Birding Routes

INTRODUCTION TO BIRDING ALONG THE CAPE WHALE COAST Show details

ENDEMIC BIRD SPECIES OF THE CAPE WHALE COAST REGION Show details

PELAGIC ENCOUNTERS FROM KLEINBAAI WITH MARINE DYNAMICS Show details


PELAGIC ENCOUNTERS FROM KLEINBAAI IN ASSOCIATION WITH MARINE DYNAMICS OF THE DYER ISLAND CONSERVATION TRUST

One of the brightest feathers in the Cape Whale Coast's bird-watching cap is the pelagic birding cruises from Kleinbaai being offered by Marine Dynamics of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. These searches for stunning seabirds are presented throughout the year and are reserved over two days, in case the weather is foul on the first day. The skipper studies weather patterns and attempts to predict clear, relatively windless days before finalising a date for an outing.

An important feature of these outings is that clients are accompanied by experienced guides and skippers who will assist novice pelagic birders with the identification of birds that are often difficult to figure out. As an example it could be mentioned that one group recently saw White-chinned Petrels by the dozen and what they initially thought was a sighting of a Spectacled Petrel. The guides then pointed out that it was in actual fact a leucistic White-chinned Petrel. Photographic opportunities are usually simply superb as can be seen from these images as well as at the links in the dropdown menus below.

First albatross at dawn  (Carin Malan)
On the Whale Whisperer (Chris Cheetham)








 

 

 

These trips generally leave at around 07h00, last for about 8 hours and head out to the trawling grounds along the continental shelf off the coast. Here long-line fishing vessels or trawlers are approached as these could attract literally thousands of seabirds in search of an easy meal. A good selection of seabirds are encountered on a regular basis, but these trips have developed a reputation for providing sightings of rare species only seen in these waters a few times. The excitement of possibly finding species such as the WANDERING ALBATROSS, NORTHERN and SOUTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSSES, LONG-TAILED JAEGER, SPECTACLED PETREL and BLACK-BELLIED STORM PETREL has played a huge role in this regard. Other rare vagrants such as GREY-HEADED ALBATROSSES, RED PHALAROPE and SOUTHERN FULMAR have even been found. These trips are hugely popular and have the potential of attracting huge numbers of international birders.

Wandering Albatross  (Charles Naude)
Beauty in flight  (Carin Malan)

 

 

 





 



Upon leaving the harbour of Kleinbaai a diversity of coastal birds may be found. Along the shore itself species such as the WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANT, LITTLE EGRET, AFRICAN SACRED IBIS, PIED KINGFISHER, AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER and in summer RUDDY TURNSTONE and COMMON WHIMBREL can often be observed, depending on the time of day. Vast numbers of roosting COMMON, SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS may be on view, depending on the time of year. Be on the lookout for ANTARCTIC TERNS during winter months. HARTLAUB'S and KELP GULLS are numerous close to shore and AFRICAN PENGUINS are easy to pick up around Dyer Island. BANK, CAPE and CROWNED CORMORANTS and CAPE GANNETS are often encountered in this general area. 

African Penguins  (Richard Masson)
Cape Gannet  (Charles Naude)







 

 

 

 

Once Dyer Island has been cleared a diversity of species might be seen, depending on the weather conditions. Severe storms might blow unusual species closer to the shore, but SHY ALBATROSS, WHITE-CHINNED PETREL, SOUTHERN GIANT PETREL, CORY'S and SOOTY SHEARWATERS and SUBANTARCTIC SKUA are regularly seen between Dyer Island and the continental shelf. POMARINE JAEGER is also on record in these shallower waters. The available species composition changes as deeper water is reached, therefore expect to find ATLANTIC and INDIAN YELLOW-NOSED ALBATROSSES and keep a keen lookout for the diminutive EUROPEAN and WILSON'S STORM PETRELS.

Hundreds and sometimes even thousands of pelagic seabirds are found around the deep sea fishing vessels when the continental shelf is reached. Photographic opportunities are now excellent as squabbling birds of diverse identity forage in close proximity of the boats. This is the time for acute concentration by novice pelagic birders and the experienced guides now really come into their own with advice and identification. BLACK-BROWED and SHY ALBATROSSES are usually plentiful, together with some NORTHERN and SOUTHERN GIANT PETRELS. Amazingly, as many as six large albatross species have been recorded amongst the hundreds of seabirds during a single trip. 

Wilson's Storm-Petrel  (Richard Masson)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel (Richard Masson)



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Giant Petrel  (Richard Masson)
Greater Shearwaters  (Carin Malan)

 

 



 

 

 


 

Note should also be taken of the fact that the various seasons differ significantly as far as species composition on the high seas is concerned. Vast numbers of birds are found during winter, but summer months tend to produce higher species numbers and those sought-after rarities, sometimes referred to as 'lifers', are often spotted. Significant vagrant species that visit these waters during autumn and spring could include SOUTHERN ROYAL and WANDERING ALBATROSSES and BLACK-BELLIED STORM PETREL. Many northern hemisphere migrant pelagic seabirds visit our waters during the summer months and these could include birds such as SABINE'S GULL, GREAT-WINGED PETREL, EUROPEAN STORM PETREL, CORY'S and MANX SHEARWATERS and PARASITIC JAEGER (also named ARCTIC SKUA), POMARINE SKUA (also named POMARINE JAEGER) and LONG-TAILED JAEGER (also named LONG-TAILED SKUA). ARCTIC TERNS are also often found during spring and early summer months.

