Trip Highlights: Four Albatross species, Spectacled Petrel, Manx & Great Shearwater, Subantarctic Skua, Sabine's Gull, Parasitic Jaeger and a large pod of Common Dolphins.
Six birders from four countries boarded a Cape Town Pelagics trip from Simon's Town early on Saturday morning. We were soon running out on the western side of False Bay enjoying the great scenery and usual array of coastal birds. We also encountered a single Parasitic Jaeger while still in the bay.
At Cape Point we were greeted by the 10 knots of wind which was to accompany us for the entire day. We also encountered our first White-chinned Petrels, Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters shortly after the point. We continued slowly outwards as we were running directly into the south-wester. At about 5 miles we came across a large pod of Common Dolphins. We estimated that there must have been at least 300 dolphin spread over a large area. Some came right alongside our boat and allowed great views. We encountered our first Albatross of the day, a lovely immature Shy at about 8 miles from the point. We continued on outwards constantly scanning the horizon for birds and fishing vessels. Eventually we were rewarded when the distinctive silhouette of a stern trawler appeared on the horizon.
As we neared the trawler the numbers of birds started to increase. We added Indian Yellow-nose and Black-browed Albatross. The trawler, the Freesia, was still busy with her first trawl of the day and was not processing any fish. As such, we ran slightly ahead of her and put some fish oil in the water in an effort to entice some birds in the vicinity a bit closer. A few White-chin Petrels came in for a close look before the trawler started retrieving her net. All the birds in the vicinity started to congregate. As the net came to the surface, the feeding frenzy commenced and we worked through the masses of birds. We were rewarded with Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Subantarctic Skua, Sabine's Gull, Arctic Tern and Great Shearwater. We eventually found a few European Storm Petrels, but the Wilson's were conspicuous in their absence. The trawler had turned and rushed off to the south but had eventually slowed and put the net out again. We caught up with her and worked carefully through the multitude of birds following in her wake for some time before eventually being rewarded with a Spectacled Petrel sitting on the water. This was arguably the bird of the day and it obligingly gave good views to all on board. We drifted down the wake and had a flyby of a single Manx Shearwater. After a great lunch in the deep we had to start the trip back to Simon's Town.
The mandatory stop at Partridge Point produced Bank and Cape Cormorants. The last of the marine cormorants, Crowned, was located in the Simon's Town harbour.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c. 100
Black-browed Albatross - c. 50
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - c. 25
Spectacled Petrel - 1
White-chinned Petrel - c. 1000
Cory's Shearwater - c. 200
Great Shearwater - 3
Sooty Shearwater - c. 50
Manx Shearwater - 1
European Storm Petrel - c. 10
Subantarctic Skua - 5
Parasitic Jaeger - 2
Sabine's Gull - c. 20
Arctic Tern - c. 10
Cape Fur Seal
Common Dolphin > 300
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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