Trip Highlights: 5 Albatross species including Wandering Albatross, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Manx Shearwater
Southern Royal Albatross © Barrie Rose on this Cape Town Pelagics trip
On a sunny Wednesday morning, a group of birders departed Simonstown harbour at 07h30 on board a Cape Town Pelagics trip, guided by Barrie Rose.
After a month of severe frontal systems we steamed up False Bay into a stiff south-easterly breeze as a weak high pressure system ridged across the peninsula. The trip to the point was bumpy to say the least but we did see a few birds; Cape Gannets, Subantarctic Skuas and a few White-chinned Petrels provided the entertainment.
Once around Cape Point we encountered flocks of Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels feeding with Cape Gannets and Swift Terns. Two miles on, while passing Bellows Rock, we added our first Shy Albatross and they soon became the most common species as we left the gannets and sooties behind and steamed in a south-westerly direction. It was a long haul to 24 miles where we found the hake trawler ‘Maria Marine’. The trip was however punctuated by a single and later, a pair of Soft-plumaged Petrels; these individuals were rather confiding and gave everybody excellent views.
The trawler had just hauled its net when we arrived and we were witness to the pandemonium that takes place when 1000’s of seabirds compete for the first scraps of the morning. The flock comprised mainly of Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses with White-chinned Peterls and large numbers of Pintado Petrels in attendance. Cape Gannets pounded into the water and giant petrels fought with the albatrosses over small discarded hake.
A Northern Royal Albatross soon made an appearance and provided good definitive views. Within 10 minutes we were onto a second ‘whiteback’, this time the ID was not as straight and after 2 passes we settled on it being a juvenile Southern Royal Albatross with a narrow white leading edge to the upper wing. Our photos confirmed this. Within minutes we made contact with a third ‘whiteback’ and this time we had good views of an adult Wandering Albatross.
After 2 hours with this huge flock we decided to head back to Cape Point; as this decision was made we came upon 3 ‘whitebacks’; 2 Northern Royals and the Wanderer!!
A brief stop at a second trawler the ‘Forest Lily’ did not provide any additions to our list.
The trip back to Cape Point was very pleasant with the wind and sea pushing us along. We saw another ‘friendly’ Soft-plumaged Petrel and as we approached Cape Point we found a Manx Shearwater in a huge flock of feeding gannets and sooties.
Once inside the Point we enjoyed a great lunch under the cliffs before a stop at Partridge Point to take in the Bank Cormorants and roosting Cape Fur Seals before heading back to dock in Simonstown just after 15h00.
Wandering Albatross – 1
Northern Royal Albatross - 2
Southern Royal Albatross - 1
Shy Albatross – 400+
Black-browed Albatross – 800+
Southern Giant Petrel – 8
Northern Giant Petrel - 1
Giant Petrel sp - 6
White-chinned Petrel – ca 1000
Pintado Petrel – 1000+
Soft-plumaged Petrel - 4
Sooty Shearwater – 1000+
Manx Shearwater - 1
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 100+
Subantarctic Skua – 10
Cape Gannet – 500
Swift Tern – coastal and to 8mls
Kelp Gull – 20 and coastal
Cape Cormorant coastal and to 5mls
White-breasted Cormorant - coastal
Bank Cormorant – coastal
Cape Fur Seal – 100+
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 Barrie Rose.
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