Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


  Trip Reports - Trip report for 8 July 2006




- 2 Humpbacked Whales
- Northern Royal Albatross
- Spectacled Petrel

We set off on the Obsession at a slightly later, more leisurely 8 am, guided by Ross Wanless and Ian Sinclair. Conditions were superb, but a residual swell in the bay limited us to cruising at about 25 knots. The conditions beyond the point were good, and we immediately started picking up pelagic species, but the only real highlight of the trip out was a pair of Humpbacked Whales, which gave reasonably good views despite being on a mission to somewhere else.

We found the first trawler at 10 am, but the activity behind the vessel was minimal, so we shot a couple of miles across to another vessel. Our arrival coincided with the start of the winches, and we were not disappointed by the huge numbers of birds that arrived out of nowhere. While lurking behind the trawler we got on to a NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS. It didn’t hang around, and our chase was thwarted by a raft of lethargic Shy Albatrosses. We spent a good hour behind the trawler, which gave us ample time to ID all the species. Shortly before we left, a SPECTACLED PETREL came in close, hang around for 30 seconds and then departed, but we all got great views of it. Not one minute after that did the NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS return, this time with cracking views. We moved on to a third trawler, which was processing its catch and had impressive numbers behind it too. After a solid 45 minutes of excellent birding, Ian Sinclair leapt to attention and called a SOUTH POLAR SKUA! Fortunately for all, it was hanging around and gave excellent, repeated views. It was a juvenile dark morph, with no pale markings at all on its back, minimal white flashes in the wings and had a distinctive jizz (smaller head, slighter bill). Post-hoc examination of photos revealed the start of a white blaze around the bill, but this was not visible in the field. After two-and-a-half hours behind three trawlers, we had seen everything there was to see, and we headed back to Simon’s Town. We stopped off for the Bank Cormorant colony at Partridge Point and well satisfied with a great day’s birding that included three specials.



  Pelagic birds seen and approximate numbers



Northern Royal Albatross 1
Shy Albatross 500
Black-browed Albatross 1000 +
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
Southern Giant Petrel 8
White-chinned Petrel 1000 +
Spectacled Petrel 1
Pintado Petrel 200
Antarctic Prion 100
Sooty Shearwater 500
Wilson 's Storm Petrel 100
Subantarctic Skua 10
South Polar Skua 1

  Coastal species seen



African Penguin
Cape Gannet
Kelp Gull
Hartlaub’s Gull
Swift Tern
White breasted Cormorant
Bank Cormorant
Cape Cormorant
Crowned Cormorant


Thanks to Dave for skippering and finding the trawlers and to Ian for assisting with the guiding.