Save Our Seabirds Festival – Durban Pelagic

Good day to you all,

Albeit a week late, I have put together a little report from the SOS pelagic that went out last week, along with some of my photos for inclusion as a trip report on the BLPN  web pages.

Save Our Seabirds Festival – Durban Pelagic

An excellent KZN pelagic set out from the Durban harbour on Saturday 5 October. The trip was organised by Niall Perrins to coincide with the Save Our Seabirds (SOS) Festival arranged by BirdLife Port Natal in partnership with uShaka Marine World and the Durban Natural Science Museum, and in so doing bringing a taste of the Save Our Seabirds Festival from the Cape to KwaZulu-Natal. All funds not spent on diesel getting us out there will be used for seabird conservation work by the Albatross Task Force and will no doubt be greatly appreciated.

The morning started off slowly with early signs of little wind and calm waters, along with a worrying chirp from the skipper, “No trawlers out there”. However we were to encounter 3 in the end and visited 2 of them. (Not the plan that Niall had in mind, as he’d wanted to get out to the deep blue water and stand a chance of RARE stuff!). After an astounding number of birds behind the 1st trawler, and not as many at the second, the skipper (John) was persuaded to hit the gas and get the extra 7 miles to the shelf drop off zone. He did this, in spite of sighting a 3rd trawler and some on board wanting to visit it. Our reward? BARAU’S PETREL and a Northern Giant Petrel.  We had got out to the drop off in over 500 fathoms of water and approximately 33km from the nearest land, and the wind had started picking up (from close to zero!), and we soon had hundreds of White-chin Petrels, quite a few Great-winged, and then this nosy Barau’s cruised in to take a look what all the fuss was about. This was followed with a Northern Giant Petrel which appeared a little later in the day.

The Barau’s Petrel, apart from being a national rarity, is also listed as globally Endangered due to a limited number of breeding locations and declining population over three generations. The Northern Giant Petrel was also a really good one to pick up for KZN listers and is certainly a provincial rarity, with probably less than 10 records off KZN in total.

Apart from David Allan, who had previously seen the Barau’s on the pelagic that went up the Moz Channel several years ago, the day produced and least one lifer for the birders that were on board, and for those that had never birded at sea before, at least 10 of the birds seen on the trip were lifers for them. Despite two personal previous pelagic outings, the day produce 5 for me.

Species encountered at sea (in order of appearance):

Swift Tern
Common Tern
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
White-chinned Petrel
Pintado Petrel
Great-winged Petrel
Shy Albatross
Black-browed Albatross
Flesh-footed Shearwater
Southern Giant Petrel
Barau’s Petrel
Northern Giant Petrel
Kelp Gull

Kind regards,

Dave Rimmer

One Comment Add yours

  1. Dave Rimmer says:

    It would seem that I have incorrectly labelled one of the photos. The 6th image captioned “Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteus)” is in fact a Shy Albatross. Thanks for pointing out my mistake Martin!

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