Trip Highlights: 4 species of albatross, Sabine's Gull, Northern & Southern Giant Petrels, Humpback, Killer Whales and Dusky Dolphins.
View participant Tom Evans' Flickr photo album from this trip.
Dusky Dolphins frolicked around our boat later during the day.
With the World Seabird Conference being held in Cape Town from 26 - 30 October, there were very many birders and scientists that were eager to get to sea. As luck would have it, the conditions on Sunday 25 October proved to be ideal and a group of 10 ornithologists from around the world boarded the Cape Town Pelagics trip running out of Hout Bay, with Cliff Dorse guiding. (We ran four boats in total - the other three departing from Simon's Town harbour.)
There was an unpredicted slight north westerly wind at our backs as we left Hout Bay and headed in a south westerly direction towards the trawling grounds. Besides the normal coastal species we soon encountered our first White-chinned Petrels of the day. Shortly thereafter we noted several Humpback Whales. We slowed down to watch a pod and were surprised to see them actively feeding! There were great densities of anchovies about and it is probable that this is what the whales were feeding on. It was at about this point where our first albatross of the day, a juvenile Shy ALbatross, put in an appearance. We continued on outwards, being entertained by the White-chinned Petrels and Shy Albatross. These were soon augmented by many Great Shearwater and the occasional Black-browed Albatross. A non-birding highlight was a very small sunfish, which was lounging on the surface, giving good views.
We eventually joined another pelagic birding boat in an area known as the Canyon where we put out some fish oil. Here we saw our first Pintado Petrel, Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and Wilson's Storm Petrels. We also picked out both Southern and Northern Giant Petrel as well as Subantarctic (Brown) Skua. We spent some time in the oil slick and were eventually rewarded with three Sabine's Gulls. A stern trawler was then noticed on the horizon and we decided to head in that direction. As we approached we could see that the boat was not busy processing fish as there were no birds actively feeding in her wake. However, there were very many birds in the vicinity all waiting for the trawler to retrieve her nets. We wandered through the masses of birds enjoying great views of most of the species mentioned above. We also managed to pick out a single juvenile Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. It was impressive to see six fishing boats loaded with birders all bobbing around in the wake of a single trawler. Then a highlight came when someone casually mentioned "Killer Whales". Indeed a small pod of Killer Whales was in our wake. Unfortunately they did not stick around and soon disappeared from view not to be relocated.
By now the trawler had retrieved her nets and was processing the catch. We enjoyed the spectacle of birds for some time before we had to turn and run for home. A decided highlight on the return trip was a pod of Dusky Dolphin which frolicked around the boat giving amazing views of these extremely attractive cetaceans.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross c.300
Black-browed Albatross c.100
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 5
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 1
White-chinned Petrel c.500
Southern Giant Petrel 1
Northern Giant Petrel 2
Pintado Petrel c. 200
Sooty Shearwater c.30
Great Shearwater c. 300
Wilson's Storm Petrel c.100
Subantarctic Skua 2
Arctic Tern c. 10
Sabine's Gull 5
Orca / Killer Whale
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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