Highlights: Kerguelen Petrel!
This is a superb record of a very rare bird that many
have been hoping to see on pelagic trips for years!
At 07h15 on Saturday 12 November
a group of excited birders gathered at the wharf in
Simon’s Town ready to board a Cape Town Pelagic trip,
led by Cape Town Pelagics tour leader Cliff Dorse.
The first surprise of the day came when two British
birders who are good friends back in the UK and live
quite close to one another, were astounded to see
each other on the quay side. They had no idea that
the other was in Cape Town, never mind booked on the
We boarded and were soon running
through False Bay with the usual coastal species and
the spectacular scenery keeping us entertained. Shortly
after the Point we saw our first White-chinned
Petrels and an Arctic Skua (the
Brits threatened to throw me overboard if I called
it a Parasitic Jaeger) harassing a flock of Common
Terns. A few miles later we encountered our
first Sooty Shearwaters of the day.
It was only after an additional 10 miles that we started
to add a few other species to our list. We sighted
both Northern and Southern Giant
Petrel and one of only two Arctic Terns
seen on the day.
We spotted a long-liner vessel
on the horizon and we headed in that direction. On
route we saw our first Shy Albatross
but on arrival at the long lining vessel we were welcomed
by a glut of new species. These included: Atlantic
Yellow-nosed Albatross, Pintado
Petrel, Subantartic Skua, Indian
Ocean Yellow-nosed Albatross
and Black-browed Albatross. We
spent several hours enjoying the spectacle and getting
increasingly better views of all the species mentioned
above. The north-westerly wind started to freshen
and Great-winged Petrels started
to put in an appearance. They were more obliging than
usual giving close and prolonged views.
Eventually we decided to head towards
a second long-liner a short distance from us. After
a few minutes a dark “Pterodroma type” petrel was
seen hanging motionlessly at about 40 metres above
the sea. A scream went out for the skipper to stop
the boat and to get everyone onto the bird. As soon
as we put the binoculars on the bird we could see
from the distinctive jizz and behavior that we were
looking at a Kerguelen Petrel! The bird
remained at 40 metres and moved off to the south-east
with only an occasional flicker of its wings. This
is an incredibly rare bird in South African waters
and it has been many years since the last record.
It was an honour for all on board to see this bird!
The second long-liner had very
few birds in attendance but in all honestly it was
a bit hard to focus after the Kerguelen encounter!
The trip back was uneventful except for the mandatory
stop at the Bank Cormorant breeding
colony at Partridge Point.
The following is a list of the
species seen during the course of the day. The
numbers reflected can be considered as rough estimations
Shy Albatross c. 30
Black-browed Albatross 5+
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 15+
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross
Yellow-nosed Albatross imm. 2
Southern Giant Petrel 10
Northern Giant Petrel 5
Giant Petrel sp. 2
Pintado Petrel 10+
White-chinned Petrel c. 100
Sooty Shearwater 10+
Great-winged Petrel 10+
Kerguelen Petrel 1
Subantarctic Skua 1
Parasitic Jaeger c. 10
Arctic Tern 2
The following species were common
close to the coast:
African Black Oyster-catcher
Cape Fur Seal
A message from Cape Town Pelagics:
A huge thank you to our experienced skippers who are
able to safely lead us to the best birding areas and
skillfully manoeuvre the boat into just the best position
while all on board are busy concentrating on the birds!
Coordinating a pelagic trip over a year in advance
with guests from all across South Africa and different
countries around the world requires an organised office
team. We thank them for their special eye for detail
- and for the sometimes last-minute rearrangements
and frustration if the weather delays the trip to
another day! Our biggest thank-you is to our Cape
Town Pelagics guides who take time out of their work,
often involving seabirds and conservation, and time
away from their families, to provide our guests with
a world-class birding experience. Cape Town Pelagics
donates all it profits to seabirds, and so all the
participants who join the trip make a contribution
towards bird research and conservation - a big thank
you from all of us.
Trip report by Cape Town Pelagics
guide Cliff Dorse.
To book, simply email
or phone us, or submit a
booking enquiry online.