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The open ocean is an extremely challenging habitat in which to look for, and identify, birds. The weather plays a major role in the lives of pelagic birds, and usually the rougher the weather the greater the number and variety of birds, with winds from the south usually being more productive than those from the north. To witness the graceful ease with which these birds use the elements to best effect is a sight not to be missed. It is important to get as far away from land as possible, and an added bonus is to find a trawler (these vessels act as a magnet to many seabirds). When not watching the birds, dolphins (Athol has seen 6 species) and Humpbacked whales often keep the birders entertained.

There are three "seasons" that are good for pelagic trips off Durban:

Winter (late July and August) - this is when the birds from the Subantarctic regions are most abundant. Birds seen are the impressive Shy Albatross, Black-browed Albatross and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, occasionally Southern Giant-Petrel, the ever-present White-chinned Petrel, Pintado Petrel and, if it is rough enough, Soft-plumaged Petrel and Broad-billed Prion. Sooty Shearwater, Wilson's Storm-Petrel and Subantarctic Skua are also common, and Flesh-footed Shearwater and Antarctic Tern are seen on many of the trips. The second Streaked Shearwater was seen on a winter trip.

Spring (September) - most of the winter birds are still present, and it is the best time of the year for Great-winged Petrel. White-bellied Storm-Petrel and Black-bellied Storm-Petrel are sometimes seen. Several rare species have also been picked up, including Wandering Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross (both far out), Slender-billed Prion and Streaked Shearwater.

Autumn (March/April) - the Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and White-chinned Petrel remain common, while Shy Albatross are rare. Flesh-footed Shearwater and Sooty Shearwater can also be seen as can European Storm-Petrel, Leach's Storm-Petrel and Wilson's Storm-Petrel. Parasitic Jaeger and Arctic Tern are common, with Pomarine Jaeger recorded on a regular basis, and very occasionally Long-tailed Jaeger. This is the time of year to try for Cory's Shearwater and Great Shearwater, and if luck is with you, South Polar Skua. Athol has also recorded Brown Booby and Black Tern at this time of year.

For a great and exciting experience join Athol Marchant on one of his trips - his groups are small so personal attention is assured.

Athol and Les Marchant 2001.
(033) 3433458(h) or 082-8704430,




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