Trip Highlights: Three species albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua.
Our trip left Simon's Town in very overcast conditions. The harbour was busy with coastal seabirds like Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls, Great Crested Terns, as well as Cape, Crowned and White-breasted Cormorants. We spotted several small groups of African Penguins heading out from their breeding colony at Boulders Beach.
As we approached Millers Point, we entered a thick fog bank that unfortunately persisted well out into the open ocean.
Despite the very limited visibility on our outward trip, we had sightings of a good variety of coastal and pelagic seabirds including Cape Gannet, Sandwich Tern, White-chinned Petrel, Sooty, Great and Cory's Shearwaters, and Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses.
The fog eventually cleared 20 nautical miles offshore. Our radar showed no fishing vessels in the vicinity and we put down a slick of fish oil to attract any nearby birds. Over the next several hours, we had visits by three species of albatrosses: Shy, Indian Yellow-nosed and Black-browed, an adult Northern Giant Petrel, an Arctic Tern, as well as good numbers of White-chinned Petrels, Sooty and Great Shearwaters, and several Brown Skuas. The highlight was the large mixed flocks of European and Wilson's Storm-petrels, feeding around the boat.
At midday, we headed back to the coast, and into the fog bank. It eventually cleared as we passed Cape Point and we had excellent conditions in False Bay. After a quick lunch, we headed to Partridge Point, to see the resident Bank Cormorants and resting Cape Fur Seals, before ending the trip back in Simon's Town.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 20-25
Black-browed Albatross - 5-10
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 250-300
Great Shearwater - 200-300
Cory's Shearwater - 25-30
White-chinned Petrel - 400-500
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 150-200
European Storm Petrel - 15-20
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 3
African Penguin - 20-25
Cape Gannet - 250-300
White-breasted Cormorant - 11 breeding pairs
Cape Cormorant - abundant (coastal), 10-15 (pelagic)
Crowned Cormorant - 3
Bank Cormorant - 2 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common (coastal)
Hartlaub's Gull - 5 (coastal)
Great Crested Tern - common (coastal)
Sandwich Tern - 2
Arctic Tern - 1
Cape Fur Seal – abundant (coastal and pelagic)
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 Vincent Ward.
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