Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


  Trip Reports - 22 july 2007

By Cliff Dorse

Northern royal Albatross
spectacled petrel




On 22 July 2007 a small group of birders boarded the Obsession with the great anticipation of the mid winter Cape Pelagic which lay ahead. It was the first pelagic birding trip for all the guests on board so lifers started to flow with the appearance of the first White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters shortly after the point. This was then followed by Subntarctic Skua and our first albatross for the day in the form of an immature Shy. Next on the menu was an adult Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and our first Pintado Petrels. The first few Antarctic Prions were frustratingly fleeting and distant and a solitary Soft-plumaged Petrel put in a brief appearance. The very calm conditions were not conducive to these highly specialised seabirds and is probably the reason why this was the only Pterodroma of the day.

At about 20 miles we could see two trawlers in the distance. They were equidistant from us and the skipper Dave decided to head in the direction of the trawler to the north. This proved to be a very wise decision and as we drew closer a second, then a third and finally a forth trawler came into view. As we approached the closest vessel the numbers of birds started to grow steadily and we added Black-browed Albatross and Wilson's Storm-Petrel. The shear number of birds around the vessel was staggering. The Prions were relatively scarce but a few birds showed well allowing all on board good views. As we wallowed around in the wake of the vessel we picked up the bird of the day - a young NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS. This magnificent bird was sitting on the water directly in front of the boat. As we got everyone on board onto the bird it took flight and effortlessly glided away. An attempt to follow the Northern Royal was quickly abandoned as the whirling mass of thousands of birds made this impossible!

We then visited a second nearby trawler which had far less birds behind it. It was interesting to note that proportionately there were far less albatross in attendance. After about 20 minutes we were tempted to a third vessel which was actively trawling a short distance away. We spent some time in close attendance waiting for the net to be retrieved, all the while trying to pick out any rarities which must surely have been in attendance! Eventually we were rewarded with a SPECTACLED PETREL which was feeding on the water. The only Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross of the day also put in a brief appearance. This proved to be the last pelagic species to be added to the day list. After the trawler had haled its net on board we turned and headed back towards terra firma.

The trip back was uneventful besides a quick stop to view the Bank Cormorants at Castle Rock



  Pelagic birds



Northern Royal Albatross 1
Shy Albatross 400
Black-browed Albatross 500
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 30
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross 1
Yellow-nosed Albatross (Immature) 5
Southern Giant Petrel 5
Pintado Petrel 1200
Soft-plumaged Petrel 1
White-chinned Petrel 500
Spectacled Petrel 1
Sooty Shearwater 500
Wilson 's Storm Petrel 20
Subantarctic Skua 40

coastal species



African Penguin
White-breasted Cormorant
Cape Cormorant
Crowned Cormorant
Bank Cormorant
Kelp Gull
Hartlaub's Gull
Swift Tern

Marine mammals:
Cape Fur Seal


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