Trip Highlights: Four Albatross species, Manx Shearwater, Spectacled Petrel, Southern Giant Petrel, Sabine's Gull, Southern Right Whale, Dusky and Common Dolphins
Luck was on our side and the strong winds which characterise February in the Cape abated allowing the pelagic to run on Saturday the 6th of February. Five birders from Europe and one from South Africa boarded our boat shortly after 07h00 and we were soon heading out from Simon's Town harbour into False Bay. As always, the picturesque False Bay was spectacular in the early morning light.
Shortly after Cape Point, the action began with the first White-chinned Petrels, Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters showing well. We proceeded towards the deep enjoining ever increasingly better views of the species mentioned above. At 10 miles from the Point we deviated to inspect some white water and bird activity in the distance. This proved to be a good decision as we encountered a feeding frenzy of over 500 Common Dolphins. They were feeding vigorously over a large area and good numbers of Cape Gannets, White-chinned Petrels, Cory's and Sooty Shearwaters were in attendance. We also managed to pick out a single Great Shearwater and our first albatross of the day, an immature Indian Yellow-nose Albatross.
Eventually we had to drag ourselves away from the spectacle and continue our journey to the trawling grounds. On route we had our first Shy Albatross, Subantarctic Skua and Wilson's Storm Petrel. At 16 miles we saw a whale blow ahead of us. On closer inspection it proved to be a large Southern Right Whale, much further offshore than we normally encounter them. At about 20 miles we could see no sign of any trawlers on the horizon so we made our way towards a small group of ski boats which were fishing for Yellow-fin Tuna. There were large rafts of pelagic birds in the area and we enjoyed great views of Black-browed, Shy and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. There were also good numbers of European and Wilson's Storm Petrel in the vicinity with smaller numbers of Great Shearwaters.
We managed to pick out singletons of Manx Shearwater and Southern Giant Petrel on the water, which provided great views. In addition, a single Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross passed by the boat providing good but relatively brief views. We also managed to find a few Sabine's Gulls sitting on the water. The rafts of birds started to dissipate and we put out some fish oil in the hope of attracting something different. Unfortunately only some of the species mentioned above came to inspect the possible food source. We were however very fortunate to have a very quick flyby from a Spectacled Petrel. As predicted, the wind started to freshen from the west and we decided to run back to False Bay so that we can enjoy our lunch in the calm of the Bay.
The mandatory stop at Partridge Point produced Bank, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants. The last of the marine cormorants, Crowned were located in the Simon's Town Harbour. Three Dusky Dolphins just off Simon's Town were also notable.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross c. 100
Black-browed Albatross c. 50
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 1
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross c. 15
Southern Giant Petrel 1
Spectacled Petrel 1
White-chinned Petrel c. 300
Cory's Shearwater c. 200
Great Shearwater c. 10
Sooty Shearwater c. 30
Manx Shearwater 1
European Storm Petrel c. 10
Wilson's Storm Petrel c. 50
Subantarctic Skua 5
Sabine's Gull c. 10
Cape Fur Seal
Common Dolphin >500
Dusky Dolphin 3
Southern Right Whale 1
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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