The First Records of Pelagic Birds in Offshore Texas

Share On the August 8th Texas Pelagic I had the good fortune to meet Chuck Sexton. He told me about the pelagic exploits of Sheritan Burr from 1976 to 1986. He just sent me a summary spreadsheet from Sheritan’s field notes of 32 “Offshore” fishing trips he went on from Port Aransas aboard the Scat Cat and Wharf Cat. Here is Chuck’s email describing the notes:  “Gary, Just to whet your appetite, I’m attaching Sheriton Burr’s summary chart of pelagic and offshore sightings for trips out of Port Aransas from 1976 to 1986.  This summarizes about 32 boat trips, many of which Sheriton made by himself (i.e. the only birder) on the Scat Cat*.  However, several of these trips had multiple birders  (always as half-priced “riders”) and he mentioned two chartered birding-only trips (Oct 1981 and Oct 1982).  Somewhere in a folder I have the trip-by-trip summaries that he’d typed up and circulated to several of us, updated to about 1991. * Back in those days, Fisherman’s Wharf in Port Aransas would charge “riders” (i.e. non-fishing observers) half price (about $60) to join a fishing excursion.  We typically occupied the upper deck on the Scat Cat or Wharf Cat, which would take fishermen out to the snapper banks and/or to some of the oil rigs offshore, but always on the shelf.  It was always fun to bird on the way out, then watch the circus of 50 to 80 tangled, drunk, sleepy fishermen and their poles for a few hours, then enjoy the ride back to dock.  Most of those were 8 to 10 hour trips, if I recall correctly.  I don’t think we ever got out to the edge of the shelf except on one charted trip in about 1990 or so which is NOT included on this summary chart. You’ll notice that I had highlighted June on...

S Padre Is TEXAS PELAGIC August 8, 2015 Trip Report

Share August 8th’s Texas Pelagic yielded a record number of Leach’s Storm-petrels for Texas.  The second Texas Pelagic for 2015 encountered seas that were a bit rougher that some of us would preferred, but never-the-less we had a good day at sea. Seas in the morning were about 3-4 feet with the occasional 5 footer that made captain Bobby throttle back every few minutes to ease over the larger waves as we headed due east into the southeasterly seas. The skies were cloudless and the temps a balmy 85 degrees. What was very notable for the day was what really couldn’t be seen. A well-developed cold core eddy was impinging on the shelf edge directly east of South Padre Island and was what we were headed for. It was bounded to the northeast and southeast by warm core eddies spun off the Gulf’s Loop current probably many months earlier.  As we passed by a few shrimp boats on the way out over the shelf we came across our first 2 Pomarine Jaegers of the day. One very cooperative dark-morph Pomarine gave us a nice show as it chased and harassed Royal Terns for their breakfast of shrimp boat by-catch.  We arrived in deep waters at the shelf edge around 10am. And almost as soon as we did we had our first flock of Storm-Petrels. The flock was flushed off the water as we approached and scattered in every direction. What was amazing was the large number of Leach’s Storm Petrels, it seemed most of what was photographed turned out to be a Leach’s, rather than the default Band-rumped Storm Petrel. During the next 4 hours we encountered three separate flocks of Storm-Petrels and while it’s hard to say for sure it seemed that the majority of them were Leach’s. We counted a total of 21 Storm-Petrel’s with at least 6...