Trip Highlights: Humpback Whales, 3 species albatross including a couple of Indian Yellow-nosed, Southern & Northern Giant Petrels, Pintado Petrels, all four species of coastal cormorants.
Sunday 26 July saw a very interesting group of birders board a mid-winter Cape Town Pelagics trip out of Simon's Town. Amongst the passengers was one of the leading experts on African dragonflies, a top international bird ringer, a local bat expert and Noah Strycker - a man trying to break the world record for the number of birds seen in a calendar year! With his target being 5000 species, Noah is well on track with the 3722 species already seen during 2015!
Cape Point view
We were soon heading out into False Bay as the first rays of sunlight made an appearance. Besides the normal coastal birds, a single Humpback Whale gave brief but good views before we reached Cape Point. Here we stopped for a moment to take in the spectacular scenery and to get a few obligatory photos of the iconic Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. We were then ready for some serious sea birding!
We were soon enjoying views of our first Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels of the day. Shortly thereafter we encountered our first Shy Albatross of the trip as well as a large pod of about 200 Common Dolphin which gave great views in the early morning light.
We continued on out towards the trawling grounds and were ecstatic to make out the distinctive profile of a trawler which was fishing at about 15 nautical miles from Cape Point. As we approached we encountered Antarctic Prion, Black-browed Albatross and Subantarctic Skua. We were also surprised to see several other trawlers in the immediate vicinity. In fact, there turned out to be 8 trawlers operating in the area.
We arrived just in time as they promptly started to retrieve their nets. Suddenly the bird numbers increased greatly and we soon added Pintado Petrel and Southern Giant Petrel. It was a great spectacle with clouds of birds around the boat, many coming within arm's reach. There were very few Yellow-nosed Albatross and it took a few fly-bys from an Indian Yellow-nosed before everyone on board had obtained good views. A single Northern Giant Petrel was also picked out and we also started to see more Wilson's Storm Petrels after they seemed to have been absent for the early part of the day.
Southern Giant Petrel
We spent about four hours working between the various trawlers enjoying great views of all the species mentioned above. After enjoying lunch, we had to turn and make our way back towards home. In False Bay we encountered two more Humpback Whales.
The mandatory stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding colony at Partridge Point produced good views of Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorant. And several Crowned Cormorants were easily located amongst the yachts moored in Simon's Town.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross c.800
Black-browed Albatross c.1000
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
Pintado Petrel c.300
White-chinned Petrel c.1200
Southern Giant Petrel 5
Northern Giant Petrel 1
Sooty Shearwater c.800
Wilson's Storm Petrel c.25
Subantarctic Skua c.40
The following species were encountered close to the coast:
Common Dolphin c. 200
Humback Whale 3
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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