Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


  Trip Reports - Trip report for 22 April 2005





A party of 6 departed from Simon’s Town at 7 am on Friday, 21 April 2005, led by Ross Wanless. The trip to the point passed somewhat uneventfully, with the usual near-shore species all putting in appearances, and the only noteworthy species was an Arctic skua, seen briefly. As soon as we passed through the washing machine and got into open water we started seeing pelagic species, including plenty of Sooty and Great shearwaters and White-chinned petrels. We also stopped to enjoy a cloud of mostly Swift terns actively hunting above a school of feeding yellowtails. After a brief shower, the sun emerged, and dampened spirits were revived with sightings of Shy albatross, European and Wilson’s storm petrels and the single Cory’s shearwater for the trip. As we reached the fishing grounds we immediately encountered active hake longliners, with plenty of pelagic species in attendance. While moving between two boats, a white-backed albatross was briefly sighted. The skipper responded well, but the bird was lost and did not re-appear. During the excitement, the trips only giant petrel flew by, but attention was elsewhere and it was not identified to species.

The spectacle of hundreds of seabirds around the vessels, with new species occasionally arriving, kept everyone well entertained. The abundant storm petrels came especially close to our boat. The return run looked to be almost over, when suddenly a skua showed an interest in the boat. It turned out to be an intermediate morph of a South Polar skua! We got excellent views of the bird from below and from the side, and noted the generally plain, unstreaked/blotched/mottled body plumage. The breast was a cold, uniform, grey-brown colour and the light nape & mantle contrasted with the darker back and wings. The clincher, not that more features were required, was an obvious white ring of feathers around the base of the bill.



  Pelagic birds seen and approximate numbers



Wandering/Royal albatross 1
Shy albatross 500
Indian Yellow-nosed albatross 10
Yellow-nosed albatross 5
Black-browed albatross 200
Giant petrel 1
White-chinned petrel 1000 +
Great shearwater 300
Cory's shearwater 1
Sooty shearwater 200
Manx shearwater 1
Wilson 's storm petrel 500
European storm petrel 20
Subantarctic skua 20
Arctic skua 1
South Polar skua 1


Thanks to Dave Christie for a great trip!