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Exciting new pelagic birding venture

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa
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Johan van Rensburg
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Exciting new pelagic birding venture

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:07 pm

I have always been intrigued by the potential to get really special sightings by doing a pelagic trip off Saint Lucia. The warm tropical waters of the north-east coast hold some special birds available nowhere else in the region. Reasonably regular pelagic trips (on average 10 per year) are being undertaken from Durban harbour. It has been my vision to test St Lucia as a base for pelagic trips for a while now to see if the extra distance closer to Moz would make a difference. The biggest difficulty in the past has been finding trawlers (The Bird Magnet!) off St Lucia. Being a marine reserve kind of precludes the trawlers operating close enough to base in densities sufficient to easily locate them.

Then recently a successful method to attract pelagic birds to a small vessel was developed and proven off Durban. The secret is to deploy a 25-kg frozen chum made up of minced sardines, cod liver oil, anchovy oil and minced up shark liver in the water at the continental shelve drop-off with the vessel staying in close proximity. The chum melts and creates a slick that is detected by the pelagic birds in the surrounding area by smell and so their resultant feeding activity serves to start up a pelagic bird party with upwards of 300 birds consisting of more than 15 species.

Using this method now makes a pelagic trip out of St Lucia viable.

So, why St Lucia? Well, the thinking is that we are 250 km further north and closer to warm tropical waters that may bring us in contact with bird species not seen further south. A few that comes to mind are Tropical shearwater, Wedge-tailed shearwater, White-faced storm-petrel, Red-tailed and white-tailed tropicbirds, red-footed booby and maybe even a Frigatebird! None of these can be guaranteed, but WOW! If we do encounter one or more of these, the SA birding community will be abuzz!

All the arrangements have been made to make this pioneering pelagic trip happen: the boat has been booked for the weekend of 13/14 May. Dr David Allen will supply the chums as well as accompany us as the pelagic expert on board. Some of the “guests” already booked on the trip are super pelagic specialists themselves!

There are a few berths left and I thought to give our forumites the heads-up…

Send me a PM if you are keen to join in on this trailblazer.
727 Latest lifers: Swamp boubou, Hartlaub's babbler, Chirping cisticola, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron.

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hilda
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Re: Exciting new pelagic birding venture

Unread post by hilda » Thu Apr 27, 2017 3:02 pm

Wow Johan, this sounds very exciting! It would have been wonderful if we could join the group on this trip, but unfortunately it will not be possible. :(

Holding thumbs that you find some or even all of those birds you have mentioned above! Can't wait for your report back! Enjoy the planning! :dance: :dance:
"It always seems impossible until it is done." - Nelson Mandela.

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Exciting new pelagic birding venture

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon May 08, 2017 7:08 pm

This outing is in jeopardy... Really foul weather is forecast for this weekend. The skipper will make a final call on Wednesday, but it's not looking good.

If weather scuttled, I will rearrange for another weekend after consultation with our experts and chum supplier. Those birders that booked for this weekend will have first dibs on the alternative weekend. Any vacant spots will be offered to 'mites on this thread.
727 Latest lifers: Swamp boubou, Hartlaub's babbler, Chirping cisticola, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron.

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Exciting new pelagic birding venture

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Thu May 11, 2017 8:00 am

This trip is officially off as a result of the rough seas forecast for this weekend.

I'm already working on securing alternative weekends...
727 Latest lifers: Swamp boubou, Hartlaub's babbler, Chirping cisticola, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron.

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Exciting new pelagic birding venture

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon May 22, 2017 3:00 pm

OK! The new date is 29 July. Anyone interested please send a PM
727 Latest lifers: Swamp boubou, Hartlaub's babbler, Chirping cisticola, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron.

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Exciting new pelagic birding venture

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Jul 26, 2017 7:04 am

This very special outing is just about to take place! The weather forecast for Saturday is for a clear day with fresh NNE winds and a choppy sea; a little uncomfortable for birders, but very good for pelagic birds. :dance: :dance: :dance:

I'll get the skippers official go-ahead this evening (dependant on his take of the expected surf conditions, considering that this trip involves a beach launch!) We have a full compliment of birders. With some pelagic birding boffins sharing my optimism and scrambling to get a berth, already I had to turn some patrons away… all good for filling up the boat for the next outing!

Only one other 'mite (sky) has signed up for this Pelagic. I hope we will get some feedback from him, this being his first deep water excursion...

I will post some feedback next week. Any 'mites who would like to join us on the next outing that is planned for the weekend of 23 September, don’t hesitate to do the PM-thingy NOW!
727 Latest lifers: Swamp boubou, Hartlaub's babbler, Chirping cisticola, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron.

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Exciting new pelagic birding venture

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:55 pm

The skipper has just confirmed: It is a GO!

:dance: :dance: :dance:
727 Latest lifers: Swamp boubou, Hartlaub's babbler, Chirping cisticola, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron.

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hilda
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Re: Exciting new pelagic birding venture

Unread post by hilda » Wed Jul 26, 2017 3:12 pm

Wonderful Johan! Can't wait for the feedback about this pelagic birding venture! :dance: :dance:

Definitely interested in such a trip, but unfortunately not a possibility for us at this stage. :(
"It always seems impossible until it is done." - Nelson Mandela.


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