Trip Highlights: Black-bellied Storm-petrel, Arctic Tern, Sub-Antarctic Skua, Sooty Shearwater, Southern Right Whale
Calm conditions faced us as we found our boat at Simon's Town harbour. Ten keen birders and guide, Dalton Gibbs, boarded and set out on a Cape Town Pelagic trip, finding the usual Kelp Gulls, Hartlaub's Gulls, Cape Cormorant and Swift Terns on the harbour buoy lines. We saw African Penguin lining up at the Boulders Beach colony ready to go to sea to hunt fish. We reached Cape Point after a quiet trip across False Bay, stopping at the Point to sign out over the radio and take in the spectacular scenery in the early morning light. As soon as we set for the deep from the Point we found numbers of Cape Gannet and White-chinned Petrels in small numbers. A whale blow distracted us and we paused to investigate but saw nothing further; concluding that this may have been a Bryde's Whale that had briefly surfaced.
At the 5 N Mile mark we found our first Shy Albatross and the odd Great Shearwater as we headed for a trawler at the 20 N Mile mark. This was the Foxglove, a stern trawler with nets down for hake and being shadowed by numbers of hungry Cape Fur Seals waiting for the net to rise. Despite the fact that the Foxglove had yet to lift her nets, she never the less trailed a fair number of seabirds. White-chinned Petrel and Great Shearwaters were the most numerous, with a few immature Black-browed Albatross in attendance. Pintado Petrels were about in low numbers and were soon joined by a few Wilson's Storm-petrels. After half an hour the Foxglove lifted her nets and birds and seals swarmed on to net while it trailed behind the trawler. Northern Giant Petrel made and appearance a single Southern Giant Petrel some while later.
The Foxglove turned southwards and we followed behind her as she processed her catch, picking up an Atlantic yellow-nosed Albatross. A long trail of birds followed the trawler, picking up discards. We worked down this line, picking up Sooty Shearwater, eventually finding only three of these birds which are usually around in abundance. After two hours the trawler completed her processing and we took in the last of the birds, picking up a few Black-bellied Storm-petrels before we turned and headed for home.
Once back in False Bay we stopped and drifted under the Rooikrans cliffs for lunch during which we had a surprise visit from a Southern Right Whale. The huge animal rose broke the surface of the water to blow from voluminous lungs close to shore before slowly moving against the shoreline to Cape Point. With this visit over we crossed False Bay to the Castle Rock cormorant colony, picking up a lone Sub-Antarctic Skua on the water. Here we found four species of cormorants; White-breasted, Crowned, Cape and Bank Cormorants. The adjacent rocks held a bonus pair of Africa Black Oystercatchers as well as numerous Cape Fur Seals which we had been seeing on and off during the course of the day. The Majestic's powerful engines took us swiftly back to Simon's Town Harbour before the expected strong south-easterly wind started to pick up.
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 - 7
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
African Penguin - coastal
African Black Oystercatcher - coastal - 2
Cape Gannet - coastal & pelagic - 120
White-chinned Petrel - 200
Pintado Petrel - 50
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 8
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 20
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel - 3
Sooty Shearwater - 3
Great Shearwater - 350
Shy Albatross - 40
Black-browed Albatross - 50
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Sub-Antarctic Skua - 1
Cape Fur Seal
Southern Right Whale
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.
To book, simply email
or phone us, or submit a
booking enquiry online.