Barrie Rose.
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