Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


  Trip Report - 22 december 2007

By Ross Wanless

spectacled petrel
flesh-footed shearwater




A trip left Simon's Town harbour on the morning of Saturday 22 December.   Everyone was hugely relieved that we got underway as we have had a period of disastrous weather in the Cape which has led to the cancellation of all pelagic trips since early November.   There were remarkably few birds en route to Cape Point, and virtually no procellariiforms for the first 15 miles beyond the point.   The coastal species were, however, present all the way out, and we enjoyed several great views of Arctic skuas/parasitic jaegers harrying swift terns amongst the flocks of seabirds feeding in association with schools of predatory fish, and a single common tern.  

Recent trips to the deep from various skippers had failed to find any trawlers or longliners, but we were fortunate to pick up on a small flotilla of longliners and we headed towards them.   The densities of birds behind the boats were quite low, a combination of the fact that the southern summer-breeding species have moved south and the fact that there were several boats in the area, spreading the birds over wide area. Nonetheless, we were able to get great views of multiple species as they piled in and took advantage of the scraps and losses from the lines. After about half an hour at the first boat we got a fleeting view of a FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER, which came in for some extended viewing a bit later, allowing everyone to get great views of it. After an hour we moved a short distance to a second longliner, a propitious move which yielded a SPECTACLED PETREL! A while later a single pomarine skua/jaeger flew past. We were able to spend three hours birding around the trawlers and ended with excellent views of almost all the species that were around.

The trip home was relatively uneventful, marked by more Sabine's gulls and Cory's shearwaters than we had seen on the outward trip. We stopped off at the Bank Cormorant colony before heading back to the harbour after a great pelagic trip.



  Pelagic birds



Swift tern - coastal
Sandwich tern - coastal
Arctic tern - 15
Common tern   1
Kelp gull - coastal and pelagic
Hartlaub's gull - coastal
Sabine's Gull - 20
Parasitic jaeger/arctic skua - 20
Pomarine jaeger/skua - 1
White-breasted cormorant - coastal
Cape cormorant - coastal
Bank cormorant - coastal
Cape gannet - coastal and pelagic
African penguin - coastal
Shy albatross - 20
Black-browed albatross - 1
Indian yellow-nosed albatross - 1
Juvenile yellow-nosed albatross - 1
Southern giant-petrel - 2
Wilson's storm-petrel - 50
European storm-petrel - 50
White-chinned petrel - 100
Spectacled petrel - 1
Sooty shearwater - 20
Cory's shearwater - 20
Great shearwater - 5
Flesh-footed shearwater - 1

 Marine mammals



Cape fur seal – common


Thanks to everyone who helped make a very enjoyable trip, including the skipper and boat crew, and especially to Phil Hockey for guiding with me.!