Trip Highlights: Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaeger, Indian & Altantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Great-winged Petrel and Southern Giant Petrel.
The 24th January was a calm morning after the strong south-easterly winds that had lashed the Cape during the preceding week. Now a weak local weather depression was moving down the coast and the wind had settled a bit. Seven of us gathered on the Simon's Town jetty and boarded the a Cape Town Pelagics boat skippered by Richard and lead by Dalton Gibbs. In the confines of the harbour were the usual Kelp Gulls, Hartlaub's Gulls, Cape Cormorant and a surprise Crowned Cormorant. Out in False Bay there was a light swell which slowed down our progress a bit. Off Boulders Beach we saw a hunting group of African Penguins feeding in the water along with a few Swift Terns, otherwise the sea was quiet. At Cape Point we negotiated the swell, took some scenery photos and then headed out to the deep.
Cape Gannets, Common and Swift Terns were about at Cape Point and it was some time before we came across White-chinned Petrels. Heading further out a few Sooty Shearwaters appeared and then brief views of a Pomarine Jaeger (Skua). At Cape Point the sea was a cool 14 deg C and green in colour, but began to change into a blue transparent blue as the temperature rose to 18 deg C. We continued out toward a tuna deck boat in the distance, finding Cory's Shearwaters and a few Wilsons' Storm-petrels. When we reached the tuna boat, the "Albatross", we were some 20 N mile off Cape Point and in 500m deep water.
The tuna boat was accompanied by several smaller recreational boats and the birds that were present were constantly moving around as there was no fixed feeding source on the water. Over the next few hours we found a brief view of Long-tailed Jaeger, followed by Black-browed Albatross and Great Shearwater. Sabine's Gulls appeared a few times with Sub-Antarctic Skua and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. European Storm-petrels eventually turned up with the Wilsons' Storm-petrels to feed behind the tuna boat and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross made its appearance after lunch.
The conditions on the sea were a bit bumpy at times and the predicted north westerly wind started to pick up a bit early. We had eaten and were planning to leave when a Southern Giant Petrel made an appearance. This bird put down on the water to allow for good close up views. Another bird was seen some way off but we were unable to get much on it. The last addition for the day came in the form of two Great-winged Petrels that flashed past our boat on their journey across the ocean.
Southern Giant Petrel
We headed back for land with a north-westerly wind beginning to blow and bring in some coastal fog. Cape Point appeared dramatically out of this fog as we entered False Bay and travelled along the sea cliffs toward the Castle Rock cormorant colony. Here we found White-breasted, Cape and Bank Cormorants, whilst the adjacent rocks held two African Black Oystercatchers. Cape Fur Seals lounged on the nearby rocks whilst back in Simonstown harbour we found another two Crowned Cormorants.
Bird species seen and approximate numbers:
Swift Tern - coastal
Hartlaub's Gull - coastal
Kelp Gull - coastal
Cape Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant - coastal
Crowned Cormorant - coastal - 3
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal - 8
African Penguin - 30 - coastal
African Black Oystercatcher - coastal - 4
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 30
White-chinned Petrel - 120
Great-winged Petrel - 2
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Wilson's Storm-petrel - 40
European Storm-petrel - 10
Sooty Shearwater - 20
Great Shearwater - 10
Cory's Shearwater - 100
Shy Albatross - 50
Black-browed Albatross - 10
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 4
Long-tailed Jaeger - 1
Pomarine Jaeger - 1
Sabine's Gull - 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 Dalton Gibbs.
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