Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


  Trip Report - 17 September 2007

By Dalton Gibbs
Spectacled Petrel
Arctic Skua
1000s of petrels!



A Cape Town Pelagics trip departed Simon’s Town on Monday 17 September 2007. The weather was calm and the sun was shining, the automatic wind report from Cape Point reported ‘zero’ knots! Half a dozen Southern Right Whales loafed at the entrance to Simon’s Bay and as we rounded the Bullnose one breached 3 times across towards Long Beach. So calm was the sea that the 12 mile run to Cape Point took only 20 minutes!!

Outside Cape Point conditions remained calm but for a slight ‘jobble’ for the 2 miles to Bellows. The flat conditions allowed a high speed run across the open sea towards three trawlers that were working abour 14 miles from the point. An ARCTIC SKUA (early arrival from the northern hemisphere) crossed our bow just before Bellows and the first White-chinned Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters and Shy Albatrosses made their appearances over the next couple of miles. There was none of the feeding activity usually found within 5 miles of the Point. We opted not to stop for the more common species and arrived at the first trawler at a record-breaking time of 08h30.

The ‘Freesia’ informed us that he would be ‘pulling’ his net in 30 minutes. As his winches started the large rafts of birds rose up off the water in anticipation of the free meal. We spent the next 3 hours commuting between the ‘Freesia’, ‘ Forest Lily’ and ‘ Boronia’ exposing our visitors to the spectacle of thousands of frantically feeding seabirds. All three vessels were deploying their bird scaring Tori Lines. The bird numbers were really impressive and all the regular pelagic species were seen in good, excellent or absolutely amazing numbers. The sighting of the day was that of a SPECTACLED PETREL. A partially leucistic White-chinned Petrel caused a flurry of interest.

The trip back to Cape Point produced a single hump-backed whale at about 8 miles and 3 single Right Whales between Southwest Reef and the Point. A brief stop at Partridge Point saw lots of activity in the Bank Cormorant colony with 4 or 5 birds showing good white rumps.



  Pelagic birds



Swift Tern – coastal
Arctic Tern 2
Hartlaub’s Gull - coastal
Cape Gull - coastal and pelagic
Sub Antarctic Skua 10
Arctic Skua 1
Cape Cormorant – coastal
Bank Cormorant – coastal
White-breasted Cormorant – coastal
African Penguin – coastal
Cape Gannet – coastal & pelagic
Shy Albatross 100
Black-browed Albatross 200
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 5
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 2
Yellow-nosed Albatross juv 2
Southern Giant Petrel 6
Northern Giant Petrel 2
White-chinned Petrel 1000
Spectacled Petrel 1
Pintado Petrel 2000-3000
Wilson ’s Stormpetrel 200
Sooty Shearwater 80
Great Shearwater 4

 Marine mammals



Cape fur seal - coastal & pelagic
Southern right whale - 8
Hump-backed whale - 1


Thanks to everyone on board for helping make such an enjoyable trip!