Trip Highlights: Indian and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Great Shearwater, Subantarctic skua, Arctic Tern, Orcas (Killer Whales).
On Saturday 24 September, an array of birders from South Africa, Spain, Holland and Sweden boarded the Destiny for yet another Cape Town Pelagic trip from Simon's Town. Our trip through False Bay was pleasant as always with the great scenery and the usual array of coastal birds. Conditions in the bay were extremely pleasant being flat and wind free.
It was just after the spectacular Cape Point that we encountered our first White-chinned Petrels of the day. Unfortunately there was also a fairly brisk north-wester and a very choppy sea! As such we proceeded out towards the trawling grounds far more slowly than usual. The first few miles were very quiet with only White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwater being encountered.
At about 6 miles from the point when we encountered our first albatross, a Shy Albatross. We had been communicating with the Devocean who was running another Cape Town Pelagic trip from Hout Bay. They had seen a trawler, the Ferox, heading out to the trawling grounds. We headed in that general direction, the going still rather slow due to the bumpy conditions. Eventually, we could make out the distinctive profile of a stern trawler in the distance and as we neared her the bird diversity started to improve. Our second Albatross of the day was a cracking Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross which did a flyby. This was then followed by numerous Black-browed Albatross. The Ferox was still busy with her first trawl of the day but there were plenty of birds in the general area and we quickly added Subantartic Skua, Pintado Petrel, Northern Giant Petrel and Wilson's Storm Petrel. It took us a little more effort to find a single Great Shearwater and a few Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. As the trawler had only had its nets in for about 45 minutes, we were very surprised when she started to retrieve her nets! This concentrated the birds and gave us good views of all the species mentioned above. We followed the trawler for some time as she steamed to the north to reset her nets, enjoying the spectacle of the birds following in her wake.
We eventually had to turn and run for back to Simon's Town. At about 8 miles from the point, Alan noticed a concentration of White-chinned Petrels to our south. We changed course and headed in that direction. As we got closer we saw that the birds were over a pod of Killer Whales! There were at least two males, with their distinctive massive dorsal fins, and five females. The female animals were spending a lot of time on their backs just on or below the surface. They were also slapping their tails on the water, often three animals lying alongside each other. Although the conditions were gloomy and there were occasional rain squalls, this did not distract from a truly memorable wildlife experience!
One of our group was feeling rather sea sick and we then decided to run directly back to Simon's Town only stopping briefly to see the Bank Cormorant colony at Partridge Point. After offloading the poor seasick victim we enjoyed a well-earned lunch in the comfort of the harbour.
Species seen and approximate numbers:
Shy Albatross - c. 300
Black-browed Albatross - c. 200
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 3
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 1
Northern Giant Petrel - 3
Pintado Petrel - c. 50
White-chinned Petrel - c. 1000
Great Shearwater - 1
Sooty Shearwater - c. 100
Wilson's Storm Petrel - c. 25
Subantarctic Skua - 10
Arctic Tern - 2
African Black Oystercatcher
Killer Whale - 7
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.
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