Posted on the 20th May 2013

Another Zest for Birds pelagic trip set out from Simonstown on Saturday morning in glorious weather, with near windless conditions, a small swell and only wispy high cloud. Guides on board were Peter Ryan, Barrie Rose and John Graham. After seeing Subantarctic Skua before even leaving the Bay we were treated to excellent views of large numbers of Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned Petrel in the first few miles past the Point, and these were joined shortly afterwards by small numbers of late Cory’s (Scopoli’s) Shearwater and Great Shearwater. Shy Albatrosses soon made an appearance and effortlessly tracked the passage of the boat as we headed offshore.

We detoured briefly to a trawler, MV Freesia, at 12nM and picked through her wake, but she was steaming for Cape Town and had few accompanying birds. We continued on to the trawling waters in the vicinity of the Cape Canyon and had exception quantities of pelagic birds in the vicinity of two trawlers, the MV Lobelia, which had just hauled her net and set off at pace for a new trawling site as we arrived, and the MV Maria Marine, which trawled steadily towards us from the SE and passed us with nets and Tory Lines set, leaving a broad highway of albatrosses, storm petrels and other pelagic birds sat in the calm waters for miles down her wake. We steamed slowly alongside this assemblage, enjoying fantastic views of these majestic birds and scanning meticulously for unusual storm petrels, trying to get close looks at the sprinkling of Antarctic Prions in the hope of picking out a Slender billed, and searching carefully for the Chatham Island Albatross that had been seen in these waters earlier in the week.

The undoubted highlight of the day was a pristine immature Southern Royal Albatross that sat close alongside the boat tearing at hake remains, dwarfing the Shy Albatrosses that waited patiently within reach of any discarded scraps. We enjoyed the first Pintado Petrels and Antarctic Prions of the winter season, and picked out a few late European Storm Petrels amongst the large accumulations of feeding Wilson’s Storm Petrels.

Our voyage back to Simonstown was largely uneventful in bird terms, but gave us lovely looks at two Blue Sharks through the clear waters alongside, and brief views of a small group of Dusky Dolphins crossing our wake. When almost back at the harbour we also added good views of a single Bryde’s Whale.

The full list for the day was as follows, with numbers being approximations only:

Southern Royal Albatross – 1 imm

Black-browed Albatross – c5000

Shy Albatross – c2000

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross – c7

Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross – 1

Southern Giant Petrel – 2

Giant Petrel (sp) – 1

Pintado Petrel – c10

Antarctic Prion – c5

White-chinned Petrel – c1500

Sooty Shearwater – c250

Great Shearwater – c25

Cory’s (Scopoli’s) Shearwater – c10

Wilson’s Storm Petrel – c1000

European Storm Petrel – 2

Subantarctic Skua – c20

African Penguin – many offshore near Boulders

Cape Gannet – commonly seen in False Bay and around trawlers

Kelp Gull – Common coastal

Hartlaub’s Gull – Small numbers close to shore

Swift Tern – Common close to coast

Common (?) Tern – single small tern in trawling waters appeared to be this species, but was not seen definitively

Bank Cormorant – 1

Crowned Cormorant – 1

Cape Cormorant – abundant close to shore

White-breasted Cormorant – few seen close to shore

Bryde’s Whale – 1

Dusky Dolphin – 3

Oceanic Blue Shark – 2

Mako Shark – seen jumping acrobatically on 5 – 10 occasions

Many thanks the Harry, Astrie and Petra for yet another fine trip, and to the guides for their expertise.

We still have space available on our next trip on 25/26 May, and would encourage you to join us if you are available. Pelagic birding at this time of year is very exciting due to the strong possibilities of rare storm petrels and prions amongst the good number of Wilson’s and Antarctics currently present in our waters, and we of course will continue scouring for the Chatham Island Albatross, a species that is attracted to the trawler flocks as so presents a fair chance of being found again.

Please contact Trevor or myself to make a reservation, and refer to our webpage for seasonality tables and detailed pelagic information. We look forward to seeing you on board!

Kind regards

John Graham

Zest for Birds

Cape Town, South Africa

082 697-2351


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