Trip Highlights: 5 albatross species including a juvenile Wandering Albatross, Black-bellied Storm-petrels, a Spectacled Petrel, Antarctic Prions, both Southern & Northern Giant Petrels.
A very large swell on Saturday lead to the pelagic running on Sunday instead. While a moderate swell was still predicted, the wind speed was supposed to be light especially in the afternoon. Just after 07h00, an excited group of birders filled with anticipation boarded the Cape Town Pelagics boat from Simon's Town with Cliff Dorse the guide. About half way through False Bay, the sun appeared and bathed us and the scenic Cape Peninsula in warm morning light. While in False Bay, we had a couple of White-chinned Petrels amongst the normal coastal species. The great light on the iconic Cape Point called for a quick photo shoot of this iconic landmark.
As we headed out to the deep we were accompanied by a 15 knot wind blowing at our backs. We were soon enjoying better views of White-chinned Petrel and our first Sooty Shearwaters. Next came Cory's Shearwater and our first albatross of the day, an immature Shy Albatross. We were about 10 miles from the point when we encountered our first Antarctic Prions. Shortly thereafter we had added Wilson's Storm Petrel, Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. We continued to scan the horizon hoping to make out the distinct shape of a fishing vessel. Eventually we detected a stern trawler in the distance and headed in her direction. It soon became evident that there was a total of four trawlers in the area! As we got closer, the number of birds started increasing drastically. A highlight was our first of eight Black-bellied Storm-petrels for the day. Always great to see these passage migrants, especially in autumn.
We arrived at the stern trawler which was still busy with her first catch of the day. This was evident by the fact that no birds were feeding in her wake but rather just waiting around in the vicinity for the net to be retrieved. The birds did not have to wait long as she soon started to bring in the net. As the net arrived at the surface, clouds of birds were whirling around us. There were very good number of Black-browed and Shy Albatross as well as Pintado Petrel. Smaller numbers of Subantarctic Skua and Indian Yellow-nose Albatross were also in attendance. The trawler turned and ran north as we worked through the vast numbers of birds. A single Spectacled Petrel came and sat a few meters from the boat allowing everyone on board great views!
We then headed off to another trawler which also started retrieving her nets as we arrived. Here we picked up our first Southern Giant Petrel for the day. The next few hours were spent working between a few of the trawlers and enjoying the spectacle and looking for anything different. We managed a single Atlantic Yellow-nose Albatross and couple of Northern Giant Petrels and then our skipper, picked up a juvenile Wandering Albatross. The bird did not give extended views but it was another definite highlight!
Southern Giant Petrel
Eventually we had to turn and start our run towards terra firma. Luckily, and as predicted, the wind had almost dropped making the run back very comfortable albeit uneventful.
The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced Bank, White-breasted and Cape Cormorants.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Wandering Albatross 1
Shy Albatross c.500
Black-browed Albatross c. 1500
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 8
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 1
Pintado Petrel c.1000
White-chinned Petrel c.500
Spectacled Petrel 1
Northern Giant Petrel 2
Southern Giant Petrel 1
Sooty Shearwater c.200
Cory's Shearwater c. 20
Great Sheawater c. 30
Antarctic Prion c. 50
Wilson's Storm-petrel c.400
Black-bellied Storm-petrel 8
Subantarctic Skua c.10
The following species were encountered close to the coast:
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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