Pelagic out of Durban 19th May 2013


A front had moved through from the SW on Friday, chopping up the sea a bit too much for a comfortable trip on the scheduled Saturday, so the isiHuhwa set sail on the 19th May instead. We had a light Northerly breeze, with 2 metre swells at intervals of around 12 seconds. The ride was not too bumpy, and we opted to head North. The bad news was that there was no trawler activity expected in the vicinity, with both regular trawlers being in the harbour. We had to hope! We travelled out beyond the anchored ships outside of the harbour, and headed North, as far as Ballito. We saw a number of Kelp Gulls together with a few Grey-headed Gulls in the harbour, with Swift Terns flying overhead. Beyond the ships we saw a few Cape Gannets, and started seeing our first true pelagic species, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses. A couple of Sooty Shearwaters zipped past, showing off the silvery flashes in the underwings.

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross

Immature Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross off the Durban coast, May 2013


Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross

Immature Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross off the Durban coast, May 2013


We reached a point off Ballito and decided to push a little further offshore, eventually stopping for a feeding session at around 21km offshore. There were a good number of Albatrosses around, which grew to 12 once the feeding activity was noticed by some further away. The birds materialised out of thin air! This got things going and we soon had other birds coming in for a look, including a cheeky Subantarctic Skua, taking its chances with the much larger Albatrosses, which were not scared to use that hooked beak of theirs, designed for ripping fish to shreds.

Subantarctic Skua

Subantarctic Skua being chased off by an Albatross, May 2013


The word was spreading, and soon we had some more exciting species zooming in for a look. Unfortunately they didn't stick around too long. Some highlights depicted below.

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross off the Durban coast, May 2013


White-chinned Petrel

White-chinned Petrel, May 2013


Cory's Shearwater

Roy's photo of a Cory's Shearwater, May 2013


Great-winged Petrel

Great-winged Petrel, May 2013


Subantarctic Skua

Subantarctic Skua, May 2013


Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross off the Durban coast, May 2013


Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross off the Durban coast, May 2013


Thanks to everyone who came on board, David Allan for his expertise, providing the sardines, and not least, his expert throwing arm. Also to Andre for skippering us during the day. With the boat being just about full to capacity, a decent profit was made and has been contributed towards BirdLife South Africa's Albatross Task Force. They need every cent they can get to monitor and aid in the conservation of these magnificent pelagic birds.