Trip Highlights: a large pod of ±27 Humpback Whales, 4 species Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, Sabine's Gull, Arctic Tern, Great Shearwater and Dusky Dolphins.
Another cracking day out at sea was enjoyed by all aboard a Cape Town Pelagics charter with Nick Fordyce the guide. Heading out into the Cape trawling waters from Hout Bay Harbour, we almost immediately came across a large pod of Humpback Whales in the bay. The whales were very relaxed and as we drifted along they came closer and closer to the boat. It was difficult to count just how many individuals were around but, in the end, the crew estimated between 25 to 30 whales - all within about 50m of the boat. Moving on, some 45 minutes later, the first true pelagic birds were seen. Large numbers of Sabine's Gulls were encountered and were soon joined with the more common White-chinned Petrels and Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters.
Trawlers and Longliners were nowhere to be seen but our skipper quickly found warm blue waters that were clearly rich in fish (terns were a constant sight and were feasting on the bait fish being driven to the surface by other predatory fish like the Yellow Fin Tuna). An Atlantic Blue Shark swam by twice as it joined in the feeding frenzy. Soon we connected with our first albatross of the day - a stunning Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. Throwing some sardines overboard brought in plenty of other species looking for an easy meal. Black-browed, Shy and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross flew in whilst a few passing-by Wilson's Storm-petrels were attracted to the oil slick on the water. Great Shearwaters were diving deep down for sardine scraps and emerged with feathers as dry as a bone - much to the amazement of the group. Subantarctic Skuas were fairly numerous and were repeatedly seen harassing Kelp Gulls. A series of rather dramatic aerial battles kept everyone entertained and in awe of both species' flying skills. Rather unusually, the Giant Petrels were not around except for a single Southern Giant Petrel that made a brief appearance before disappearing off with a group of White-chinned Petrels.
Heading back to harbour we were treated to the sighting of the day. A mother Humpback Whale and her calf were super relaxed and keen to "hang out" with us and both repeatedly swam past (and under) the boat providing all on board with Attenborough-like views. The stillness and clarity of the water provided a rare opportunity for full views of these magnificent beasts and to gain a real sense of their massive size. As if that wasn't enough - whilst watching thousands of Cape Fur Seals at Seal Island - the final entertainment for the day was the arrival of a pod of Dusky Dolphins. Amongst the adults were some seriously tiny babies who seemed to prefer being out of the water than in it!
Species seen at sea and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - 4
Black-browed Albatross - 8
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5
Southern Giant Petrel - 1
White-chinned Petrel - 300
Wilson's Storm-petrel - 6
Great Shearwater - 5
Sooty Shearwater - 100
Cory's Shearwater - 80
Subantarctic Skua - 12
Kelp Gull - 80
Sabine's Gull - 120
Common Tern - 100
Arctic Tern - 50
Cape Gannet - 100
Species seen near the coast:
Cape Fur Seal
Humpback Whale - 30
Atlantic Blue Shark
Yellow Fin Tuna
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 Nick Fordyce.
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