Trip Highlights: 4 species albatross, Subantarctic Skua, Sabine's Gull, Northern Giant Petrel, Sunfish and Whales.
Enjoying the coastal scenery near Cape Point as we head out.
Sunday's pelagics trip left the Wharf Street Pier, Simon's Town harbour in less than ideal conditions, with a strong northwester blowing heavy rainclouds off Cape Point. The passengers on board were all scientists and students attending the International Seabirds Conference being held in Cape Town the coming week, so the stories about fieldwork on different far-flung islands and working on exotic seabird species kept us busy until we encountered the inevitable White-chinned Petrels and Common Terns just after Cape Point.
We were fortuitous to find a fleet of trawlers soon after reaching the trawling grounds, and so got straight into the action with a number of good species, including Shy, Black-browed and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Sooty Shearwater and Sabine's Gull.
Black-browed Albatross (immature)
The Cape Gannet, Kelp Gull, Cape Cormorant and Cape Fur Seal, feeding frenzy kept the cameras clicking for a good while; in the meantime we waited on some other birds to join the fracas. A single Orca paid a visit, giving only limited views of a dorsal fin before moving elsewhere.
A very strangely plumaged White-chinned Petrel (probably leucistic) caused a few headaches onboard. Great Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwater and the enigmatic Sunfish were the only other species to be added in over an hour, so it was decided that we should venture further south in search of some more species for our list.
A White-chinned Petrel displaying unusual plumage colouration (probably leucistic).
Not long after leaving we came across a Southern Right Whale. And not long after that a Great Shearwater was spotted flying alongside a somewhat smaller yet similar bird. "Manx Shearwater!" went out the cry from the enthusiastic local guide, but it was met with dejected groans from all the European passengers, all of the opinion that they had come for species they didn't have at home. The first Storm-petrels were seen in open water, Wilson's and then followed by European Storm-petrel We managed to find trawlers for a second time, where we added the Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Subantarctic Skua, Pintado Petrel and Northern Giant Petrel to our lists.
Northern Giant Petrel
At the end of the day it was happy crew that returned from the open water, and picked up all four cormorants available on the trip - White-breasted, Cape, Crowned and Bank Cormorants - plus African Black Oystercatcher, Hartlaub's Gull, African Penguin, and a Bryde's Whale along the coast before docking again in Simon's Town.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
White-chinned Petrel - 200
Common Tern - 40
Shy Albatross - 50
Black-browed Albatross - 40
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 6
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 5
Great Shearwater - 60
Manx Shearwater - 1
Sabine's Gull - 3
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 25
European Storm Petrel - 3
Subantarctic Skua - 1
Pintado Petrel - 40
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Cape Gannet - 180
Kelp Gull - 120
Bank Cormorant - 4
Cape Cormorant - 100
White-breasted Cormorant - 15
Crowned Cormorant - 6
African Black Oystercatcher
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 Andrew de Blocq.
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