Pelagic trips during the winter months are characterised by sightings of flocks of tens of thousands of seabirds representing up to 30 species milling behind fishing vessels. Birds regularly seen during winter months could include NORTHERN and SOUTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSSES, the ever popular PINTADO PETREL, SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL and possibly even SLENDER-BILLED PRION. ANTARCTIC TERNS are found closer to shore. To quote one experienced pelagic birder: “Ten things any serious birder should do before he dies? One of these should be to go on a pelagic trip at least once during each of the four seasons!”

Black-browed Albatross  (Carin Malan)
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross  (Carin Malan)






 

 

 

 

 

To summarise the wonderful opportunities provided by these outings, it was decided to create a 'name-dropping, brag list' of fairly common species described in just three recent pelagic trip reports with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust: ATLANTIC and INDIAN YELLOW-NOSED ALBATROSSES, BLACK-BROWED and SHY ALBATROSSES, SABINE'S GULL, GREAT-WINGED and PINTADO PETRELS, NORTHERN and SOUTHERN GIANT PETRELS, SOFT-PLUMMAGED PETREL, ANTARCTIC PRION, EUROPEAN and WILSON'S STORM PETRELS, WHITE-CHINNED PETREL, ARCTIC, POMARINE and SUBANTARCTIC SKUAS, CORY'S, FLESH-FOOTED and GREAT SHEARWATERS and SOOTY SHEARWATER., It becomes evident that pelagic birding off the Cape Whale Coast is a must for any serious birder, considering that the following rarities have been spotted during these trips in recent years: WANDERING ALBATROSS, NORTHERN and SOUTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSSES, SPECTACLED PETREL, SLENDER-BILLED PRION, MANX'S SHEARWATER, LONG-TAILED JAEGER and LEACH'S and BLACK-BELLIED STORM PETRELS. A comprehensive list of species positively identified by the Marine Dynamics team over the years, together with a few comments by participants is provided in one of the links in the dropdown menus below.

Pintado Petrel  (Richard Masson)
White-chinned Petrel  (Richard Masson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subantarctic Skua  (Richard Masson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And still it does not end here, as a variety of cetaceans are regularly found on these trips such as HUMP-BACK and BRYDE'S WHALES throughout the year and SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALES from late winter to early summer. There is also an outside chance of spotting KILLER WHALES. Dolphins seen regularly include COMMON, HUMPBACK and INDO-PACIFIC BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS. Giant sun fishes and turtles are sometimes encountered, as well as CAPE FUR SEALS closer to shore. Dyer Island and Kleinbaai are of course famous for its GREAT WHITE SHARKS, but this will be described in great detail elsewhere.

Sunfish (Carin Malan)
Southern Right Whale (Anton Odendal)







 

 

 

 

Pelagic trips from Kleinbaai with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust should be considered as an absolute MUST for birders visiting the Cape Whale Coast region. Exclusive trips could be scheduled on any day of the week, depending on the weather. Also keep in mind that afterwards these cruises include a free visit to the AFRICAN PENGUIN AND SEABIRDS SANCTUARY (APPS) – See description elsewhere on this site.

MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS HERE:

DYER ISLAND CONSERVATION TRUST

Contact: Hennie Otto

MOBILE: +27 83 295 5307

E-MAIL: coo@marinedynamicstravel.com

WEBSITE: www.whalewatchsa.com

WHAT TO TAKE ALONG TO ENSURE A PLEASANT PELAGIC OUTING:
A hat or a beanie in winter/ Gloves/ Layered clothing. It can become icy cold on the boat, even in warm weather/ Waterproof jacket and trousers and even water boots, since the high speed at which the boat travels can cause water spray and discomfort/ Motion sickness medication and sunscreen lotion.

(Note that there are links to more information, trip reports and the like below the photographs that may be used to further plan participation in one of these Pelagic Encounters).
 

The Long-tailed Jaeger is seen very rarely (Carin Malan)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cory's Shearwaters in their dozens!!! (Riaan Jacobs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ROOIELS SITE - IN SEARCH OF THE CAPE ROCKJUMPER Show details

AFRICAN PENGUINS AND CORMORANTS AT STONY POINT Show details

THE HAROLD PORTER NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDEN Show details

BIRDING AT THE KOGELBERG BIOSPHERE RESERVE AND KLEINMOND Show details

BIRDING AT ROOISAND ALONG THE BOT RIVER ESTUARY Show details

BIRDING AT FISHERHAVEN & THE HAWSTON SEWAGE WORKS Show details

THE VERMONT SALT PAN Show details

BIRDING AT ONRUS AND HARDERBAAI Show details

BIRDING ALONG THE HEMEL & AARDE VALLEY AND ROTARY WAY SCENIC DRIVE Show details

BIRDING ALONG THE HERMANUS CLIFF PATH AND THE KLEIN RIVER ESTUARY Show details

THE FERNKLOOF NATURE RESERVE AT HERMANUS Show details

BIRDING IN AND AROUND STANFORD Show details

FROM STANFORD TO THE UILENKRAALS ESTUARY AND BEYOND Show details

THE DANGER POINT PENINSULA Show details

KLEINBAAI AND THE DYER ISLAND CONSERVATION TRUST Show details

THE UILENKRAALS VALLEY TO BAARDSKEERDERSBOS AND BEYOND Show details

BIRDING IN THE OVERBERG WHEATBELT IMPORTANT BIRD AND BIODIVERSITY AREA - INTRODUCTORY OVERVIEW Show details

WHEATBELT BIRDING CIRCLE ROUTE 1: KARWYDERSKRAAL AND SWART RIVER ROADS Show details

WHEATBELT BIRDING CIRCLE ROUTE 2: THE OUDEKRAAL ROAD Show details

WHEATBELT BIRDING CIRCLE ROUTE 3: THE PAPIESVLEI AREA Show details

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Show details